How Do Many Motorcycle Accidents Happen? Top 6 Reasons

Luke Krolak

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Luke Krolak

Client Operations Lead

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Published On

February 24, 2023

Published On

February 24, 2023

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Quick Answer

If you drive a motorcycle long enough, the unfortunate reality is that there’s a high likelihood that you’ll eventually lay down your bike. For some riders, it’s not a matter of if but when—and, in many cases, the rider is not the at-fault party.

Regardless of fault, if an accident does occur, more than 80% of the time it will end in serious injury or fatality. Even though they only represent 3% of all vehicles on the road, motorcycles account for 10% of all traffic fatalities.1

Put simply, riding a motorcycle is risky business.

However, if you can answer the question “how do most motorcycle accidents happen?,” you can take the proper precautions to control that which is in your power to control.


1. Intersections (Left-Hand Turns)

When do most motorcycle accidents occur? In most cases, there’s no place more dangerous for a motorcyclist than an intersection. According to the National Highway and Traffic Administration (HTSA), anywhere between 35-45% of all motorcycle crashes occur because a driver coming from the opposite direction crossed into the rider’s path during a left-hand turn in a failed attempt to beat oncoming traffic.2

Typically, a motorcyclist will be struck head-on by an oncoming car that turned in front of them while making a left.

Some of the reasons why this is so common is because the car’s driver:

  • Fails to see the smaller motorcycle
  • Misjudges the rider’s speed and proximity
  • Is driving distracted
  • Is driving under the influence

These types of motorcycle accidents happen frequently for cars as well, but they’re not nearly as dangerous for the motorists involved because, well, physics.

What Can You Do To Avoid the Left-Hand Turn Problem?

Whenever you approach an intersection, you must be vigilant of potential road hazards.

Assume that the other driver of the passenger vehicle doesn’t see you, and make eye contact, if possible. Drive defensively and anticipate others will do the unexpected. You should never attempt to pass or overtake a car as you reach or cross the intersection, especially if that involves lane switching.

Finally, knowing that left-hand turns are dangerous for both the person turning and the driver passing straight through the interaction, here’s how you can safely make a left:

  • Yield the right of way to oncoming traffic
  • Signal for the turn at least 150 feet before you reach the intersection
  • Remain vigilant for pedestrians, vehicles, bikes or other motorcycles
  • Don’t cut corners
  • Give yourself plenty of time to make the turn without forcing the oncoming driver of a passenger vehicle to slow down

2. Lane Splitting

Lane splitting occurs when a motorcycle rides between two lanes of stopped or slowly-moving vehicles. This can happen at a light or in traffic congestion.

In every state besides California, lane splitting is illegal because stuck cars may neither expect nor see the oncoming motorcycle.3 As a result, the motor vehicle driver may try to switch lanes, or even just reposition the vehicle closer to the line, only to suddenly block the path of the fast-traveling motorcycle.

What Can You Do About Lane Splitting?

If you’re in any state besides California, simply don't do it. Lane splitting is dangerous and can result in a costly fine (if not an accident).

However, if you are in California, be careful as you lane split and consider these tips:

  • Account for the environment, including the width of lanes, size of surrounding vehicles, and weather and road conditions
  • Slow down to a reasonable speed if traffic is grounded to a halt—danger increases at higher speed differentials
  • Don’t ride on the shoulder
  • Remember driver's blind spots
  • Rev your engine as you go through traffic to alert motorists

3. Lane Switching

The running theme of motorcycle accidents caused by a car is that the driver simply didn’t see the smaller, faster bike. Plus, to make matters worse, they often don’t expect or even look for a motorcycle since they may only account for a small percentage of motor vehicles on the road.

As a result, a major cause of motor vehicle accidents occurs when a driver attempts to switch lanes without realizing that they have a motorcyclist in their blind spot. As a result, they merge and then either run into the motorcycle or cause the rider to swerve or lay down their bike.

How to Prepare for Lane Switching

While this issue is often out of your control, there are some steps you can take to mitigate the chances of another motorist merging into your occupied lane.

For starters, pay attention to the driver’s blind spots. If you can’t see the driver’s face in the mirror, they likely won’t be able to see you. And the bigger the vehicle, the bigger the blind spot. So, be extra cautious when passing or riding next to semi-trucks, SUVs, vans, and pickups.

Also, be on the lookout for the signs of an impending lane change, such as:

  • Turn signals
  • Wheels turning
  • A driver checking their mirrors and looking over their shoulder
  • The vehicle drifting towards your lane

4. Speeding

Speeding is one of the leading causes of motorcycle accidents.

According to NHTSA, 34% of all motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes in 2020 were linked to speed.4 The crash can be categorized as such “if the motorcycle driver was charged with a speeding-related offense or if an investigating police officer indicated that racing, driving too fast for conditions, or exceeding the posted speed limit was a contributing factor in the crash.”5

While all motorcycles can be fast and nimble, high-performance sport bikes like Ducati and Ninja have been found to be disproportionately involved in fatal crashes. In fact, accidents with super-sport motorcycles result in fatalities at a 400% higher rate than those involving conventional cruisers.6

Tips for Driving Safely

So, wondering how to avoid motorcycle accidents? Drivers don’t often expect motorcyclists, have trouble seeing them, and can find it challenging to judge their speed. This becomes an even greater issue when a motorcyclist drives at speeds that far exceed the legal speed limit.

Your safest bet is simply not to speed. If you do, it should be as close to the legal limit as possible. The higher the speed and the greater the speed disparity between you and the flow of traffic (or an unexpected obstacle), the more likely a fatal motorcycle accident will occur.

5. Drugs and Alcohol

As stated by the NHTSA, “43 percent of all fatal motorcycle crashes involve alcohol.”7 In other words, there’s a good reason why driving under the influence is both illegal and frowned upon. It’s dangerous not only for the motorcycle driver but everyone else on the road as well.

Drugs and alcohol can impair a motorist's judgment, reflexes, and driving behavior. And since motorcycles already require greater skill, attention, and coordination to operate than an average car, the impacts of inebriation on handling will be even greater.

How to Avoid Substance-Related Accidents

The best advice you can receive is to never drink and drive or operate a motorcycle under the influence. If you have been drinking, call a friend or family member, or hail a ride. The risks of inebriated driving are simply too great to be ignored.

6. Lack of Experience and Licensing

As mentioned, motorcycles—especially super-sport bikes—are powerful yet delicate machines. Far too many accidents are caused by inexperienced riders who lack the proper training.

For example, they may accelerate too aggressively, take a corner too sharply, or brake improperly. Often, the only way to avoid an impending collision or motorcycle crash is with a split-second readjustment—but mastering such maneuvers takes time, practice, and feel.

Along these lines, the NHTSA estimates that nearly one in three motorcycle operators killed in a crash are either not licensed or improperly licensed.8 Although licensing doesn’t guarantee that a person will be capable of operating the motorcycle in all conditions, it at least ensures that the operator has some of the baseline knowledge and skills needed to drive safely.

Practice Makes Perfect

Don’t ever get on the road without being properly licensed. Should an accident occur while you are unlicensed—even if you’re not at-fault—you will likely be held legally liable.

Additionally, you should spend time learning how to handle and maneuver the bike in a safe area before you start going for a spin. Ideally, you should enlist the help of an experienced rider who can act as your teacher and guide.

Once you have accrued the necessary hours to feel comfortable on the bike, you can start taking it on the roads. Then, after enough time has passed, you can graduate to the highways.

Furthermore, remember to always wear the proper safety gear, including:

  • Helmet
  • Eye protection
  • Over-the-ankle footwear with non-slip soles
  • Long pants
  • A high-quality jacket
  • Full-fingered gloves

Support When Accidents Strike

There’s no denying that riding a motorcycle is a risk, especially when compared to other means of transport. However, by knowing the most common causes for accidents, you can stay alert and take proper precautions to reduce the likelihood of a fatal crash occurring.

If you do get into a crash and are asking: how long does a motorcycle accident lawsuit take or what is the average payout for a motorcycle accident, Mighty can help. We've put together a list of trusted Motorcycle Accident Attorneys who can assist you with getting the legal support and representation you need after your accident. Head over to Mighty's Motorcycle Accident Attorney Directory to find a trusted attorney in your area today.


  1. III. Facts + Statistics: Motorcycle crashes.
  2. NHTSA. Motorcycles.
  3. CHP. California Motorcyclist Safety.
  4. NHTSA. Motorcycles.
  5. NHTSA. Motorcycles.
  6. NHTSA. Motorcycles.
  7. NHTSA. The Anatomy of a Motorcycle Crash.
  8. NHTSA. Motorcycles.
Luke Krolak

Written By

Luke Krolak

Client Operations Lead

About the author

Luke is a warm-hearted and highly skilled legal operations expert with an impressive 8-year track record in the personal injury field. As the Client Operations Lead at Mighty, he is dedicated to providing exceptional support, transparent communication, and genuine empathy to clients during their challenging journey. His expertise in streamlining processes and implementing cutting-edge technology makes him an indispensable ally for clients, case managers, and attorneys in their pursuit of justice.

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