California Motorcycle Accident Statistics


With more than 800,000 registered motorcycles, California has the largest volume of motorcycles in the nation. A large percentage of California motorcycles are in Southern California.

The attraction to motorcycling in California is unsurprising. The State of California has the most roads listed in the “Top 100 Motorcycle Roads” on An inviting climate, beautiful views, and challenging rides account for the number of motorcycles on SoCal highways.

With so many motorcycles on the road, it is inevitable that California has more motorcycle crashes than any other state. Motorcycle crashes lead to devastating head and spinal injuries. Serious crashes that do not cause death often leave motorcycle riders paralyzed or suffering from permanent brain injuries.

California motorcycle accident lawyer Timothy J. Ryan helps victims who were injured in motorcycle accidents and the families of victims who died in motorcycle crashes. Injury compensation will not restore a life or assure that paraplegic will walk again, but it can improve the quality of a victim's life or replace the income that a deceased motorcyclist would have contributed to his or her family.

Motorcycle Crash Statistics

The most recent statistics available from California's Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System (SWITRS) tell a sad story about motorcycle accidents in California. More than 11,780 California motorcycle riders were injured in collisions in 2013. More than 480 were killed.

Many of the collisions that injured motorcyclists occurred in Southern California counties, including:

  • Orange County   989
  • Riverside County    627
  • Los Angeles County 3,509
  • San Bernardino County    525
  • San Diego County 1,285

Both nationally and in California, there were fewer deaths caused by motorcycle crashes in 2013 than in 2012. The 4,668 motorcyclist deaths across the United States represented a 6% drop from 2012. The decline was closer to 13% in California, although statisticians attribute that decline at least in part to unfavorable weather that kept bikers off the road.

Across the nation, the overall rate of fatal motorcycle accidents increased each year from 2004 (4,028) to 2008 (5,312). Deaths dropped sharply in 2009 (4,469) before beginning another annual increase that lasted until 2012 (4,986).

Motorcycle injuries followed a different pattern. The number of injured motorcycle riders increased annually from 2004 (76,000) through 2007 (103,000). The injury rate fell in 2008 (96,000) and continued to decline each year until 2011 (81,000). More riders were injured in 2012 (93,000) while the number of injuries fell in 2013 (88,000).

A comparison of motorcycle accidents to car accidents shows that motorcycle riders, lacking the protection of a “cage,” are at greater risk of injury or death when they take to the road than are car drivers or passengers. Per mile traveled in 2013, motorcyclists were killed in crashes 26 times more often than the occupants of passenger cars.

In California, riders and passengers between the ages of 25-34 were most often killed or injured in motorcycle crashes. Riders and passengers between 15-24 represented the second age group most likely to be killed or injured, followed (in order) by the age groups 45-54, 35-44, and 55-64. Fourteen victims were age 85 or older.

Most 2013 crashes that injured a California motorcycle rider occurred from May through September, with more than 1,000 injuries occurring in each month. August was the deadliest month. Other months with more than 50 fatal motorcycle accidents in California were July and October.

About 24% of motorcycle riders killed in California in 2013 had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher (the “legal limit” in California). That compares to a nationwide average of 28%.

California's helmet law probably explains why 90% of motorcycle riders who were killed in crashes in 2013 were wearing a helmet. Nationally, only 57% of motorcyclists involved in fatal accidents were wearing a helmet.

Most riders who were killed in California motorcycle crashes in 2013 had a valid license. About 22% did not.

“Supersport” bikes are associated with the highest fatality rates. In 2013, fatalities by engine size broke down as follows:

Not surprisingly, studies show a correlation between the speed at which a motorcycle was traveling and the severity of the rider's injuries. Studies also show that riders of larger bikes tend to be injured more severely than riders of smaller bikes, but that statistic probably also relates to the speed of travel.

Causes of California Motorcycle Crashes

The SWITRS data indicates that, when crashes are the motorcyclist's fault, the primary factors contributing to the crash are:

  • Unsafe speed
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Improper turning
  • Riding on wrong side of the road
  • Failing to yield

Oddly, the SWIRTS data does not record the primary causes of motorcycle crashes that the fault of another vehicle's driver. However, we know from the comprehensive Hurt Report, from statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and from a recent Florida study that more than half of all motorcycle accidents involving another vehicle (and perhaps as many as two-thirds) are caused by the driver of the other vehicle.

All of these sources agree that the most frequent cause of crashes between motorcycles and cars is the decision of the car driver to make a left turn in front of an oncoming motorcycle. It is the driver's failure to yield that causes the crash, but since the motorcyclist strikes the car, the insurance industry spins the statistic to suggest that most accidents are caused by negligent motorcyclists.

The Law Offices of Timothy J. Ryan works hard on behalf of our clients to overcome the false impressions and negative stereotypes that work against motorcyclists who seek fair compensation for their injuries. We understand that drivers who fail to share the road with motorcycles are usually at fault for motorcycle crashes.

California Motorcycle Injuries

Studies confirm that helmets and durable clothing mitigate the harm to riders and their passengers when motorcycles crash. Unfortunately, no gear provides perfect protection from injury or death.

Motorcyclists who die in crashes usually suffer multiple injuries, making it difficult to identify a single, prevalent cause of death. Head and brain injuries, however, are cited in about 30% of all motor rider deaths.

When injured motorcyclists are admitted to a hospital for treatment, the most commonly reported injuries are:

  • Leg and foot injuries (including severe fractures and amputations)
  • Head and brain injuries
  • Internal organ damage

Blood loss, severe burns, and eye and facial injuries are also relatively common reasons for hospital admissions. When injured motorcyclists are treated in the emergency room and released, the most commonly reported injuries are arm and leg fractures, knee and foot injuries, and road rash.

Compensation for California Motorcycle Crashes

When a driver's negligence causes the death of a motorcyclist, the rider's surviving family members are entitled to pursue compensation for their loved one's wrongful death. When a motorcyclist is injured by a driver's carelessness, the rider is entitled to seek compensation for those injuries, including replacement of lost income, payment of medical expenses, and the cost of coping with disabling conditions. Injured motorcycle riders can also receive compensation for their pain, suffering, and mental anguish.

California motorcycle accident law firm Timothy J. Ryan & Associates has spent decades working to help motorcycle accident victims achieve justice. To learn how Timothy J. Ryan can help you deal with a Southern California motorcycle crash, call our Huntington Beach office at 800-838-6644.


Timothy J. Ryan & Associates

Call (714) 898-4444 today to obtain a free consultation from proven California motorcycle accident attorney Tim Ryan. Tim has helped victims recover over $1 billion with a 97% success rate. Get help today.