What Types of Motorcycle Crashes Cause the Most Deaths?

motorcycle crash in Bakersfield | The Law Offices of Mickey Fine

Understanding what types of motorcycle crashes cause the most deaths is important for the safety and well-being of every biker on the road. California is a major hub for the motorcycle industry, and our open roads, beautiful scenery, and sunny weather are ideal for motorcycle enthusiasts.

According to the National Safety Council, motorcycle accidents are responsible for 14% of fatal crashes, despite representing just 3% of registered vehicles in the United States. These deaths have increased by 20% in the last 10 years and are more likely to involve alcohol consumption than other motor vehicle accidents (27% versus 23% for passenger cars). 

The Law Offices of Mickey Fine have helped injured victims and their loved ones pursue compensation and justice for their losses for more than 30 years. Our experienced attorneys and legal team know how to build your claim and ensure the negligent party is held responsible for the wrongful death of a loved one in a fatal motorcycle crash. 

Some types of motorcycle accidents may be more likely to cause death than others. In 2020, 61% of motorcycle accident deaths happened on urban roads, 78% occurred in good weather conditions, and 50% of motorcycle crashes were during daylight hours.

By far the most common cause of motorcycle accident fatalities is traumatic brain injuries. Fatally injured motorcyclists wore helmets in 58% of accidents, and 52% of the crashes involved two vehicles. The type of collision can impact fatality rates significantly.

Common Types of Motorcycle Crashes

There are six types of motorcycle accidents that can lead to serious or catastrophic injuries or death. These include:

Head-On Collisions

Head-on collisions are particularly dangerous types of motorcycle crashes due to the force of impact. Motorcycle riders are ejected from their bikes in these crashes and projected into a windshield, tree, guard rail, pole, the ground, or over a hill or cliff.

The impact of hitting the ground or an object during a motorcycle accident stops the rider’s motion, often with deadly force. The combined speed of the two vehicles compounds the damage of head-on collisions, causing severe injuries and death. 

Wearing a helmet can reduce the fatality risk and is required under California Law. Riders must be aware of surrounding vehicles and use defensive driving tactics to escape a deadly head-on collision. 


One of the best ways to avoid a motorcycle crash is by following all traffic laws, including avoiding speeding. According to SafeTREC by the University of California at Berkeley, 29.5% of motorcycle crashes are caused by driving at unsafe speeds.

The younger the motorcycle driver, the more likely they are to be victims in fatal motorcycle crashes involving speeding. Half of younger riders ages 21 to 24 who were involved in fatal accidents with motorcycles in 2019 were exceeding the speed limit when the crash happened, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Automobile Right-of-Way Accidents

Accidents that happen when a motor vehicle has the right of way are another type of motorcycle accident that often causes death. According to SafeTREC, right-of-way crashes are the second most deadly type of motorcycle accident, accounting for 18.7% of fatalities.

Motorcycles are most vulnerable when turning and may be hit by a passenger car or commercial truck. Many motorists claim they didn’t see the bike after the fact and often fail to recognize how many motorcycles they pass daily. 

Motorcycle riders are at risk at intersections where a vehicle turns left directly in front of them. These crossing-path crashes may happen due to distracted driving, road conditions, and other factors. Motorcycle riders must be wary when they turn left and ensure no one in their current lane is trying to pass them on the left. 

Improper Turning 

According to SafeTREC, improper turns make up 17.4% of motorcycle accident fatalities for many of the same reasons right-of-way accidents increase fatality rates. Motor vehicles are not aware of motorcycles in the same way they recognize other passenger vehicles and large trucks.

Serious motorcycle accident injuries may also happen when a motorcycle turns improperly into oncoming traffic, and the bike may hit the vehicle head-on or slide underneath, causing severe injury or death. 

Riding While Impaired 

Driving a motorcycle under the influence of alcohol or drugs causes 9.6% of motorcycle fatalities, according to SafeTREC. While all drivers on the road need to consume alcohol responsibly and avoid driving drunk, motorcyclists are more vulnerable in an accident. Riders must be hypervigilant about road conditions and changes in traffic flow. Alcohol and drugs impair your judgment and slow your reaction time in a crash, increasing the risk of fatal injuries. 

Unsafe Lane Changes 

Unsafe lane changes cause 5.8% of motorcycle accidents, according to SafeTREC. In California, it’s illegal for motorcycles to ride on the shoulder of the road, but lane splitting is a gray area.

Motorcyclists often slip between lines of slowed or stopped traffic, especially in California where we’re known for our congested roads. Lane splitting, changing lanes without signaling, or switching lanes too close to another vehicle is not safe and may lead to serious injuries and death.

Call a Bakersfield Motorcycle Accident Lawyer for FREE

If you’ve lost a loved one in a motorcycle accident, the Law Offices of Mickey Fine can help you hold the negligent driver responsible for your loss. Contact our motorcycle accident lawyer in Bakersfield, California, at (661) 333-3333.