What causes single-vehicle motorcycle accidents?

Free Case Evaluation

The most common causes of single-vehicle motorcycle accidents include speeding, alcohol and drugs, bad road conditions, and malfunction. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), of the 4,668 fatal motorcycle accidents in the U.S. in 2013, 22 percent were single-vehicle motorcycle accidents with a fixed object. 

A 22-percent fixed object collision rate eclipses the other types.

  • Eighteen percent fatal accidents caused by passenger cars
  • Fourteen percent for light trucks
  • Four percent for large commercial trucks

Their two wheels and light weight increase the odds that a motorcycle will skid, slide, or topple; commonly called “lay-downs.”

Lay-downs are most frequent under these conditions.

  • During poor weather (rain, ice, high winds)
  • On curved streets and road,
  •  With inexperienced riders


The NHTSA views motorcycle crashes to be caused (or related) to the biker speeding if they were either charged with a speeding, or if police mention speeding in their accident reports as a contributing factor by the biker: either driving too fast for traffic or road conditions, or exceeded the posted speed limit.

Its 2013 report listed biker speeding as the cause in 34 percent of fatal crashes; again, the largest category when compared to the others.

  • Passenger car drivers driving above the posted limit (32 percent)
  • Light truck speeders (18 percent)
  • Large commercial truckers (eight percent)

Alcohol and Drugs

In fatal crashes in 2013, The NHTSA concluded that motorcycle riders involved in all crashes had higher percentages of “substance” impairment than any other type of motor vehicle operator (27 percent).

  • Passenger car drivers (23 percent)
  • Light-truck drivers (21 percent)
  • Semi trucks (two percent)

Bad road conditions and sudden road hazards also contribute to a large number of bike wrecks. Often, obstacles such as tree branches and items that fall into the street from other vehicles; and even confusing road signs, can cause experienced riders to suddenly react and lose their “biker balance” – sending them into an uncontrollable skid.

In any event, those responsible for the road obstacle; or careless drivers who cause single bike accidents, may be held liable for injuries suffered by the motorcycle rider.

Vehicle Malfunction

A failure of the bike or problems with a motorcycle part can make it impossible to operate safely the bike. Defects like braking and steering problems can increase the risk of a motorcycle accident. The Honda brake recalled in 2011, and 2013 come immediately to mind. But faulty replacement parts or poor repair services can also send a motorcycle careening out of control.

High Performance Bikes

The NHTSA also mentioned that even though high performance “racing” bikes (Sport and Supersport models) make up a small percentage of the total number of motorcycles on the road, they account for a disproportionately larger percentage of bike accidents.

The NHTSA notes increases in fatal accidents with bikes that have larger engines over those with smaller ones. And a US Department of Transportation report in 2001 suggested the death rate among riders of high-performance motorcycles could be as much as twice that of conventional motorcycle riders.

For a motorcycle accident lawyer after a crash in Washington State, contact Max Meyers Law at 425-399-7000.

Max Meyers
Connect with me
Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.