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Motorcycle Accident Victims - What Statistics Don't Tell Us

"Motorcycle accident victims are inevitable when people ride motorbikes," say the statistics. It is a commonly held belief in North America that where there are motorcycles, there are motorcycle accident victims. The belief is that riding motorbikes is an inherently dangerous activity.  What we might ask, however, is this actually true?

Okay, let's talk about the scary stuff first. Some statistics say that, compared to other vehicles, the number of deaths on motorbikes is about 30 times of that on a per miles traveled basis. Yikes, we know. 

Although I am not a motorcycle rider, I have used a very cute pink scooter (the description of my scooter is not at all relevant for this article, but a fond point nonetheless) for transportation almost exclusively for some years. I have never been in an accident.

While it is true, that compared to car drivers or passengers, motorcycle accident victims are often way more vulnerable regarding injuries, the statistics may not tell the whole story.

The reason why motorcycle accident victims can suffer such significant injuries is due to the obvious fact is that motorcycle riders are not protected the same way that victims are in a collision involving cars or trucks. Riders are not protected by steel, metal and fiberglass the way car drivers are. So, when there is an impact, either their body takes the direct hit, or they are thrown from their bike.  The injuries can be and are often serious. 

At the same time, as in many cases, statistics may be misleading.

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This is what we know about motorcycle accident victims:

The motorcycle accident rate does not increase the minute a person gets on a motorcycle. Other factors are involved. For example, many people take a motorcycle safety course before riding. Taking such a course can reduce the likelihood of accident and injury. Sport bikes are in more fatal accidents than touring bikes. Bikes going at higher speeds produce more motorcycle accident victims than bikes going at lower speeds. Young riders, who also may happen to engage in other risky behavior, are more often involved in crashes than older and more experienced riders. Whether or not drugs or alcohol are involved is also a significant factor in determining whether or not a collision will occur.

The point is that just because you get on a motorcycle, it does not mean that you will become a motorcycle accident victim. 

Motorcycle accident victims fare worse than those in other vehicles: 

Everyone knows that when crashes do occur, motorcycle riders can get really hurt. Compared to an impact that has simply put a dent in a car, that same impact can land a motorcycle rider in hospital. 

Safety also depends on how likely you are to have an accident in the first place. What most motorcycle accident statistics do not take into account is the distinction between motorcycle accident victims who were riding a touring bike and those riding a sport bike. Those on sport bikes have more accidents. 

In addition, most statistics do not distinguish between novice riders and those who are more experienced. Competent and careful riders are less likely to become motorcycle accident victims than less experienced riders.

What can make riding a motorcycle safer?

Many riders ride their bikes every day for decades totally accident-free.

Many riders believe that safety is no accident, and that riding is not inherently dangerous. It is how a person rides that counts.

Motorcycle riders have a broader field of vision. They have no blind spots around them caused by their vehicle.

Because motorcycle riders see more, they can react quicker to danger, for example, if someone stops suddenly in front of them without warning, a motorcycle can often avoid that collision.

Motorcyclists can evade better. Car pile-ups are caused because cars have nowhere to go when there is a sudden stop in front of them. Motorcyclists can often move around the hazard safely. A rider may be able to pull safely onto a shoulder and avoid hitting the vehicle in front or from being hit behind.

Motorcyclists have to be more attentive and are way less distracted than car drivers. Unlike car drivers, where distracted driving is a big problem, motorcycles are not lulled into a false sense of comfort when on the road. Car drivers are often distracted by their handheld device, food, drinking coffee, talking to other passengers, adjusting the temperature inside the vehicle, disciplining kids, applying make-up etc. A motorcycle rider cannot do any of these things. This results in riders solely focused on riding and not doing anything else. Bikers are simply always paying attention the way car drivers are often not.

There is no false sense of security on a motorbike. Sometimes people in cars think that because they are surrounded by solid metal, steel, or fiberglass that they will be protected during an impact. Such feeling of protection will affect their driving choices. Such driving choices may be riskier than if they are out in the open air.

When in Rome . . . 

In other countries outside of North America like Europe or Asia, many people ride motorcycles and scooters. Young women and men, senior citizens, and business folks ride their motorbikes and scooters everywhere. There is not the same stigma associated with motorcycle riding. It is simply not seen as the dangerous activity that it is here in North America nor is it the dangerous activity that it is here in North America. There are some interesting reasons as to why scooters and motorcycles are more popular outside of North America.

Weighing the decision of riding a motorcycle for transportation or enjoyment obviously rests with each person.

We just need to remember that statistics don't always tell the whole story.


By Val Hemminger, former scooter hound and lawyer at Hemminger Law Group Westshore.

Hemminger Law Group Westshore - Lawyers with heart! Providing Family law and Personal Injury law services to the Westshore and beyond (Langford, Westshore, Colwood, View Royal, Sooke, and Victoria)!