Written by: Portrait Photo Of Tyrone J. Maho Tyrone J. Maho

There is a freedom to motorcycle riding offered by no other form of transportation. It can be hard to resist the wind on your face as you ride along the water on Highway 1. Unfortunately, that freedom can come at a price. Motorcycles are statistically the most dangerous form of transportation.

Unfortunately, motorcyclists are often viewed as responsible for accidents they are involved in simply because they were riding a bike. 

Photo of Motorcycle Accident Scene

California Is a Dangerous Place to Ride

California has the highest motorcycle injury and fatality rates in the country. The reason for this is simple: more people own bikes here, and they ride them all year long. The weather is nice, and there are many beautiful stretches of land to explore. 

If you or someone you love rides a motorcycle, there are a few helpful California motorcycle accident statistics you should know.

National Motorcycle Accident Statistics

Motorcycle accident injuries increased in California from 2020 to 2021, following the national trend.

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report states that there were 5578 motorcycle fatalities nationwide in 2020. Things only got worse in 2021, which saw 5,932 fatal accidents—an 8% jump. 

Over 78,000 people were injured in motorcycle accidents in 2020. That number increased by 5% to over 82,000 in 2021.

The 2021 NHTSA report also discovered that motorcycle riders are four times as likely to be injured and 24 times more likely to die in an accident.

Although motorcycles only make up a little over 3% of vehicles on the road, motorcycle fatalities made up 14% of the fatal traffic accidents in the country in both 2021 and 2022. 2021 was the highest that it has been since the NHTSA started evaluating motorcycle crashes in 1975.   

A report by the Insurance Institute discovered that about 31 bikers are fatally injured for every 100 million miles traveled each year. 

In 2020:

  • 61% of fatal motorcycle collisions took place in urban areas
  • 39% of fatal crashes happened in rural areas
  • 57% occurred in daylight 

In 2021:

  • 67% of motorcycle accidents happened in urban areas
  • 33% of motorcycle accident fatalities happened in rural areas
  • 57% occurred in daylight 

California Motorcycle Accident Statistics

California has more fatal accidents than any other state. 549 died in the state in the year 2020. The numbers rose by 3% the next year. Not wearing a helmet is a leading cause of motorcycle deaths. Despite constant reminders from road safety organizations, deaths from not wearing a helmet continue to climb steadily. 

3,068 people were injured in motorcycle crashes in the year 2021 in California. Wearing a helmet has repeatedly been shown to be the major difference in whether or not an accident will be fatal.  

Incidents of drunk driving are on the rise in California as well. All drivers—not just bikers—are drinking and driving more often. Fatalities involving drunk drivers increased by 16% from 2020 to 2021.

According to a study done by the University of California at Berkeley, victims were males between the ages of 25 and 34 in the majority of motorcycle accidents. 

Speeding accounted for 30.9% of accidents, improper turning accounted for 22.2% of collisions, and automobiles failing to yield accounted for 16.1% of crashes.

There are many types of accidents a motorcycle rider can have. The top three include:

  • T-bone collisions (25.1%)
  • Overturn accidents (21%)
  • Striking objects (18.8%)

Alcohol-Related Accidents 

Forty-one percent of bikers who died in crashes were under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This is more than people who were driving other vehicles. Bikers who ride at night are more likely to test positive for alcohol than those who ride during the day.

Why Motorcycles Are So Dangerous

There is nothing to protect you when you are on a motorcycle. When your face is your windshield, your nose can easily be broken. When your arms are your side doors, you should at least wear a thick jacket made of leather or rubber. 

There are a lot of trucks on the road in California. There are also many drivers from out of town. These factors contribute to a high rate of accidents in general.

People in accidents with trucks are almost certain to sustain injury. Those injuries can be serious or even deadly. The impact is much greater for a person on a motorcycle due to the lack of protection.

Out-of-towners are not familiar with the roads in California. They get lost and drive the wrong way on one-way streets or get confused when trying to navigate a multi-lane highway. 

California Laws for Motorcyclists 

Motorcycle riders must adhere to stricter laws than other drivers in California. You must have a special motorcycle license in the state. Despite this, 36% of riders in fatal accidents did not have motorcycle licenses in 2020. 

If a driver is under 21 years old, they must take a driver’s education class in motorcycle riding before they can get a license. Motorcycle operators in the Golden State must take a safety class regardless of their age.

There are universal helmet laws in the state of California. Both riders and passengers must wear motorcycle helmets. Failing to do so can result in a fine of $250 and probation.

Lane Splitting Laws

According to the California Highway Patrol, the practice of lane splitting is legal in California. This takes place when a motorcyclist rides in between lanes. If you are going to lane split, it is recommended that you stay on the left lane of the highway. You should never go fast when lane splitting.

Motorcycle Traffic Safety for Other Drivers

Any personal injury attorney can tell you that all road users have a duty of care to motorcyclists. They may not block or impede a motorcycle rider in a way that could cause injury. If a motorcycle is lane-splitting, the driver must go over as far as they can into the left lane to allow the motorcyclist room.

Photo of a Broken Motorcycle

Insurance Claims and Motorcycle Accidents

Whether you drive a motorcycle or a passenger car, there are insurance coverage requirements in California. A driver must have $15,000 of coverage for injury or death to one person, $30,000 for injury or death to more than one person, and $5,000 for property damage.

The person who caused an accident must pay the associated bills. California is a pure comparative fault state when it comes to automobile insurance, meaning that a person is responsible for the portion of blame the share for the accident. If you were 10% responsible for an accident and the other driver was 90% responsible, their insurance company would be responsible for paying 90% of your bills, and your insurance company would have to pay 10% of their bills.

The amount of insurance required by California is rarely enough to pay for a motorcycle rider’s injuries. in roughly 70% of cases, doctors’ bills will exceed $15,000. Many motorcycle accident victims end up in debt because of their accidents.

Insurance Companies Do Not Like Bikers

Motorcycle riders tend to be an insurance company’s least sought-after clients. Motorcyclists are often blamed for accidents even if it was not their fault. Bikers are often accused of reckless driving even though they are obeying the law. If a biker is not wearing a helmet or is lane splitting, they are more likely to be perceived as being responsible for an accident that they did not cause.

If the blame for a motorcycle accident falls upon the driver of a passenger vehicle, the driver’s insurance company will often try to get out of paying. They may say the biker was not properly dressed or was driving erratically. This is why a motorcyclist injured in an accident needs a motorcycle accident attorney.

Why You Should Hire Us

The attorneys at Maho Prentice, LLP have served Santa Barbara and Los Angeles area for 20 years. Our trained attorneys have a good standing with the State Bar Association and an excellent reputation with their clients. We can represent you in a personal injury claim or wrongful death lawsuit. Call us today.

By Maho | Prentice, LLP Attorneys at Law on July 24, 2023