Compared to the number of accidents involving cars and trucks in California, the total number of motorcycle accidents in Bakersfield is much smaller. But that doesn’t mean motorcycle accidents aren’t still a problem in Kern County or in The Golden State overall.
In fact, as you will see in this article, California has some of the worst motorcycle accident statistics in the country. The numbers are especially grim here in Southern California.
Far too many people are seriously injured or killed while operating a motorcycle in Bakersfield and the surrounding areas each year — and most of those accidents are caused by someone else’s negligence.
Just how serious is the problem here in Bakersfield? And is the trend getting better or worse? We encountered conflicting headlines to that end, so to answer our question, we decided to go straight to the source(s): the official motorcycle accident statistics for Bakersfield & CA.
Which sources? Because different reports are compiled differently, we’ll approach our analysis from several different perspectives, citing each source along the way.
Some of the statistics and trends discussed in this article apply specifically to Bakersfield, others to Kern County. Some apply regionally to Southern California or to the state as a whole.
As you look at these figures, we want to impress upon you that each and every injury or death recorded here represents a life lost or turned upside down. These are accidents that don’t have to happen, and they can be prevented with just a little extra diligence on the roads.
As Bakersfield motorcycle accident attorneys, we have seen first-hand how vulnerable bikers are to serious injury. We also understand the challenges they and their families face when trying to get a fair shake from the insurance companies after a crash. We are committed to helping.
Motorcycle Accident Statistics for Bakersfield
We begin with raw data for the City of Bakersfield, as well as for Kern County, during the year 2017 — the most recent full year on record.
Pursuant to the California Public Records Act (CPRA) (Gov. Code, § 6250 et seq.), we submitted a public records request to the California Highway Patrol through the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SITRS), requesting motorcycle accident statistics for Bakersfield and the surrounding area broken down by type of accident and time of day.
Here’s what we found:
- There were 261 motorcycle collisions in Kern County during 2017. Of these, 77 (or 30%) were within Bakersfield city limits.
- The overwhelming majority of the Kern County collisions (207 of the 261, or nearly 80%) involved injuries. The percentage is the same when we look at Bakersfield specifically, where 61 of the 77 accidents involved injuries (again, nearly 80%).
- 20 of the 261 motorcycle accidents in Kern County were fatal (8%). Similarly, 8 of the 77 Bakersfield accidents were fatal (more than 10%).
- 34 of the Kern County motorcycle collisions resulted in property damage only (PDO). 8 of the Bakersfield accidents were PDO.
- The risk of a serious accident increased throughout the day and into the evening, with the highest number of accidents occurring between 1:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
- Perhaps unsurprisingly, the single most dangerous hour in both the city and the county was rush hour (5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.), which countywide accounted for 37 injury-involved motorcycle accidents, 5 PDO motorcycle accidents, and 4 motorcycle fatalities. 15 of those rush hour accidents happened within Bakersfield city limits.
It is true that the totals in Bakersfield are generally lower than in some of the larger Southern California cities (for example, the city of Los Angeles saw well over 2,000 motorcycle injuries and 50 motorcyclist deaths during the same period). But Bakersfield also has a fraction of Los Angeles’s population (roughly 340,000 people vs. 3.8 million people).
Per capita, the hundreds of injuries and dozens of deaths involving motorcycles in the Bakersfield area within a single calendar year are extremely alarming. Adjusted for population size, the motorcycle accident statistics for Bakersfield, CA are worse than those for Los Angeles.
Sadly, as we approach 2018, early indicators suggest that the motorcycle accident statistics for Bakersfield are no better this year. While the year-end report is still forthcoming, real-time data with the California Highway Patrol shows a total of 68 motorcycle accidents in Bakersfield at the time of this writing, 61 of which have been serious in nature.
Motorcycle Accident Statistics for California Overall
California is home to more motorcycles than any other state in the country. In total, there are more than 800,000 motorcycles registered with the State of California.
Motorcycling is especially popular in Southern California, which dominates online guides to the “Best Places in the Country to Go Biking” and which accounts for a large portion of the motorcycles in the state.
Knowing this, and having seen the motorcycle accident statistics for Bakersfield, we were surprised by several headlines we encountered during our research, touting a supposed decline in motorcycle accidents in California.
As it turns out, those headlines — while technically true — come with caveats, and they pertain to a pretty limited scope of data.
During 2015, according to the Los Angeles Times (referring to a report by the Governors Highway Safety Association), motorcycle deaths fell by 7% in California while the percentage rose nationwide. But, as the Times notes, that headline isn’t as rosy as it sounds. Because of the unusually large number of bikers in California, the state still had the second-highest rate of motorcycle fatalities in the country (second only to Florida). Additionally, “motorcycle deaths represented 17% of all road fatalities” in California that year, “though motorcyclists nationwide represented only 3% of registered vehicle owners and are responsible for only 1% of the vehicle miles traveled.”
A similar decline in the percentage of motorcycle deaths was observed in California during 2013 (down by nearly 13% from 2012), leading newspapers to proclaim an improvement in biker safety here. But there again, those conclusions might have been too broad.
In both 2013 and 2015, experts believe external factors (especially weather) may have been responsible for keeping bikers off the road in California. Notably, during 2013, motorcycle fatalities were down nationwide. Alas, both years appear to have been statistical flukes.
Indeed, according to an exhaustive report by the San Gabriel Valley Tribune earlier this year, motorcycle-involved deaths have been on the rise for 22 years in Southern California. And they’ve more than doubled since 1997, reports the Tribune, which calls the motorcycle deaths in SoCal “a silent epidemic.”
The paper noted an especially grim 30-day stretch in 2018 when “at least half-a-dozen motorcycle fatalities in Southern California… garnered only a few sentences in newspapers.”
Common Injuries Caused by Motorcycle Accidents
Motorcycle crashes are typically among the most serious and gruesome vehicle accidents. In fact, the collisions tend to be so bad that riders frequently suffer multiple severe injuries, making it difficult to ascertain a single most-prevalent injury or cause of death.
Common injuries in motorcycle accidents include:
- Head and brain injuries
- Broken / fractured bones
- Spinal cord injuries
- Leg, foot, and limb injuries
- Internal organ damage
- Severe laceration and/or disfiguration
- Permanent disability or paralysis
- Severe burns
- Eye injuries
- Road rash
Bikers can reduce their risk of serious injury by wearing comprehensive safety gear (including helmets), staying within the speed limit, obeying traffic laws, and abstaining from alcohol before driving.
Unfortunately, however, the majority of motorcycle accidents in California are caused by the negligence of car drivers, not by the bikers themselves. Until other drivers learn to be more careful around motorcyclists, bikers remain at grave risk.
Injured in a Motorcycle Accident in Bakersfield? Call Mickey Fine.
Mickey Fine is an experienced Bakersfield motorcycle accident lawyer with extensive experience in representing injured bikers and their families in compensation claims. He and the legal support team at The Law Offices of Mickey Fine are united in a belief that, for our clients, every penny counts.
It is our firm’s mission to maximize compensation for our clients. Let our office fight to get you the recovery you deserve.
Contact The Law Offices of Mickey Fine for a free and confidential motorcycle injury case review today.