How Dangerous Are Motorcycles?

How Dangerous Are Motorcycles?

Motorcycle riding is a thrill incomparable to many activities. However, it is one that is shrouded in the myth of danger. Unfortunately, many people shy away from the activity for fear of becoming “a statistic.”

Riding a motorcycle requires more focus and agility than driving a car. Not only that, but it is more physically and mentally draining than driving a car. With that said, there are more variables, and thus, more opportunities for things to go wrong. While there is no way to remove the risk entirely, training, proper gear and practice can minimize the overall risk. Before deciding if riding a motorcycle is right for you, consider some objective findings to help make your decision.

Objective Findings

According to the National Highway Safety Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA), 4,976 people were killed in the United States while riding a motorcycle in 2015. This number is up from 8.3 percent from 2014. The report was taken based on 8.6 million private and commercial bikes on the road in 2015. That equates to a 1 in 1,728 chance of being killed in a biking accident. Also, when compared to passenger cars, the rate of motorcycle fatality was six to seven times higher than the rate for passenger car occupants in 2014. The report also indicated that in 2014, motorcycles were 27 times more likely than “passenger car occupants” to die in a crash “per vehicle mile traveled.” They were also nearly five times likelier to be injured per report findings.

Risk Factors

As riders, we face a variety of hazardous conditions beyond our control. Things like bad weather, potholes, gravel, sand or bad drivers can be a rider’s worst nightmare. Beyond these factors, there are a host of other things of which riders should be aware. According to the 2015 NHSTA findings, 33 percent of motorcyclists killed were a result of rider speeding. Also, approximately 40 percent of the motorcyclists killed in 2015 were not wearing a helmet. Riders with blood alcohol levels beyond the legal limit made up a large percentage of those fatalities.

Road Conditions

The one thing that is beyond a rider’s control is the condition of the road. Unfortunately, road conditions tend to be the cause of some of the most disastrous accidents riders face. Over time, roads collect oil, and when mixed with rain, can cause slippery road conditions. Riders who live in areas prone to freezing weather must contend with icy roadways. Unfortunately, salt, which is commonly used to melt ice and snow, can negatively affect traction. Lastly, sunlight and glare can blind a rider making it difficult to see other drivers or roadway markers.

Lane Splitting

There is a longstanding myth that lane splitting is dangerous. However, studies have shown that when done correctly, it can be safe. Lane splitting at a safe speed (in relation to other traffic) is a common practice among riders that is beneficial to the rider and other drivers. It can help cut down on bikes overheating. It can also help reduce traffic congestion when bikers aren’t stuck sitting in the middle of traffic alongside other drivers.

Other Cars

Riders should never assume that car drivers see them, or that they will drive safely for them. Motorcyclists should always assume drivers do not see them, and should do everything possible to drive safely and protect themselves. Regardless of who is at fault, it is the rider who suffers the consequences in the event of a serious accident.

Group Rides

Group rides are a great way to bond with friends and other riders while enjoying the thrill of the sport. They are also an excellent way for new riders to get practice and learn new skills from veteran riders. Group rides, however, make it easy for riders to fall into the trap of doing what the person in front is doing. While this may be easy for some, novice riders who push themselves beyond their skill level put themselves and others in danger. It is vital for everyone on a group ride to remain alert, and not push themselves beyond their capabilities.

Rider Ability and Equipment

When riders get their motorcycle licenses, they have a wide range of choices when it comes to selecting a first bike. Picking one beyond their skill levels, however, can significantly increase their chances of having an accident. When starting, motorcyclists have a better chance of remaining safe if they pick a less-powerful bike. With fewer features to worry about, they can focus on practicing safe driving and learning new techniques. Only after building their skills should they consider purchasing a more powerful bike.

Minimizing Dangers of Motorcycle Riding

While riders may face many things that are outside of their control, there is plenty they can do to protect themselves and other drivers. Riders who remain alert and practice safe driving habits minimize their chances of having an accident. Beyond that, here are a few different ways motorcyclists can stay safe while on the road.

Proper Gear

Purchasing the right gear can make a world of difference in keeping a rider safe. For instance, Hi-Viz (high visibility) gear keeps them visible to other drivers. In the event they do experience an accident, wearing quality protective gear can help minimize their injuries. A properly fitted helmet and protective clothing, such as armored shirts, armored pants or armored vests, for example, can protect their bodies if they happen to fall, or get into an accident that involves another vehicle.

Bike Upgrades and Regular Maintenance

Not all bike upgrades are about power and speed. Several worthwhile upgrades can minimize the chance of an accident. Upgrading the braking elements, such as the brake line, calipers, brake pads or installing anti-lock brakes, can help a rider stop faster. All the upgrades in the world won’t matter, however, if the biker doesn’t keep the motorcycle operating properly. Performing regular maintenance on a bike can ensure it is in the best condition possible to be on the road.


Riders who lack training are less capable of responding to varying road conditions, and don’t possess the safe driving skills necessary to protect themselves and other drivers. For example, correct body positioning and riding posture can make a major impact on rider safety. Taking a motorcycle safety course or getting professional training can help riders know for sure they are maneuvering in the correct ways. Also, spending some time on a track gives them a chance to practice in a controlled environment. Without the distraction of other drivers, they can develop their skills before getting out on the road.

Personal Choices

Riders must acknowledge the risk involved in the sport. Accidents can – and do – happen, and they accept those risks the minute they get on the bike. There are many different riding disciplines, however, that don’t involve being on the road. There’s nothing wrong with a biker keeping his or her rides limited, strictly to the track, or off-road, if uncomfortable with riding in the street.

Although riding a motorcycle can be dangerous, it is an activity that can be practiced safely and responsibly, thereby reducing the chances of an accident.