Jun 21, 2022
 in 
Guides

How Dangerous Are Motorcycles - Top 10 Dangers

 By 
Adrianna Barrera

While we all love riding for how fun and exhilarating it is, there are many different types of dangers for riders looming on roads. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), riding a motorcycle is 35% more fatal in accidents than cars. 

This may be an alarming fact for many, but riders typically understand the risks every time we throw a leg over the bike. Of course accidents can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. However, knowing the major dangers to expect when you’re on a motorcycle can help keep you safe. 

Distracted Drivers

The biggest danger to motorcyclists is other distracted car drivers. One reason for this, is that usually, drivers aren’t even expecting to see a person on a motorcycle; their brains aren’t even thinking to look out for riders. So when you factor that in with a driver that’s texting or trying to queue up their favorite song from their playlist, it increases the chances of them hitting a person on a bike they couldn’t see. 

Distracted drivers can cause accidents in many ways, often causing a chain reaction that incites more danger on the roads for riders. The NHTSA reported in 2018 that distracted drivers killed nearly 3,000 people nationwide. They also reported that texting while driving was one of the most underlying factors. The reason distracted drivers are so deadly to motorcyclists is because of how vulnerable riders are—there are no airbags, windows or doors to protect riders. Besides gear, all that is left in our line of defense is quick thinking and reaction time. What could be a small fender bender for a car, could be a life changing injury for a biker.

Knowing what a distracted driver may look like could be the difference between life and death. In case you are wondering what exactly a distracted driver looks like, a major giveaway is if they are swerving. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) cite three main distraction categories drivers can fall under. 

  • Visual: This is typically your texting and driving; the drivers eyes are pulled away from the road. 
  • Manual: Drivers taking their hands off the steering wheel; perhaps to get a fry from a fast food bag, or changing the dial on the radio. 
  • Cognitive: Drivers failing to focus on the task at hand; maybe they’re upset and not thinking straight or they’re getting distracted by a backseat conversation. 

Tips to Avoid Distracted Drivers

If you’re on a motorcycle, however, noticing these details may be hard to do, as we have to be completely focused on our own riding alone. Here are some key giveaways that are easy to identify for riders: Is the driver making jerky movements, so they stay in their lane? If you take a quick peek inside their car, can you see their head looking down at their phone? Trying to get a few bites of some fast food? That’s a distracted driver. If you find yourself in this situation, the best thing you can do is stay focused, keep behind them or keep your distance. This way, if something were to go wrong you have given yourself plenty of time and space to react accordingly. 

Low Visibility

Motorcycles only make up 3% of the vehicles on the road. The rest? Cars, Trucks and everything else. Drivers of those vehicles are not looking out for motorcycles, they’re making sure they’re not hitting another car. When they make a left turn at an intersection, they probably don’t even see you, even if it’s your right of way to go. What happens next usually is that they side swipe you. 

Since bikes are smaller and leaner, they’re harder to see for drivers in general, regardless if they’re distracted or not. There are some precautions you can take to make yourself more visible. The first being, wearing bright colors. According to a study published by the British Medical Journal, wearing a bright colored helmet, in comparison to a black one, can cut a riders crash risk by nearly 25%. Further they found similar statistics when riders wore the colors red, yellow and orange colors. Additionally, the crash risk was also lowered to 37% when the rider wore reflective and fluorescent colors. 

Tips For Low Visibility 

With that being said, it would be wise to choose gear that makes you stand out, whether that be neon colors, white or red. Anything that makes you pop out, will help you be seen by drivers. The second is lane positioning. Riders can break up their lane into thirds. Depending on the situation, you can change your lane positioning, to give you greater visibility, space and to avoid hazards. 

Intersections/Curves

Intersections and curves are the most dangerous places for motorcycle riders, as most accidents occur in these places. Even driving at slower speeds can prove to be dangerous in some cases. Cars tend to go over lines, or have blind spots to riders, enabling them to make turns and passes in which we are put into scary situations. 


The Motorcycle Safety Foundation found in 2014 that out of 100 riders that had been in accidents within 2 years, 30% responded to having an accident at a curve. The NHTSA also reported that approximately all motorcycle accidents occurred at an intersection, with a whopping 42% of these being at the hand of a car driver making a left turn. 

Tips for Curves and Intersections 

For curves, it is good practice to fray towards the outer edge and stray from the center lane, unless your line of sight is compromised. Either way, just take your time, stay calm and be level headed throughout all your riding. This will make your riding effortless and smooth and not taxing. At intersections, choose your lane position based on if other drivers can see you, your safety and direction you’re heading. That way, you won’t have to worry about getting blindsided by a driver who didn’t see you. 

Drinking and Riding

A big part of the motorcycle culture is not just riding, it's the bars, hanging out with friends, crews and being social—which can sometimes involve alcohol. One common denominator that proves time and time again to be dangerous and even fatal to riders, is drinking. In 2020, 41% of motorcyclists who were involved in fatal single-vehicle accidents were alcohol impaired, which was 27% more than any other vehicle. 

Riding a motorcycle takes an amount of concentration and present awareness than no other vehicle requires. If you’re riding under the influence of alcohol or any other drug for that matter, your awareness and focus is dangerously impaired. Not only do you lose control of your motor skills, but you lose control of your bike. As stated above, if our quick thinking is one of your only defenses, being alcohol impaired would jeopardize your safety even more. 

Tips to Avoid Drinking and Riding 

This is not to say you shouldn’t ever drink and have some fun, but before you get on the road, give yourself some time to sober up, or plan to stay the night somewhere. Plan for your safety and most importantly don’t become a statistic. Never drink and ride, it’s just not worth it. Further, if you see your buddy not looking good to drive, offer them a ride or simply stay with them long enough to make sure they get sober. If anything, just get an Uber or Lyft. 

Poor Mentality

A commonly underestimated danger to riders is a poor mentality. One of the things taught in the MSF or any other motorcycle training program is to never ride when you’re under distress. I know a lot of us can use riding as our therapy session, but be mindful when riding upset. Be present enough to keep your focus and cool. Whether that be anger or sadness, when your mind is not at 100%, your riding won’t be either. If your mind is constantly wandering elsewhere, you won’t be present and attentive on the road, which is a necessity when riding. 

Tips For Riding With A Clear Mind

Thinking rationally is key to motorcycle safety. Don’t let a bad day put you or someone else in danger. Ride with a peaceful and positive mindset. That’s easier said than done sometimes, but a few seconds of inattention could be extremely dangerous on a motorcycle. Another thing that needs to be said: If you have a close call while riding, don’t push yourself to immediately keep going or brush it off. Pull over and take a breather if you need to. Never let your ego get the best of you and ride safely each time you hit the road. 

Not Knowing Skill Level

Being overconfident can be a threat to your safety and on the contrary, being an insecure rider can lead you to making poorly timed decisions. It’s super important to be self-aware and level headed when you’re on a motorcycle to ensure you’re in control at all times. Before you buy a motorcycle, be honest with your riding capabilities. Yes you may look cooler on a heavy Street Glide, but are you strong enough to control it? Do you have the experience to handle a heavy, powerful motorcycle? If you’re a beginner, the answer to those questions is most likely no. 

Tips For Improving Skill Level

Beyond riding a motorcycle that doesn’t fit you properly, many don’t take the time to properly learn, or even get a license. One should always be realistic about the skill level they possess. This reduces frustration, making for lifelong riders that are having fun and staying safe. If you feel as though you’re in this boat, take a rider course that will help you improve your skills. Practice at least 30 minutes a day, whether that be around the neighborhood or a parking lot. Small practice sessions at low speeds will help you develop your control and coordination skills when riding, far better than practicing at only high speeds. Once you get to a confident point in your skill development, then you can start buying more powerful bikes. 

Weather

Like accidents, the weather can be unforgiving and unpredictable—especially here in Texas where the seasons seemingly change daily. Light rain is one of the worst offenders to riders. It causes slick roads and the lightest of precipitation can bring up oils from the road to make them even more slippery. 

Tips For Riding In Certain Weather Conditions

Rain

If you must ride in rain, keep it slow, try not to lean on turns as this minimizes your tire to road surface area. Give yourself ample space and time to react to others. Much like rain, ice can be another slippery scenario you may encounter. 

Ice

When crossing over ice patches your best course of action is to pull in the clutch, drive slowly and keep your tires flat on the surface to avoid leaning. 

Extreme temperatures

In other weather conditions, such as high temperatures, make sure you’re hydrated and take breaks as needed. For colder weather you may want to wear thicker gear and warm layers, especially on your hands and chest areas. 

Not Wearing Gear

Speaking of gear…one of the biggest dangers to riders is not wearing gear. If you’re like me and live in Texas, I get it, it’s hot. It’s unpleasant to wear a bulky jacket, helmet and gloves in almost 100 degree weather. But I think anyone would rather be sweaty and cursing the sun, rather than take a slide down the hot concrete that results in a nasty case of road rash. 

Tips For Wearing Gear

ATGATT (All The Gear, All The Time) is a good principle to follow. It will save your life. Invest in good gear too, don’t settle for a 2.5 star Amazon helmet just because it’ll save you some cash. I guarantee a hospital bill will cost you more. It must be said that when you’re budgeting to buy your first motorcycle, include gear into that budget, and not cheap gear. You’ll want at the very minimum, a new helmet that is DOT/ESE certified, a solid protective jacket and armored gloves. Then once you get to riding more and more, you can purchase riding boots and pants. 

Road Obstacles

When you’re on your bike, you’re hyper aware of the road conditions more so than any other vehicle that’s out there with you. Despite this, you’re still ten times more vulnerable to road obstacles given the fact that motorcycles have lowered stability and protection. 

Tips To Avoid Road Obstacles

Some obstacles you may come across on the road are: animals, debris and potholes—and they can come out of nowhere. Keep your eyes open and attention focused. Give yourself plenty of time to react, a last minute swerve could make you lose traction and control. 

Your Own Bike

Your bike is not as invincible as you think. As you start riding more and more, your bike will slowly start to need some touch-ups here and there. A danger to riders that isn’t discussed enough is how your own motorcycle may perform poorly. Whether it may be a wonky chain, old tires, or poor brakes, make sure your bike is maintained well and often. Don’t succumb to an unpleasant travel journey, at the hands of a faulty motorcycle; something a quick pre-check could have prevented. 

Tips For Checking Your Motorcycle 

If it’s been a while since you last gave your motorcycle a quick pre-ride maintenance check, you might want to go back to the old T-CLOCS℠ (Courtesy of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation) and give your bike a solid review, as it seems like motorcycle hardware turns sour on us when we least expect it. Here is the motorcycle pre-ride checklist that will help you go all throughout your bike and give it a nice inspection. 

T - Tires & Wheels

C - Controls 

L - Lights & Electrics 

O - Oil & Other Fluids

C - Chassis & Frame

S - Stands 

Conclusion

Knowing what dangers you may face when out on the road can make a huge difference in your safety. When you make yourself aware of potential dangers, you place yourself ahead of the curve. Besides wearing gear and having a solid skillset, being prepared is another really important way to stay safe when riding a motorcycle. Hopefully the next time you get to riding, you’ll know what to look out for on the road and avoid all the dangers listed above, more efficiently. If you’re looking for some more tips to stay safe out on the road, check out our Motorcycle Safety Guide or check out some tips below.

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