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10 Most Common Motorcycle Accident Causes

Feb 23, 2024 - Motorcycle Accidents

Loss of control, speeding and impaired driving are the leading motorcycle accident causes, all resulting from a multitude of factors that, when analyzed, reveal both preventable and uncontrollable causes. 

By delving into the key factors behind motorcycle crashes, our goal is to illuminate the risks of riding and offer valuable insights on preventing accidents.

Motorcycle accident in the middle of the road

What is the primary cause of motorcycle crashes?

How do many motorcycle crashes happen? Well, most motorcycle crashes occur due to a loss of control, often precipitated by speeding, which hampers reaction time and safe maneuvering. This is why it is essential for riders to always adhere to speed limits and practice safe riding techniques.

For a more detailed exploration of the myriad causes leading to motorcycle accidents, the following list breaks down the common factors contributing to these unfortunate events. From rider-error to environmental hazards, these causes demonstrate the need for constant vigilance when operating a motorcycle.

But, no matter the cause of injuries. If it was due to someone’s else’s negligence and you’re in Georgia, call our law firm to speak to a Duluth personal injury lawyer for a free consultation



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5 Motorcycle accident causes caused by the rider

When investigating what causes motorcycle accidents, it becomes clear that the rider’s actions often play a pivotal role. Human error is a significant factor and can encompass a range of behaviors, from judgment lapses to a blatant disregard for safety protocols. 

1. Speeding

So, what is the primary cause of motorcycle crashes? It should come to no surprise that the answer is speeding! Riding above the speed limit not only reduces a biker’s reaction time in the event of an unexpected obstacle or road irregularity but also increases the severity of an accident should one occur. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), speeding contributes to about a third of all traffic-related fatalities in 2021, with motorcyclists being particularly vulnerable. The lack of protective barriers and the minimal stability of motorcycles make excessive speeding especially dangerous for riders.

Additional reading: what to do after a motorcycle accident

2. Impaired driving

One major reason for motorcycle accidents is impaired driving, which includes operating a motorcycle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These substances can significantly impair a rider’s coordination, reaction time, and decision-making skills, making them more susceptible to accidents. 

As per a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 11,654 people died in 2020 due to a vehicle crash involving an alcohol-impaired driver. This accounts for about 30% of all traffic-related deaths in the United States that year.

Motorcycles are smaller and less visible than other vehicles, making them more susceptible to crashes caused by impaired drivers. As with driving a car, alcohol use and riding are a big non-no. By being responsible and avoiding riding while under the influence, motorcyclists can significantly decrease their chances of being involved in an accident.

3. Improper Cornering

Improper cornering is a specific cause of motorcycle accidents that occurs when a rider fails to navigate a turn correctly. This can happen due to excessive speed, misjudging the curve, or not leaning the motorcycle appropriately. Riders who do not properly assess the curve’s angle and speed can lose control, leading to crashes.

Motorcycle accidents involving improper cornering are particularly dangerous on rural roads with sharp turns and limited visibility. The lack of guardrails or barriers in many areas further increases the risk of severe accidents.

In Georgia, the law outlined in O.C.G.A. 40-6-390 addresses reckless driving, which includes improper cornering as it often involves operating a vehicle without regard for the safety of persons or property. Riders must slow down and adjust their approach to curves to ensure they can safely navigate turns without losing control.

By practicing proper cornering techniques and adhering to speed limits, motorcyclists can significantly reduce their risk of accidents and ensure a safer riding experience.

4. Inexperience

Novice riders often lack the requisite skill and judgment gained through experience, which is necessary for handling complex traffic situations and reacting effectively to emergencies.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation emphasizes the importance of formal training and continuous education for motorcyclists of all levels. Inexperienced riders are advised to take accredited riding courses which focus on important skills ranging from basic control to advanced riding techniques.

5. Negligent riding

Negligent riding encompasses a broad category of reckless behavior that disregards the safety of the rider and others on the road. This can include:

  • Failing to yield the right of way
  • Tailgating
  • Weaving through traffic
  • Ignoring traffic signals or signs

Riders who engage in these activities are not only risking legal repercussions but also their lives and the lives of others.

In fact, according to a report by the NHTSA, of the 6,082 fatal motorcycle crashes recorded in 2021, 57% (3,471 cases) were collisions with other vehicles while in transport. In addition, 33% of those crashes involved a rider who was speeding and other forms of reckless driving.

To avoid accidents caused by negligent riding, motorcyclists must prioritize safe and responsible behavior while on the road. This includes following traffic laws, maintaining a safe distance from other vehicles, and always being alert and aware of their surroundings.

If you’re in the Atlanta area and have been involved in a motorcycle accident that wasn’t your fault, contact an experienced motorcycle accident attorney from our firm today



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Most common motorcycle accidents not related to rider error

Despite best efforts to ride safely, accidents occur when you least expect it and when events are out of your control.

This next section discusses some of the common causes of motorcycle accidents that stem from external factors rather than rider mistakes, highlighting the unforeseen perils motorcyclists face every time they hit the road.

1. Cars making sudden left-hand turns

So, which factors lead to more motorcycle crashes than the others when it comes to non-rider error-related accidents? Well, the main cause of motorcycle accidents in this category is cars making a sudden left turn. These types of accidents account for about a third of all multi-vehicle crashes in motorcycles (with the rider not being the cause of the accident).

In most cases, the offending motorist can strike the motorcycle when the rider is:

  • Going straight through an intersection
  • Overtaking or passing another vehicle
  • Trying to overtake other cars
  • Passing in traffic going in the opposite direction

Given that motorcycles are smaller than cars, they can be easily hidden in a car driver’s blind spot. This makes it challenging for drivers to see approaching motorcyclists, especially when turning left at an intersection or changing lanes. The consequences are often serious, involving severe motorcycle accident injuries or even fatalities for the rider.

To prevent these types of accidents, both motorcyclists and other drivers must be vigilant at all times. Riders can avoid blind spots and make themselves more visible by wearing reflective gear and using their headlights during the day. Drivers should also double-check their mirrors and blind spots before making any turns or lane changes.

Motorcycle malfunction accident

Additional reading: personal injury cases

2. Road hazards

Road hazards represent a significant threat to motorcyclists due to their less stable nature and smaller size compared to automobiles. A variety of conditions can be extremely dangerous for bikes, many of which would pose little issue for a car or truck.

Some of the most prevalent road hazards include:

  • Potholes: Potholes can cause a motorcyclist to lose control, especially if they are deep or unexpected and even if the rider tries to make a sudden stop to avoid them.
  • Uneven Pavement: Transitions between surfaces or uneven road heights can unsettle a bike’s suspension and grip.
  • Debris: Objects in the road, from small branches to blown tires, can be enough to cause an accident.
  • Slippery Surfaces: From wet leaves to oil spills, slick surfaces reduce traction, increasing the likelihood of sliding in dangerous road conditions.
  • Railroad Crossings: Rails that run parallel to the direction of travel can catch tires and are particularly risky.

According to a report published by the NHSTA (National Highway Safety Traffic Administration), 67% of fatal motorcycle crashes in 2021 occurred in urban areas where these hazards are more prevalent. Riders should always be cautious when navigating through areas where road hazards are likely, and reduce their speed to safely maneuver around them.

3. Vehicle blind spots

Vehicle blind spots are a critical area of concern for motorcyclists due to the elevated risk of being unseen by other drivers. Blind spots can significantly vary among different types of vehicles, but they typically exist in the rear corners of the vehicle, where mirrors fail to reflect the presence of a motorcycle.

For motorcyclists, being aware of these spots, particularly around larger vehicles like trucks and buses, is essential for staying visible and safe.

According to a study by NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board), around 35% of fatal motorcycle accidents occur due to a motorist’s failure to detect the presence of a motorcycle in their blind spot. 

To avoid these types of accidents, riders should always assume that they are in a vehicle’s blind spot and ride accordingly, keeping a safe distance from other vehicles. It’s also important to stay visible by using hand signals, wearing bright or reflective clothing, and positioning yourself in the lane where you are most visible to other drivers.

4. Dooring accidents

Dooring accidents, though less common, are a serious risk for motorcyclists. They happen when a parked car’s door is opened into the path of an oncoming motorcycle. Riders may not react in time, resulting in severe crashes or swerving into traffic to avoid the obstacle.

In Georgia, dooring accidents are addressed in the state’s laws and regulations. Under Georgia Code § 40-6-243, vehicle drivers must always exercise caution when opening car doors onto traffic, including motorcyclists. Failure to do so can result in a fine and points on the driver’s license.

To avoid dooring car accidents, riders should always approach parked vehicles with caution and be prepared for doors to open unexpectedly. They should also ride at a safe distance from parked cars and remain alert for any signs of movement inside the vehicle that could indicate an opening door.

5. Defective Motorcycle Equipment

Defective motorcycle equipment is another significant factor contributing to accidents. These defects can be due to a design flaw or manufacturing issue, or they can stem from improper maintenance.

Common equipment failures that can lead to crashes and road rash include:

  • Breaking System Failure: Brakes are critical for safety, and a malfunction can be catastrophic.
  • Tire Blowouts: Faulty or worn tires can blow out, causing the rider to lose control.
  • Steering Issues: Problems with steering can prevent a rider from maintaining a proper course.
  • Lighting and Visibility: Non-functional lights can reduce a motorcyclist’s visibility to others, especially at night.

According to the National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey, only about 2% of motorcycle accidents are caused by equipment failure. 98% of riders involved in the study cited no mechanical or other problems prior to the accident.

And while that may seem like an insignificant percentage, it’s important to keep in mind the number of fatal motorcycle accidents that occur in the US every year (5,932 fatalities in 2021). Even 2% of those accidents represents a substantial number of preventable crashes.

To reduce the risk of equipment failure causing a crash, riders should regularly maintain their motorcycles. Familiarize with the bike’s manual, follow service schedules, and promptly address any issues before riding.


Motorcycle accident victim being attended to

Causes of motorcycle accidents statistics

Understanding the leading cause of motorcycle accidents is crucial for implementing safety measures and strategies that protect riders. A myriad of factors contribute to these accidents, with varying degrees of severity and frequency.

The following are some statistical insights that shed light on the predominant causes:

  • Speeding: Speeding is a major factor in motorcycle accidents. The NHTSA reports that in 2021, 33% of all motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were speeding, a higher percentage than for drivers of any other vehicle type.
  • Alcohol Impairment: Alcohol impairment in motorcycle riders is also a leading cause of accidents. 29% of riders who died in a traffic crash in 2021 were drunk (BAC of .08 g/dL or higher)
  • Helmet Use: Wearing a helmet significantly reduces the risk of death in an accident. Estimates by the National Security Council shows that compliant (DOT) helmets prevent around 37% of fatal injuries on motorcycle operators in the event of an accident.
  • Intersections: Intersections are especially dangerous for motorcyclists. The Federal Highway Administration highlights that approximately 42% of two-vehicle fatal motorcycle crashes involved a vehicle turning left while the motorcycle was going straight, passing, or overtaking the vehicle.

By examining these statistics, we can better understand how various elements contribute to motorcycle safety and the importance of preventative actions like abiding speed limits, avoiding alcohol before riding, wearing a helmet, and being vigilant at intersections.

If you’re dealing with the aftermath of a motorcycle accident, seek medical attention immediately, gather evidence, and contact a Lawrenceville personal injury lawyer.



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Key takeaways on the what causes most motorcycle accidents

Motorcycle accidents can be attributed to a complex interplay of environmental, mechanical, and human factors. Vigilance and proactive safety measures remain paramount for riders. By understanding the common causes, such as blind spots, dooring, defective equipment, and the influence of speed and alcohol, motorcyclists can adapt their riding practices to minimize risks.

Complementing safe riding with regular motorcycle maintenance and the wearing of appropriate gear, particularly helmets, greatly contributes to reducing the likelihood and severity of accidents. Furthermore, the emphasis on caution at intersections cannot be overstated, given how perilous these locations are for motorcyclists resulting in fatal accidents.

 Awareness campaigns and rider education programs focusing on these key areas can play an essential role in promoting motorcycle safety and reducing accident rates.

Michael Gumprecht and his team are proud to serve the greater Metro Atlanta area, including but not limited to: