What Causes the Most Motorcycle Accidents in California?

a speeding motorcycle before a crash | The Law Offices of Mickey Fine

The Bakersfield motorcycle accident lawyers at The Law Offices of Mickey Fine understand the devastating impact a wreck-related injury or death can have on you and your loved ones. We have represented many injured bikers who have been involved in crashes that occurred for a variety of reasons.

The California Motorcycle Safety Facts published by the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center at Berkeley University of California in 2017 sheds light on the most common causes of motorcycle accidents. 

California is home to numerous motorcycle enthusiasts and a booming motorcycle industry. Our state has more motorcycles than any other, with more than 800,000 registered bikes. Unfortunately, their high prevalence also means California is a leading state in motorcycle collision-related deaths. 

Top Causes of California Motorcycle Accidents

According to the California Motorcycle Safety Facts, 2,299 motorcycle rider deaths occurred between 2011 and 2015, and nearly 60,000 people were injured. The most common causes of these accidents include: 

Speeding (29.5%)

Speeding is the number one cause of motorcycle accidents in California. Motor vehicles and bikers may speed due to traffic congestion, running behind schedule, or for the thrill. The higher speed comes with a higher risk of losing control and a limited ability to brake in time when traffic flow slows or stops. Speeding increases crash risk and leads to worse injuries than low-speed collisions. 

Right of Way Accidents (18.7%)

Yielding the right of way refers to permitting another vehicle, motorcycle, pedestrian, or bicyclist to enter the intersection before you. Turning vehicles at specific intersections must yield the right of way. A pedestrian at a crosswalk or another vehicle that reaches the uncontrolled intersection first has the right of way. Failure to follow this law of slowing down and yielding leads to collisions and injuries. 

Improper Turns (17.4%)

Many of these types of crashes happen when a motorcyclist rides through an intersection while the driver of a motor vehicle comes from the opposite direction, turning directly into the motorcyclist’s path. These may occur because the larger truck or car fails to see the smaller motorcycle or misjudges the bike’s speed. They may also be driving distracted or under the influence. 

Riding Under the Influence (9.6%)

Motorcycle riders are more vulnerable than any other driver on California roads and highways, and driving under the influence only compounds that risk. Operating a moving vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) above .08% is illegal. Being on drugs, such as cannabis, prescription medications, and illicit drugs that impair motor function and cognitive abilities is unlawful and may cause serious harm or death in an accident. 

Unsafe Lane Changes (5.8%)

Lane splitting is legal in California, meaning a motorcycle with two wheels touching the ground may weave between rows of stopped or slow-moving vehicles in the same lane. While these actions are legal, it doesn’t stop other vehicles from causing harm, such as a driver or passenger opening a car door in standstill traffic and clipping a motorcycle driver as they pass by, causing severe injury. 

Most Common Types of Motorcycle Wrecks in California

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that motorcycle accidents often cause damage to the lower extremities such as the pelvis and legs but also the head and chest. Bone fractures are more common leg injuries, but head and chest trauma tend to be more severe and life-threatening. The most common types of crashes in California include: 

  • Broadside Accidents (27%): These occur when a motorcyclist is struck by a vehicle from the side and typically happen at intersections where vehicles move in different directions and cross paths at a single point. 
  • Overturned Motorcycle Accidents (18.8%): Motorcyclists are more likely to topple than passenger cars because bikers must balance on two wheels, making motorcycles inherently less stable. Overturned accidents may happen from poor road conditions such as potholes, puddles of water, debris, or another vehicle. 
  • Hit Object Accidents (16.2%): These happen when a motorcyclist collides with a fixed object and are often caused by rider error, though they can lead to a secondary crash with a vehicle. Overbraking the bike may cause the rider to fall or slide out. 
  • Rear-End Accidents (14.3%): If a vehicle behind the motorcycle fails to adjust its speed for the bike in front of them or follows too closely (tailgating), speeds, or doesn’t look ahead, they may cause a rear-end motorcycle accident. These often happen at a stop for a red light, stop sign, or railroad gate, and when the motor vehicle driver does not look for or see the motorcycle. 
  • Sideswipe Accidents (10.9%): These accidents happen when a vehicle swerves into the motorcyclist’s lane, causing a side-hit collision. A sudden lane change, driving distractions, impairment, or failure to look for the motorcycle may cause sideswipe crashes. 

How Can a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Help?

An experienced Bakersfield motorcycle accident lawyer is a critical part of your bike wreck claim. An attorney will handle every aspect of your case so you can focus on healing and attending all doctor’s appointments and physical therapy visits. An attorney gathers evidence, consults experts, speaks with the insurance company, and pursues your claim with due diligence. They understand the laws involved and the devastating injuries of motorcycle accidents. 

Contact a Bakersfield Motorcycle Accident Lawyer for Free

If you or a loved one was injured in a motorcycle crash, contact a Bakersfield motorcycle accident lawyer at The Law Offices of Mickey Fine right away. The clock may already be ticking on your case.

See our results.

Call our Bakersfield, California office today at (661) 333-3333 for a free consultation. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t owe us anything unless we reach a successful outcome in your case.

Motorcycle Accident
by Mickey Fine Law
Last updated on - Originally published on