Most Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

What Are The Most Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents?

Motorcycle accidents in California where the rider is not at fault make up the vast majority of the road injuries and fatalities each year. Many motorcycle accidents involve rider's speed, alcohol, rider inexperience, or other factors that you can control. However, the bulk of injuries come from accidents involving circumstances outside of your control. There are four most common causes of motorcycle accidents that account for the majority of all motorcycle injuries and deaths.


Indeed, in the majority of motorcycle accidents in California involving other vehicles, the motorist is at fault, not the motorcyclist. Crash statistics clearly show that in over half of all car vs. motorcycle crashes, the rider was doing everything they should have been to stay safe while a driver's recklessness, inattention or carelessness caused the crash.

Motorcycle Accident Stats

  • ​In nearly 70 percent of motorcycle accidents that include another vehicle, the driver of the larger vehicle violated the motorcyclist’s right of way, with an accident resulting.

  • A motorcyclist is nearly 30 times more likely to be killed in a motorcycle crash than the driver or passenger of a truck, car or SUV. You are also five times more likely to be severely injured.
  • The number of fatalities for drivers and passengers of automobiles and light trucks has decrease dramatically since the beginning of the 21st century. However, the fatality rate of motorcycle accidents has doubled in that time period as more and more people take to the roads on bikes and drivers become more and more distracted with their devices.

Reasons for Motorcycle Accidents

Motorcycle riders are vulnerable in ways that drivers of passenger vehicles are not. The fact that they are completely exposed to the open plays a major part in the risks involved when riding a motorcycle. There are various reasons stated by the parties after a motorcycle accident as to why it happened such as:

Motorcycles Are Hard to See

Motorcycles are smaller than other forms of transportation and are as a result less easy to see. This visual recognition problem is especially troublesome at intersections. Over two-thirds of all motorcycle accidents involving another vehicle occur at intersections. 

Road Hazards and Adverse Conditions

What would be mere aggravations to the driver of an SUV, truck or car can be a significant safety risk to you as a motorcycle rider. Such hazards include oil slicks, potholes, pooling water, road debris, ruts, railroad crossings and uneven pavements. The smaller profile of a motorcycle makes it more difficult to control and absorb the shock caused by passing through or over these hazards and can result in loss of control. 

The Wobbling Front End

At high speeds, the front end of a motorcycle may have the tendency to become unstable and may shake or wobble. This problem can be caused by the misalignment of the front and rear tires of the motorcycle. If you are injured in a crash caused by a wobbling motorcycle, the manufacturer of your motorcycle may be held responsible for your injuries under product liability. Some accidents can be caused by a defect in the design of the motorcycle or a defect in the manufacture of the motorcycle. A design defect is caused when the manufacturer planned the construction if the motorcycle in such a way that an injury could occur under normal operating conditions. Manufacturing defects occur when there was a flaw in the actual design process when the motorcycle was being assembled at the plant. 

Riding Experience

Operating a motorcycle involves a significantly greater level of skill and coordination to drive safely than driving a car. Quite a few motorcycle accidents are the result of (or at least partly the result of) the lack of the training needed to safely operate the motorcycle. If you are a new rider or someone who did not have formal training, you will be at greater risk of causing an accident than if you were trained with a certified instructor.


Aside from these reasons, there are several common causes of motorcycle accidents that cause these accidents regardless of the reasons stated above.

Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

Below you'll find the most common causes of motorcycle accidents in California and how to avoid them -- if possible.

Motorcycle Left Turn Accidents

Motorcycle left turn accidents are by far the biggest sub-category of car vs. motorcycle collisions. These types of motorcycle crashes account for 42% of all motorcycle accidents involving an automobile nationwide—more than any other type of accident.

Usually, these types of collisions occur when the motorcyclist is:

  • Traveling straight through an intersection
  • Passing the car in question
  • Traveling in the left lane (and is cut off by a car that changes lanes without signaling)
  • Essentially, this common type of motorcycle accident is a right of way violation. Car drivers either fail to see the motorcyclist or fail to yield the right of way to the bike. That puts their vehicle in the motorcycle's path.


    Often times these types of crashes happen in the blink of an eye with no forewarning at all. And while motorcycles are agile machines, it's often difficult or even impossible to stop in time to avoid a crash when a car or truck is suddenly in your travel lane.

    Under California traffic laws, right of way violations are a serious offense and, depending on the severity of the crash they cause, can result in criminal charges. However, those criminal penalties will not help an injured motorcyclist get back on their feet. The only way to get compensation for your left turn motorcycle accident is to bring an insurance claim against the at-fault driver.


    You can attempt to avoid motorcycle left-turn accidents by:

    • Riding with your lights on 100% of the time
    • Wearing bright and/or reflective clothing
    • Riding slower when there's traffic around
    • Easing into intersections
    • Motorcycle
      Keeping your head on a swivel (looking for signals and tires that are turning into your path of travel)
    • Motorcycle
      Always assuming the drivers in your field of vision don't see you

    Motorcycle Lane Splitting Accidents

    Lane splitting is a controversial practice that dramatically increases the danger a motorcyclist is in. while the legislation around the practice can be confusing, motorists still have a responsibility to beware of bikes in their path and avoid collisions.

    California is the only state in the country that doesn't have a law on the books explicitly making lane splitting illegal. However, there are several other laws that could be interpreted as making the practice unlawful in the state.


    Essentially, lane splitting allows for smaller motorcycles to actually weave between car traffic. This usually occurs in traffic jams or at intersections. While there are many groups which advocate for lane splitting, you must be aware that the practice does increase your likelihood of being involved in a collision.


    Lane splitting motorcycle accidents occur because:


    • Motorcyclists have less room to maneuver when there are more cars in the vicinity
    • Automobile drivers often don't pay close enough attention to what's around them (especially from behind)
    • Car drivers can't lane split so they're not even aware it's a thing
    • Drivers don't look (or signal) before turning


    If you choose to engage in lane splitting, always assume that the drivers ahead and to the sides of you do not see you. That means you should:

    • Slow down
    • Be watchful
    • Be ready to react
    • The louder the better
    • Motorcycle
      Always have an "out"

    Rear End Collision Motorcycle Accidents

    Rear end collision motorcycle accidents are one of the most common types of car vs. motorcycle accidents collisions in California. In fact, 25% of all car/bike collisions are rear-end motorcycle accidents. These types of crashes often occur because automobile drivers:

  • Misjudge how long it will take their vehicle to stop
  • Don't pay enough attention to the traffic in front of them to react in time
  • Don't see the motorcycle in front of them
  • Indeed, rear-end motorcycle collisions are one of the most common types of automobile crashes in The United States. However, when two cars bump into each other at surface street speeds, it's not likely that either driver will be seriously injured. When a car slams into a motorcyclist (even at 25 miles per hour) the biker will likely be ejected from their vehicle and could potentially be crushed between two cars.


    To prevent rear end motorcycle accidents you should:

    • Avoid sudden stops
    • Give yourself plenty of lead time between your bike and the car in front of you
    • Be aware of how close the car behind you is following
    • Always be visible (lights, bright clothing, etc.)
    • Motorcycle
      Ride to either side of the lane (which makes maneuvering out from between two vehicles easier)

    Head-On Motorcycle Collisions

    While head-on motorcycle collisions are, thankfully, less common than the types of accident listed above, they are far more deadly. In fact, 78% of fatal motorcycle accidents involving collisions with other vehicles are head-on crashes. Rates of serious injury and death are so much higher for these types of common motorcycle accidents because:

  • Force is often magnified when both vehicles are traveling at high speed
  • These types of crashes often result in ejection
  • Riders often collide with the car after being thrown from their bikes
  • Such crashes often throw bikers into oncoming traffic
  • Some of the most common types of motorcycle accident injuries seen in this type of collision are head injuries—which are often extremely serious if not immediately fatal. The next most common type of injury in this type of crash is thoracic injury—which is nearly as deadly as head injuries.


    To avoid head-on collisions:

    • Always take corners responsibly
    • Don't hug the middle line
    • Be watchful of oncoming traffic
    • Be ready to maneuver out of the way in an instant
    • Motorcycle
      Ride to either side of the lane (which makes maneuvering out from between two vehicles easier)

    The Most Common Types of Motorcycle Accidents are Sometimes Unavoidable

    Because many of these common types of motorcycle accidents in California are caused by other drivers (not the rider) it may be impossible to avoid them. That's why it's essential that you know your rights and know where you can find resources to help you during your recovery.


    While some motorcycle injuries are relatively minor and may be easily compensated with a simple insurance claim, serious injuries may require a much more expensive recovery. Medical bills and long-term therapy after a crash can put a significant hurt on a family's finances. Know when you need to seek experienced legal assistance and make your recovery physical (and financial) as easy as possible.