Who Is At Fault In Most Motorcycle Accidents?

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Riding a motorcycle, especially in traffic, is a high-risk proposition at best. Motorcyclists are extremely vulnerable, lacking the relative protection of an enclosed vehicle (the leather clothing many motorcyclists favor is less about appearance and more about minimizing injuries). They are also difficult for auto and truck operators to see, especially if they are distracted.

As you might expect, the majority of motorcycle accidents are caused by automobile drivers. Despite common perceptions, most motorcyclists are cautious and law-abiding. Unfortunately, even paying strict attention to road safety does not always protect motorcycle drivers from an auto operator’s negligence.

Grim Statistics


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that nearly 6,000 motorcyclists died on U.S. roads during 2020. Statistically, that means motorcyclists are almost 30 times more likely to be killed in a collision. Their chances of serious injury are 400 percent higher than that of auto and truck drivers.

Although cars and trucks are responsible for most motorcycle accidents, the fact remains that operating a motorcycle is far more difficult, requiring greater skill, balance, concentration and physical strength than driving a four-wheeled vehicle. Even at relatively slow speeds, even the slightest nudge from another vehicle can send a motorcycle and its rider flying off the road or into oncoming traffic.

The bottom line: when it comes to road safety, the deck is heavily stacked against motorcycle riders.

How Motorcycle Accidents Happen


The fact is that on American roads, cars and trucks heavily outnumber motorcycles. According to the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), motorcycles make up only three percent of all registered motorized vehicles in the U.S. This disparity creates many different risks for motorcyclists. Here are the most common dangers motorcyclists face when riding in traffic.



This is the most frequent moving violation among motorists, and not surprisingly, a common cause of serious injury accidents. Excessive velocity decreases reaction time; even at thirty miles per hour, a two-ton automobile traveling at 50 feet per second requires more than 120 feet to come to a complete stop, including reaction time—and that is under optimal conditions. Even a small increase in speed can greatly increase the distance required to avoid an accident.



This behavior is all too common, especially in slow traffic. Under these circumstances, a collision between four-wheeled vehicles usually results in a fender-bender, but for a motorcyclist, it can be fatal. The car behind can shove a motorcycle out from under its rider, or push both into oncoming traffic.

Ignoring Traffic Control Signals


Yet another common behavior, this is the primary reason why it is prudent to wait at a green light until cross traffic has come to a full stop.



Although hands-on cell phone use is prohibited in most jurisdictions, some drivers continue to do it. Distractions can also include entertainment devices (such as a radio or CD player), grooming, eating or drinking, or simply engaging in conversation with a passenger.



A driver under the influence of alcohol or drugs (even prescription ones) experiences impaired judgment, delayed reaction times and even vision problems—which can have fatal results for the motorcyclist.



A fatigued or sleepy driver poses the same hazards to others on the road as one who is intoxicated. This is a common cause of head-on collisions on two-lane roads as well as other types of accidents.

Unsafe and Improper Lane Changes


Too many drivers fail to signal their intentions when changing lanes or attempting to pass other vehicles. Often, these drivers do not even bother to check their rearview mirrors. This is also a frequent cause of high-speed accidents. This is also an indication of aggressive driving, which poses a particularly serious threat to motorcyclists.

Other Hazards


Not all motorcycle accidents are caused by other drivers. Road construction, debris lying on the road, construction and inclement weather also result in dangerous riding conditions. The experienced motorcyclist will avoid riding in wet conditions and plan routes that bypass road construction or damaged road surfaces.

Specific Motorcycle-Related Injuries


Because the motorcyclist is so exposed while riding, there is virtually no such thing as a “minor” injury from an accident. The fortunate ones come out with road rash and severe skin injuries (which is why heavy leather or denim is the preferred riding outfit). Motorcycle accidents also result in:

  • broken and even crushed bones
  • burn injuries
  • internal injuries
  • lost limbs
  • neck and spinal injuries
  • traumatic brain injury (TBI)

Motorcycle accidents are also costly. A motorcycle accident injury can cost as much as $30,000, unless it is a head or spinal injury—in which case, treatment costs can skyrocket into the six and seven-figure range.

It is worth noting that riders wearing helmets experience less severe injuries. According to MCL 257.658, helmets are not required if the rider is at least 21 years of age and they carry no less than $20,000 in first-party insurance coverage. Nonetheless, wearing a helmet is a smart idea.

Minimizing Your Chances of Accidents and Injury


Besides always wearing head protection and proper riding clothing, there are several ways to protect yourself and anyone you may be riding with you.

Meet Motorcycle Licensing Requirements


Any licensed driver can apply for a motorcycle endorsement in the state of Michigan. Currently, the fee is $16, and you must pass an approved rider education course or a riding skills test.

Practice, Practice, Practice


Because riding a motorcycle is so different than driving an automobile, it is necessary to get used to operating it in a variety of conditions away from traffic until you feel confident. This is especially important if you are riding a new or unfamiliar machine.

Check Your Motorcycle


Prior to your ride, make certain tires are properly inflated and all headlights and signals are working. Check your oil and fuel levels. If you are carrying a passenger, do not allow them to get on until you have started the motor.

Obey Traffic Laws and Ride Defensively


The rules of the road are meant to keep people safe. Don’t ignore them. Remember that auto drivers do not always see you, and above all, avoid drugs and alcohol when riding.

Are You a Motorcycle Accident Survivor?


You are among the fortunate few if you have survived a motorcycle accident. Chances are, you face huge medical expenses and a long recovery—and you should not have to go through it alone. The motorcycle accident lawyers at the Mike Morse Law Firm can help to identify the responsible party and prove their liability and will do everything in their power to get a fair settlement.

Compensation that you may be entitled to includes:

Do not attempt to negotiate an insurance settlement on your own, or sign any documents before an attorney has had time to examine them. Also, remember that there is a statute of limitations of two years on injury claims in Michigan, meaning you must file a complaint within that time or forfeit your right to sue.

Contact Mike Morse Law Firm today for your free, no-obligation consultation. If we represent you, there is no upfront or out-of-pocket fees—we get paid only when we win your case.

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