Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents and How To Prevent Them

Orange County bikers are lucky: Thanks to California’s fantastic weather, the motorcycling season never really ends in our neck of the woods.

As you can imagine, this attracts a lot of motorcyclists. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), in 2021 California had the largest number of registered motorcycles by a large margin — a whopping 952,977 — out of all U.S. states.

Unfortunately, more bikes mean more accidents. In this article, we go over common causes of motorcycle accidents in our state and provide some tips on how to prevent them.

California Motorcycle Accidents: What Do the Numbers Say?

Bikers are overrepresented in traffic fatalities statistics. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that motorcyclists were around 24 times more likely to die in a road accident than people in cars in 2021.

That year saw 5,932 motorcyclist deaths across the country — the highest number since at least 1975 — which accounted for 14% of all traffic fatalities. In our state, the California Highway Patrol reported a total of 13,381 motorcycle crashes that caused injury or death.

Common Types of Motorcycle Accidents in California

According to data from UC Berkeley and California’s Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS), common types of motorcycle crashes in the Golden State include:

  • Broadside hits (27%)
  • Rollovers (18.8%)
  • Object collisions (16.2%)
  • Rear-end collisions (14.3%)
  • Sideswipes (10.9%)

What Causes Motorcycle Accidents in California?

Common causes of motorcycle accidents in California include:


Speeding drivers and motorcyclists often cause motorcycle crashes in California. The faster you ride or drive, the easier it is to lose control of your vehicle. You also have less time to react to dangerous situations or road hazards like other drivers suddenly changing lanes.

Right-of-Way Violations

Right-of-way violations typically occur at red lights, three- or four-way stop signs, and the entrance/exit of road maintenance zones. When drivers or motorcyclists fail to yield or merge properly, collisions are bound to happen.

Left-Hand Turns

Left-hand turns are always risky. When drivers turn left without checking the road for motorcycles, they can strike bikes that are either:

  • Going straight through an intersection
  • Passing the vehicle
  • Trying to overtake the vehicle

Left-hand turn accidents often occur when motorists try to cut in front of oncoming traffic or beat the light.

Improper Lane Changes

When drivers change lanes suddenly or without signaling or checking their blind spots, accidents happen. Remember, if you are riding a motorcycle, you are much smaller and narrower than cars and trucks. That makes you harder to spot by other motorists on the road, especially by drivers in cars with a missing side mirror or a bigger-than-average A-pillar.

Lane Splitting

Lane splitting is when you ride between rows of moving or stopped vehicles. This practice has its risk and is illegal in many states — but not in this one. In 2017, California passed a law that allows lane splitting on multi-lane highways with a speed differential of up to 15 mph.

While the safety of lane splitting has long been the subject of heated debates, a mounting body of research indicated that splitting lanes at moderate speeds might actually be safer than riding behind another motor vehicle. Lane splitting may also lower the risk of rear-end collisions.

Still, if you do lane splitting, you must do it carefully. Inexperienced riders can easily cause an accident due to the close proximity to other vehicles and the tight space in which they can maneuver.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

Driving under the influence is a common cause of motor vehicle accidents in California. Alcohol and drugs cause slower reaction times and reduced perception, making it even harder for drivers to spot motorcyclists who are less visible on the road anyway.

If you were injured in a DUI accident, you might be able to recover both:

  • Compensatory damages, which seek to compensate you for your medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and other monetary and nonmonetary losses; and
  • Punitive damages, which seek to punish the wrongdoer in cases involving egregious or intentional behavior and deter similar behavior in the future.

An experienced motorcycle accident lawyer can review your case and advise what damages might be available to you.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving can be just as dangerous as drunk or drugged driving. Eating, drinking, texting, or fiddling with the radio while driving makes it easier to ignore other vehicles on the road.

Road Hazards

Bikes are smaller and less stable on the road than cars and trucks, making them more vulnerable to hazards such as:

  • Debris
  • Cracks
  • Potholes
  • Small objects
  • Wet leaves
  • Wet pavement
  • Uneven road surfaces

While you have a duty to watch out for such hazards when operating a motorcycle, you may also have a claim against the city, county, or state agency that failed to properly maintain the road.

Tips for Preventing Motorcycle Accidents

While you can’t control other motorists, there are many things you can do as a motorcyclist to improve your safety on the road. California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) has compiled a number of safety tips in its Motorcycle Handbook. Some helpful recommendations include:

  • Boost your visibility: Wear bright-colored and reflective vests, jackets, and helmets. Learn where other vehicles’ blind spots are and avoid riding in them. Consider using high-beam headlights during the day.
  • Communicate: Overcommunicate with other motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians around you. Always use turn signals when turning or making lane changes. Make it a habit to flash brake lights to give advance notice when slowing down.
  • Check your bike: Poorly maintained bikes are one of the more common causes of motorcycle accidents. Motorcycles require more frequent check-ups than cars. Before every ride, check your tires, turn signals, fluid levels, battery, brake light, headlights and taillight, chain or belt, and kickstand.

Were You Injured in a Motorcycle Accident in Orange County, CA?

At Khalil Law Group, our motorcycle accident attorneys can help you seek compensation for your injuries. Call (714) 617-7870 or contact us online to book your free consultation.

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