Motorcycles vs. Cars: Which are Truly More Dangerous?

Doug Mann

You’ve probably heard that motorcycles are much more dangerous than cars. But, you probably also know that the number of motorcycle accidents in Ohio and around the country is far lower than the number of passenger vehicle accidents. And, far more people die in car accidents each year than in motorcycle crashes. 

Here’s a look at what those statistics really mean, and just how dangerous motorcycles are in comparison to cars and similar vehicles. 

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Table of Contents
  1. Motorcycle Fatalities and Injuries
  2. Motorcycles v. Cars: What’s More Dangerous? 
  3. Why Are Motorcycles More Dangerous than Cars? 
  4. Some Motorcycles are More Dangerous than Others
  5. Preventing Motorcycle Accidents

Motorcycle Fatalities and Injuries

In 2020, there were 5,579 motorcycle fatalities across the United States–up 20.4% compared with 2011. Across the same time period, both the number of registered motorcycles and the number of vehicle miles traveled on motorcycles decreased.

The net effect was a 22.2% increase in motorcycle fatalities per 100,000 registered motorcycles and a 26.7% increase in the motorcycle fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. 

Ohio Motorcycle Deaths

More recent data shows an upward trend in motorcycle fatalities in the state of Ohio, as well. In 2021, the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) reported 223 motorcycle fatalities in the state. That’s an increase of 66 deaths (42%) compared with 2017.

Motorcycle Injuries in the U.S. 

The number and rate of motorcycle injuries around the country also increased from 2011 to 2020, but not nearly as significantly as the number and rate of fatalities. Total motorcycle injuries increased from 82,000 to 83,000 across that period, after climbing significantly higher in the mid 2010s. Across the same decade, injuries per 100,000 registered motorcycles increased from 968 to 992, or about 2.5%. 

Motorcycles v. Cars: What’s More Dangerous? 

The data above shows that the risk of dying on a motorcycle has increased in recent years, and the risk of being injured in a motorcycle crash has climbed slightly. That in itself doesn’t necessarily mean that motorcycles are more dangerous than other modes of transportation. Here’s how motorcycles stacked up against passenger vehicles in 2020. 

Fatal Crashes Per Vehicle Miles Traveled

Passenger cars were involved in fatal crashes at a rate of 1.79 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. For motorcycles, that number was 32.41 per 100 million miles. In other words, on a per-miles-traveled basis, motorcycles were more than 18 times as likely to be involved in a fatal collision as cars. 

Fatal Crashes Per Registered Vehicles

16.71 passenger cars were involved in fatal crashes for every 100,000 registered vehicles. That’s about 1.7 vehicles in 10,000. For motorcycles, that figure was 68.71 per 100,000 registered vehicles, or about 7 in 10,000.

Why Are Motorcycles More Dangerous than Cars? 

Motorcyclists are at greater risk than those traveling in passenger vehicles for a few different reasons. The most obvious and one of the most significant is that a biker is completely unprotected. A passenger in a vehicle that crashes has a variety of safety devices and other protections, from seat belts and air bags to the structure of the vehicle absorbing some of the impact. 

But, the greater exposure of the rider isn’t the only difference. Some other reasons motorcyclists face more significant dangers on the road include: 

  • The vehicle is less stable, meaning it’s more likely to tip, to slide on grass clippings or other material on the road, or to throw the rider off if the motorcycle hits a pothole or small piece of debris that might have less impact on a larger vehicle. 
  • Drivers of other vehicles don’t always notice or watch out for motorcycles, meaning they’re at greater risk of being hit in certain circumstances.
  • A motorcyclist who is hit can be thrown, dragged, hit by a car or otherwise more directly impacted than someone riding in a car, SUV, or other enclosed passenger vehicle.

Some Motorcycles are More Dangerous than Others

While the figures above compare all motorcycles to passenger vehicles, other data tells us that not all motorcycles are created equal. Death rates for “supersport” motorcycles have been found to be about four times as high as those for standard cruiser-type motorcycles. These bikes, sometimes called “crotch rockets,” account for less than 10% of motorcycles on the road, but about 25% of fatalities.

Preventing Motorcycle Accidents

Avoiding motorcycle crashes must be a joint effort between bikers and the other vehicles on the road. For the drivers of cars, trucks, SUVs and other four-wheeled (or more) vehicles, the most important precaution is to be vigilant. Motorcycles are smaller and more agile, meaning that they aren’t as visible to other drivers and may make quick, unexpected moves. The few seconds in which a driver might be distracted by a text message or turning to look at a child in the back seat could be fatal.

Motorcyclists have a wider range of protective measures to think about. Some of the most important include:

  • Wearing a helmet
  • Checking tire pressure and ensuring brakes and other critical equipment are in good working order
  • Not swerving in and out of traffic or between cars
  • Not driving under the influence
  • Keeping a safe distance from surrounding vehicles

Talk to an Experienced Motorcycle Accident Lawyer

If you were injured in a motorcycle crash and believe someone else was responsible, you may be entitled to compensation. For example, if you were rear-ended by a car that was following too close, sideswiped by a distracted driver, or hit in an intersection because a driver didn’t see you, that driver may be legally responsible for your injuries. In some cases, a driver may be wholly or partly responsible for your motorcycle crash even if their vehicle didn’t directly make contact with your bike. 

To learn more about your rights and how the experienced motorcycle accident lawyers at Dyer, Garofalo, Mann & Schultz may be able to help, just call 937-222-2222. The initial consultation is free. 

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