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Causes of Motorcycle Crashes And Tips For Motorcycle Safety

The Motorcycle Crash Causation Study (cited below) provides a great deal of information as to the cause of motorcycle crashes.

The study is one of the most comprehensive in decades, reviewed approximately 350 crashes (also interviewed riders), and the Final Report itself (available online)(free) is cited below:

U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration (February 2019) Motorcycle Crash Causation Study: Final Report [PDF File], https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/research/safety/18064/18064.pdf


The “Findings” of the Final Report are found on pages 31 through 94 (approximately 65 pages) addressing multiple factors.


Interesting findings from the study/report include:

  • Single vehicle crashes occurred mostly on Sundays. (Page 31).
  • Most crashes occurred in clear & dry weather conditions. (Page 32).
  • Most crashes occurred in post speed limit (45 mph or less). (Page 33).
  • Most crashes occurred on “level roadways” and most single vehicle crashes & fatalities occur on curves. (Page 34).
  • Most crashes occurred with other vehicles. (Page 32).
  • Most crashes occurred in light to moderate traffic conditions. (Page 35).
  • Most crashes occurred on shorter trips than longer trips. (Page 48).
  • Most crashes did not involve a passenger. (Page 32).
  • Crashes occurred by hitting “Pavement Edge Drops.” (Page 34).
  • Crashes occurred by hitting “Tram/Train Rails.” (Page 34).
  • Crashes occurred by hitting “Rumble Strips.” (Page 34).
  • Crashes occurred by hitting “Speed Bumps/Humps.” (Page 34).
  • Crashes occurred by hitting “Gravel” on side of the road. (Page 36).
  • Crashes occurred by hitting “Grooved Pavement.” (Page 34).
  • Crashes occurred inside “Work Zones.” (Page 36).
  • Crashes occurred from “Attention failure”. (Page 39).
  • Crashes occurred from “Speed”. (Page 40).
  • Crashes occurred from “Motorcycle position” with other traffic. (Page 40).
  • Crashes occurred from “Aggressive attitude”. (Page 41).
  • Crashes occurred from “Impairment” (alcohol/drugs). (Page 41).
  • Crashes occurred with pedestrians or animals (few crashes). (Page 37).
  • “Left turns” were the most common cause. Second was failing to avoid the crash. Third was running off the roadway. (Page 32).
  • Most bikers had their had headlights illuminated. (Page 67).
  • Most bikers checked their brakes yet failed to check tire pressure prior to the crash. (Page 48).
  • Most bikers involved in single vehicle crashes has had grossly “underinflated tires” (front and rear). (Pages 73 & 74).
  • Most bikers had no obstructions in line of sight prior to crash. (Page 48).
  • Most bikers traveled less than 40 mph at time of crash, with average speed at 30.5 mile-per-hour. (Page 47).
  • Most bikers “braked” before impact, a lesser percentage took no action or steered left or right to avoid the crash. (Page 47).
  • Most bikers were “solo bikers” as opposed to bikers riding with others or within in a group. (Page 52).
  • Most bikers had their helmet properly adjusted (99% of the time.) Full Face helmets found more often than other helmets. (Page 49).
  • Helmets remained in place in 91% of the crashes. (Page 49).
  • Helmets are more effective in preventing injury in multi-vehicle crashes, less effective in reducing or preventing injury in fatal crashes. (Page 42).
  • Helmets were provided by crash victims. Not all could be tested due to the damage (or lack of damage). Type, location, and severity of impact (and many other variables) are reported. (Pages 87-91).
  • Bright colored clothing (jackets, shirts, or vests) enhanced visibility. (Page 42).
  • Riding apparel protects bikers from adverse weather, fatigue and preserves attention in multi-vehicle crashes. (Page 43).
  • Gloves reduce or prevent injury. (Page 43).
  • Proper footwear reduces injury. (Page 42).
  • Motorcycles painted in yellow, red, orange and gold are less likely to be involved in a crash as compared to their counterparts, painted in white, black and silver/gray. (Page 62).
  • Motorcycles without “reflective parts” are involved in more crashes than their counterparts having reflective materials. (Page 62).
  • Antilock Braking System (ABS) was also a factor examined within the crash study. (Page 65).
  • Time for precipitating event to impact averaged 2.2 seconds. (Page 72).
  • Physiological, psychological condition(s) and prior sleep of the bikers are also factors included in the crash study. (Page 50).
  • Fatigue was reported in more crashes than the issue of thirst. (Page 50).
  • Time of ownership, “riding experience” and days ridden per year were also factors included in the crash study. (Pages 50-51).
  • Type of “motorcycle training” was also considered. (Page 51).
  • The other driver’s average age was 41. (Page 80).
  • The other driver’s average trip distance was 10 miles, with most of them traveling the same road at least weekly. (Page 78).
  • The other driver’s “attention failure” caused crashes. (Page 44).
  • The other driver’s “lane change” caused crashes. (Page 44).
  • The other driver’s “poor traffic scan” caused crashes. (Page 44).
  • The other driver’s “careless driving” caused crashes. (Page 44).
  • The other driver’s “speed” (slow or excessive) caused crashes. (Page 44).
  • The other driver’s “impairment” (drug/alcohol) caused crashes. (Page 46).
  • The other driver’s “lack of evasive action” caused crashes. (Page 77).
  • The other driver’s “view” was not obstructed. (Page 78).
  • The other driver had no passengers in 67% of the crashes. (Page 78).
  • The other driver sustained injuries 9% of the time. (Page 80).
  • For other “types of vehicles” involved in crash, automobiles accounted for 61%, light conventional trucks accounted for 10%, utility vehicles accounted for 9%, and most were equipped with ABS braking. (Page 82).
  • Distracted drivers: 79% of the other vehicle’s driver “reported” himself/herself as “attentive”, 12% reported they looked but did not see the motorcyclist, and 7% reported themselves as distracted by some type of device. (Page 78).
  • Average distance from point of impact to motorcycle point of rest was 53 feet. (Page 73).
  • Average distance from point of impact to rider point of rest was 35 feet, with longer distances involved in fatal crashes. (Page 73).
  • Average distance from point of impact to passenger point of rest was 31 feet, with longer distances involved in fatal crashes. (Page 73).
  • Skid marks and length of skid marks from both tires occurred more so in fatal crashes. (Page 71).
  • Injuries (Causation): Most were caused by direct contact (96%). (Page 76).
  • Injuries (Location): Bikers sustained injuries in their lower extremities: leg, ankle, and foot)(32%), upper extremities (shoulder, arm, forearm, wrists, and hand)(24%), to the chest (15%), to the head (8%), to the abdomen or pelvis, (8%) to the face (7%), to the spine (4%), to the neck (2%). (Page 75).
  • Injuries (Severity): 38% sustained minor injuries, 32% sustained moderate injuries, 17% sustained serious injuries. (Page 75).
  • Injuries (Anatomy): 52% had injuries to skin, 23% had injuries to the skeleton, 19% had injuries to the organs, etc. (Page 75).
  • Injuries (Treatment): 40% treated at the hospital and released, 35% admitted, 6% had no medical care, 4% dead on scene, and 4% dead on arrival at hospital. (Page 76).
  • Hospital Admission & Deaths: 66% were not admitted (or hospitalized), 22% stayed less than five days, 6% stayed more than a week, 2% stayed more than 40 days, with most of the 2% staying more than 96 days. A high percentage of the fatalities died within five days of crash. (Page 77).
  • The remainder of the report provides a comparison between the findings of this study and prior reports. (Pages 91-94), with the last page noting procedures for obtaining electronic files and data, available upon request. (Page 95).

Top 10 Takeaways:

  1. Motorcycle crashes can occur on any date, at any time, at any place.
  2. Remember the acronym: “TCLOCK” to check your:
    • “Tires, Control levers, Lights & battery, Oil levels, Chassis, and Kickstand.”
  3. Remember the acronym: “ATGATT” to wear:
    • “All The Gear All The Time.”
  4. Remember the acronym: “SEE” to always:
    • “Search, Evaluate & Execute.”
  5. When practicing in an empty parking lot, for crash avoidance, remember to practice both slow and fast evasive maneuvers.
  1. When possible, I strongly believe in riding with others, as there is strength in numbers, and we are certainly more visible to other motorists.
  2. Helmets Save Lives.
  3. Don’t Drink & Drive.
  4. Speed Kills.
  5. Arrive Alive.

Please feel free to share the above with a fellow biker – to help us improve motorcycle awareness and safety. Ride Safe, Brad

Attorney Brad Souders, a lifetime biker, represents injured bikers and their families in cases involving personal injury and wrongful death throughout the state of Florida. Call 1-866-464-5291 or a free, immediate consultation. We also offer home, hospital and evening or weekend appointments upon request. After hours, simply call Brad’s cell phone at 813-220–7767. Office in Tampa, also offering virtual online appointments 27/7.

Do you need an experienced Motorcycle Accident Lawyer?
Call Brad Souders any time, day or night, at 1-866-464-5291 for a FREE, immediate consultation. A lifetime biker, and award-winning attorney with more than 25 years’ experience – A Biker Representing Bikers!

Attorney Brad Souders has a main office in Tampa, representing injured bikers and their families throughout the state of Florida.

Can’t come to us? Brad can come to you. He offers FREE INITIAL CONSULTATIONS, also offering HOME, HOSPITAL & EVENING or WEEKEND appointments by request. After hours, simply call Brad’s cell at (813) 220-7767.