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Whether you’re driving a car or riding a motorcycle, nobody wants to get into an accident. But unfortunately, accidents happen, and they’re no walk in the park — even with the best insurance company on your side.
Accidents can be as insignificant fender benders, or as serious as fatality causing crashes.
But when you compare car vs. motorcycle accidents, statistics overwhelmingly point to motorcycles carrying more risk.
Remember, motorcycles don’t have seat belts or airbags, and they are much smaller than cars. Plus, the rider is exposed to the external world, rather than being enclosed in a passenger vehicle.
Right now, we’re digging deeper into the car and motorcycle accident statistics that matter most, including which mode of transportation has the highest fatality rates. But it doesn’t stop there. We’re also listing out must-know tips on what you can do to stay safe on the road.
Car or motorcycle, you need good insurance. Begin comparing rates now by plugging your ZIP code into our free insurance comparison tool.
Table of Contents
As different as cars and motorcycles are, there are still many similarities in the types of accidents drivers can be involved in. Some of the most common causes? Drunk driving, speeding, and distracted driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) breaks these down:
Clearly, these numbers speak for themselves. But just what do the statistics look like when examining car vs. motorcycle accidents? We’re revealing more, beginning with fatality rates.
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Year after year, statistics reveal that more people are killed in car crashes than they are in motorcycle crashes. However, when it comes to the rate at which people are dying in these crashes, there’s no question about it: the fatality rates are much higher with motorcycles. You can see the latest data from the Insurance Information Institute (III):Car vs. Motorcycle Fatality Rates
|Fatality Rate, 2017
|Per 100,000 registered vehicles
|Per 100 million vehicle miles traveled
The III reports that in 2017, the occupant fatality rate per 100,000 registered vehicles was 59.34 for motorcycles and 10.05 for passenger cars. In other words, the occupant fatality rate per 100,000 registered vehicles was nearly six times higher among motorcycle crashes.
When comparing the car vs. motorcycle fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, the statistics become even more shocking. The fatality rate with motorcycles was 25.67, compared to a fatality rate of 0.94 for passenger cars. Bottom line?
These statistics reveal that the occupant fatality rate with motorcycles was 27 times higher than that of cars.
Without question, this data should give drivers all the more reason to do their research: whether that’s in understanding safe behaviors on the road, or simply having a better understanding of the motorcycle and auto insurance laws that are meant to protect drivers.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) regularly gathers car crash statistics specific to passenger vehicles, which includes cars, minivans, pickups, and SUVs. According to the IIHS:
Generally speaking, car accidents can be grouped into two categories: driver error and other causes. “Other causes” often refers to unpredictable circumstances, such as weather (like heavy rain or ice) or mechanical failure.
However, “driver error” can be best describe as preventable actions such as drunk driving, speeding, and distracted driving. This powerful PSA from the NHTSA further highlights the importance of taking distracted driving seriously:
Of course, the dangers associated with this reckless behavior goes beyond typical four-door vehicles. Keep reading as we examine the statistics surrounding motorcycle accidents and fatalities.
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The latest data from the NHTSA reveals the following about traffic crashes involving motorcycles:
It’s common knowledge that drinking and driving is a terrible combination. But for those riding motorcycles, the risk of fatality is even higher. Here’s a startling fact from the NHTSA from 2016:
Motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were found to have the highest percentage of alcohol-impaired drivers than any other vehicle types (25% for motorcycles, 21% for passenger cars, 20% for light trucks, and 2% for large trucks).
Accidents involving motorcycles occur for different reasons. Here are some of the common causes according to legal experts with Nolo:
Road accidents of any type will have consequences. For example, your vehicle could be totaled or undervalued. It is likely that your auto insurance rates will rise. Yet these outcomes are nothing compared with the injuries or fatalities that can occur. In short,
Motorcyclists are far more likely to be injured or killed in an accident than car drivers.
Remember, when we consider car vs. motorcycle accidents, motorcycles are inherently riskier than automobiles. Consider the size of an SUV or truck compared with a motorcycle. It’s no wonder that motorcycle accidents have more serious outcomes.
Additionally, in the US, there are still states where motorcyclists are not required by law to wear a helmet: Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire are three of them. According to Biker Justice USA, Idaho only requires a helmet if you’re under the age of 18.
Wearing a helmet is primarily for safety reasons, though Biker Justice USA goes on to state that not wearing a helmet can also impact fault for accident injuries. This will certainly impact your insurance:
“Motorist(s) can raise in their defense that you, the motorcyclist, were at least partially responsible (for a crash) due to your failure to wear a helmet.”
When they are not fatal, motorcycle accidents can result in serious injuries. Head, neck, and spine injuries are common. Brain injuries and spinal injuries can both cause permanent, lifelong disabilities. While these injuries can and do occur in car accidents, they are far more common in motorcycle accidents.
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Motorcycles carry risk, but they don’t have to be dangerous. Here are a few things that you can do to keep yourself safe:
Of course, inspecting your motorcycle can lead to better safety and fewer crashes or hazardous situations.
Finally, if you do get in an accident, contact a lawyer familiar with motorcycles. Many jurors are biased against motorcycles and some lawyers are not familiar with motorcycle law. That is why it is important to have a specialist motorcycle attorney on your side in case of an accident or injury.
All that said, it can be easy to look at all the hazards of riding a motorcycle and forget about the enjoyment. Riding a motorcycle is just fun, and for that reason, we’ve compiled the 12 best cities for motorcycle riders.
Whether you’re in a car or on a motorcycle, nobody wants to be in an accident. However, being aware of these car vs. motorcycle accident statistics can be the difference between a clean driving or biking record, as well as a trip to the hospital. So stay safe, drive wise, and ride smart.
Whether you’re on four wheels or two, getting the best insurance rates will make for a better ride. Start comparing rates now by entering your ZIP code into our free insurance comparison tool.