What Are The Chances Of Dying On A Motorcycle?

Death is not something most people like to think about. But, while this topic does seem quite morbid, it is an important one, especially for motorcycle riders. Why? Because motorcycle crashes are more common than you think. And a high percentage of them are fatal. 

So, what are your chances of dying on a motorcycle? Frankly, relatively high if you are comparing it to being in a car. The chance of dying on a motorcycle in the United States is approximately 30 times higher than if you were in a car.

But don’t despair yet.

Compared to the number of accidents that do happen, your chance of dying is only about 6% or so. Ideally, zero would be best, yes. But 6% also means that as long as you are following all the rules and wearing protective gear, luck may favor you in an untoward situation.

What can we learn from car versus motorcycle accident statistics? 

Based on current data, there is a total of 275,913,237 motor vehicles registered in the U.S. And, out of these, 105,135,300 are automobiles. In fact, the United States has the highest number of passenger vehicles among all the countries of the world. 

Additionally, 8,298,394 of the 275,913,237 vehicles are motorcycles. In the U.S., the number of cars greatly outnumbers the number of motorcycles. 

Motorcycles make up only 3% of all registered vehicles and 0.6% of all vehicle miles traveled in the United States. However, motorcyclists accounted for 14% of all traffic fatalities, 18% of all occupant fatalities, and 4% of all occupant injuries. 

According to the NHTSA, there were 5,579 motorcyclists killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2020. On the other hand, there were 35,766 fatal car accidents across the U.S. in 2020. 

So, the fatality rate was 67.08 per 100,000 registered vehicles for motorcycles. This is very high compared to 6.90 for trucks and 10.79 for cars. This is as per the Insurance Information Institute.

As you can see, the number of fatal motorcycle accidents is frighteningly high compared to fatal car accidents. That is, if we are just going by the number of registered vehicles.

If we are looking from the perspective of vehicle miles traveled, then the story is not any different.  The number of fatalities in motorcycle accidents is nearly 28 times more frequently than fatalities involving accidents in passenger cars. This is according to the NHTSA (national highway traffic safety administration).  

So, as far as means of transport goes, the survival rates of car accidents are much higher compared to motorcycle accidents.

But it’s not all doom and gloom.

Fatal motorcycle accidents do seem high when we compare them to cars. But if we compare the death rate to the actual number of accidents, then we have more reasons to be positive. 

According to the NHTSA, in 2020, there were 82,528 motorcycle accidents in the U.S. And, out of those, there were 5579 deaths. So, that means about 6.7% of the accidents were fatal. 

While every death is a tragedy and we must always be careful, a motorcycle accident leading to death is not very common. But that is, as long as you follow all highway safety rules and precautions. 

And do keep in mind that even if you are not in a fatal accident, any accident can be bad enough. You could be left with high medical bills and traumatic brain injuries.

Why do motorcyclists tend to be involved in fatal accidents?

Unlike car accidents, many motorcycle accidents are not because of the rider himself or herself. It is often due to the fact that motorcycles are smaller compared to cars. 

This means that motorcycle drivers have a higher chance of being hit by fellow car drivers. Motorcycles are harder to spot in traffic. And bad weather conditions or road conditions can make things worse.

Also, unlike cars, motorcycles do not come with safety features such as airbags or seat belts. Moreover, in a car, you are in an enclosed space. This protects passenger car occupants in an accident. 

So if a vehicle hits you, chances are that you could face serious injury from being thrown out of the motorcycle. And you could get more severe injuries from other vehicles around.

Many motorcyclists also, unfortunately, tend to be a little too easygoing about following traffic rules or wearing protective gear such as helmets. This increases the chances of serious injuries if caught in an accident. 

Another aspect is that many motorcyclists also enjoy driving at high speed. Of course, this is one of the most thrilling parts of owning a motorcycle. But it also means that on an unlucky day, the high speed you are driving can have a bad outcome.

How can you increase your chance of not dying on a motorcycle?

  1. Wear all the necessary safety gear, including a helmet, to protect yourself from serious injuries. It should not matter whether wearing a helmet in your state is mandatory or not. After all, not all states have universal helmet laws. 

    But a good helmet is essential for riding safely. This cannot be over-emphasized. A helmet can protect you from a fatal head injury.

    In states without universal helmet laws, 57% of motorcyclists killed in 2020 were not wearing helmets. In states with universal helmet laws, only 11% of motorcyclists killed in 2020 were not wearing helmets.

    So, always wearing a good quality motorcycle helmet while riding is a good idea. It should be approved by the U.S. department of transportation. Helmet use can reduce the chances of dying in a motorcycle accident by nearly 40%.
  2. Make sure that the clothes you wear are suitable for riding safely. This is important whether you are the driver or the passenger. The clothes should be well-fitted, offer protection, and ensure that you are visible to others.
  3. Travel within the speed limit. Don’t try to overtake other vehicles on the road.
  4. Many motorcycle accidents are caused by other drivers, not by motorcyclists themselves. So don’t trust anyone blindly. While you may follow all rules diligently, someone else might not. 
  5. Take a motorcycle safety course. It will help you learn about safe riding. 
  6. Don’t drive under the influence. Drug and alcohol use play a role in multiple fatal crashes. Drunk driving is one of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents.
  7. Maintain your motorcycle regularly so that it keeps running smoothly. This will reduce your risk of fatal crashes. An unmaintained motorcycle may be more prone to getting out of control.
  8. Pay attention to the road while driving. Don’t talk on the phone or chit-chat with your friends while driving. This is dangerous for the riders as well as the people around them.
  9. Motorcyclists are more likely to get into a fatal accident on weekends and between 12 and 9 pm. Most fatal motorcycle accidents occur between 6 and 9 pm. So, avoid public roads when they have just been launched.


So, what do you think is your chance of dying on a motorcycle? Compared to a car, quite high. But overall, motorcycle accident fatality is not that high. 

Of course, this does not mean that you stop taking precautions while driving. That would be dangerous and may result in a motorcycle wreck. No matter what, always follow traffic rules and wear protective gear.

Photo of author


Mike, the motorcycle enthusiast behind SuperBike Newbie, fell in love with superbikes during his college years. He owns a diverse range of motorcycles and offers valuable insights into motorcycling advice, maintenance, safety gear, and laws. Despite two decades of riding experience, he continues to learn and shares his knowledge on his website. Mike also has a keen interest in motorcycle club culture. While not a club member, he aspires to be one someday.

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