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Maureen May
Maureen May
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Three Common Causes of Motorcycle Crashes

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According to data compiled by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2013 motorcyclists accounted for:

  • 14 percent of all traffic fatalities
  • Four percent of all people injured
  • 18 percent of all occupants (driver and passenger) fatalities
  • Four percent of all occupants injured.

Of the 4,668 motorcyclists killed in traffic crashes, 94 percent (4,399) were riders and 6 percent (269) were passengers. Some of the most common causes of accidents involving motorcycles include:


Speeding is one of the leading causes of motorcycle accidents, because speeding drivers do not have time to slow down or react to vehicles around them, including motorcycles, that may be difficult to see because of their size. Many motorcycle accidents involving speeding drivers result in serious or even fatal injuries, since motorcycles offer little or no protection to riders in the event of a crash.

Driver Inattention

Drivers who are preoccupied on their cell phones also put motorcyclists in jeopardy, and cause deadly accidents. A survey commissioned by AT&T found that seven in 10 people engage in smartphone activities while driving, mostly texting and emailing, although surfing the web, tweeting, video chatting, and posting to social media are also prevalent. About one in seven drivers admitted to being on Twitter while behind the wheel.

Riding Without a Helmet

Head injury remains the leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes, and it is estimated that 715 lives could be saved across the nation each year if all motorcyclists would wear helmets. Despite overwhelming evidence that motorcycle helmets reduce accident injuries and deaths, U.S. state legislatures have scaled back on motorcycle helmet use laws during the past 30 years.

Currently only 19 states and the District of Columbia have universal helmet laws, which require all motorcyclists to wear a helmet. Three states, Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire, have no motorcycle helmet use laws whatsoever.