Are Some Types of Motorcycles More Likely to Be In Accidents Than Others?

When looking at motorcycle accident statistics in the U.S., some patterns emerge in the types of motorcycles that are most likely to be in an accident. Motorcycles with larger engine sizes and those with sportier, racing-influenced designs tend to be involved in accidents most often. Many of these accidents are related to operator error rather than specific design defects, meaning these motorcycle types are only more dangerous because those who operate them tend to take more risks.

man sitting on a motorcycle

All motorcycles carry a higher risk of accidents, injuries, and fatalities than any other vehicle on the road, however. Overall, know you can be involved in a motorcycle accident at any time — one that may not necessarily be your fault. If you find yourself hurt, you can refer to a Tampa motorcycle accident lawyer who can help you investigate your crash, determine who could be at fault, and pursue the maximum amount of compensation available.

To help protect yourself, be aware of dangers, and make the right decisions when it comes to riding, here are some of the facts about which types of motorcycles tend to be most frequently involved in accidents.

All Motorcycles Are at a Higher Risk of Injury and Death

First, the most significant factor in a motorcycle accident is the fact that someone is using a motorcycle at all. Statistics show that motorcycle operators are exponentially more likely to be involved in a crash accident, sustain injuries, or die than other passenger vehicles.

Data sourced from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and analyzed by the Insurance Information Institute (iii) shows that motorcycle occupants tend to acquire fatal injuries at much higher rates compared to other vehicle types. An average of 9.42 occupants of passenger cars and 6.80 light truck occupants are injured per 100k registered vehicles, respectively. Motorcycle occupants, however, experience fatal injuries at a rate of 58.33 times per 100k registered vehicles — more than 7 times the average combined rate of cars and light trucks.

The pattern becomes even more extreme on a per-vehicle-miles-traveled basis. Per every 100 million miles traveled, around 0.89 occupants of passenger vehicles and 0.64 light truck occupants are fatally injured. By comparison, 25.47 motorcycle occupants experience accident fatalities. That’s over 33 times the average rate of other vehicles!

This information tells us that, despite there being much fewer motorcycles on the road and these vehicles traveling less far and less frequently, on average, motorcycle operators and passengers are still at extreme risk of fatal accidents.

Larger Engine Sizes Show Some Correlation to Crashes, But Not a Fixed Pattern

One might think that “bigger engines = more danger” is a sound hypothesis, but fatal motorcycle accident data paints a less-than-clear picture of this trend.

Data obtained by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) shows that, in 2019, 46% of fatal accidents involved motorcycles with 1,000cc or less engine displacement. Engine sizes between 1,001cc – 1,400cc had the smallest share at 14% of accidents, but motorcycles with engines above 1,400cc once again surged in fatal accidents, making up 34% of the total.

Does this mean that engine sizes between 1,001cc and 1,400cc are safer? Not necessarily. Data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics show that sales of models with engine sizes of less than 450cc were plummeting as of 2012, whereas sales of motorcycles with engines above 750cc rose 54% and continue to rise. In response, motorcycle manufacturers have discontinued or cut production volumes on many motorcycle models with smaller displacement sizes while new models with bigger engines are introduced every year

Nevertheless, sales for engines below 1,000cc continue to remain common, meaning that the average motorcycle is likely to be in this category. That explains the higher incidence of fatal accidents for vehicles in this category and why vehicles in the less-common 1,001cc – 1,400cc category are seen in fatal accidents less frequently. However, large displacement vehicles can tend to carry a disproportionate risk of accident fatalities, which is why the number rises once more for vehicles above 1,400cc.

Cruiser and Touring Motorcycles Tend to Be More Fatal With Larger Engines, But Supersport Bikes With Small Engines Are Deadly, As Well

The “bigger = more dangerous” trend is most pronounced in cruiser/standard type and touring motorcycle models, according to the IIHS analysis. 46% of cruiser fatalities and a whopping 92% of touring fatalities involve vehicles with 1,400cc or above. 

Cruising and touring motorcycles continue to be popular with “traditional” motorcycle cultures, which encompasses those who enjoy distance riding, attending rallies, or embracing aspects of the culture like tough-looking leather. Too many of these enthusiasts, bigger = better, so they seek out larger bikes with more power, bigger engine sizes, and more capability to cruise at high speeds on the interstate. All of this carries a higher risk of a serious or fatal accident.

Sportbike racers, on the other hand, typically seek out smaller engine displacement sizes. Some of the most popular models, such as the Suzuki Hayabusa, boast massive horsepower and top speeds in excess of 200mph (once speed limiting devices are illegally removed), yet the current Hayabusa model still features a less-than-1,400cc engine size. Generally speaking, many of the most popular supersport models all fall below 1,000cc.

The reason for this preference is that sport and supersport bikes tend to switch out heavy, large displacement v-twin engines for smaller but high-revving four-cylinder engines. These engines quickly hit high RPMs, and their gear ratios are designed to maintain speed and control through tight turns. All of this is influenced by technology developed specifically for racing which can later find its way to production “street legal” models.

Put bluntly, you don’t have to have a big engine to wrap a sportbike around a tree or get tangled in a traffic accident. In fact, you may be unable to find a model with displacement above 1,000cc in the current top sellers’ lists. This trend explains why 99% of supersport motorcycle fatalities were seen in vehicles with 1,000cc engines or smaller.

Another consistent trend is that cruising/touring motorcycle fatality victims tend to be above 30, whereas sportbike fatalities tend to occur most frequently in age groups below 30.

Without firm data on the registration volumes of each vehicle category, however, measuring the relative risk of each motorcycle type is difficult. What is easy to see, though, is the role of other driving behaviors in causing motorcycle accident injuries and deaths.

Most Crashes Are Caused by Driver Error, So Speak to a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer in Tampa

NHTSA data shows more revealing trends in motorcycles than engine size: alcohol use, speeding, helmet use, and driver errors are all some of the biggest factors in fatal and injury accidents. For example, in 41% of fatal crashes involving a motorcycle and another vehicle, the other vehicle was turning left across the motorcyclist’s path. Your motorcycle may also have crashed in part because of a defective design or a poorly manufactured part.

When your injuries as a motorcycle passenger or operator were caused by someone else’s negligence, then you could be entitled to compensation for all of your accident-related damages. Medical bills, lost work income, out-of-pocket expenses, vehicle repairs, and your own pain and suffering can all form the basis of a settlement offer from the appropriate insurance provider.

Explore your options for seeking compensation when you talk to Tampa motorcycle accident lawyers with experience and a proven track record of success. Contact Darrigo & Diaz today for free to learn more about your options and potentially start your case when you schedule your no-cost, no-risk case evaluation. Call (813) 437-5523 or contact us online to schedule your free appointment now.


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