How Common Are Motorcycle Accidents in California?

It’s common knowledge that California is one of the country’s premier destinations for motorcycle enthusiasts. Whether you’re a daily commuter or a casual rider, getting on a bike is a thrilling pastime. On top of pristine weather, California boasts hundreds of miles of coastline and the perks of lane-splitting. What more could a rider ask for?

Still, California is host to thousands of motorcycle-related crashes each year. But how common are motorcycle accidents across California? What safety measures do riders have at their disposal? Is California a safe place to ride? 

Motorcycle Accident Statistics in California

Because California is the most populous state, it also boasts the most registered motorcycles in the country, with over 800,000 bikes and counting.

According to road accident statistics posted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the following figures were true for California in recent years:

  • 2,655 motorcycle fatalities occurred in California between 2014 and 2018
  • There are roughly 666 annual motorcycle-related fatalities 
  • More than 15% of all vehicle-related deaths in California occur on motorcycles
  • 25% of California motorcycle crashes involve DUI
  • California ranks in the bottom 15 states with deadly motorcycle crashes

As fun as riding a motorcycle, the numbers show that these vehicles are highly dangerous machines.

Motorcycles are fast, and riders are generally exposed to the elements with limited safety elements. A helmet and protective clothing can only do so much during a high-speed crash. As a result, any collision involving a motorcycle has the potential to cause serious bodily injury — much greater than car accidents.

Per data from the California Highway Patrol, over 80% of motorcycle crashes in California result in injury or death. The most recent data from California’s Integrated Traffic Records System showed that 13,907 motorcycle accidents resulted in bodily injury in 2017.

Motorcycle Accidents in California Are Down

Fortunately, according to recent figures, motorcycle crashes throughout California have significantly declined over the past few years.

Experts believe California has improved in motorcycle rider safety because of the 2017 statewide adoption of lane splitting. Currently, California remains the only state that allows this controversial safety method. 

Lane splitting is a defensive motorcycle riding technique that involves moving between two parallel lanes, bypassing traffic. Research shows that lane splitting can help reduce the risk of accidents because motorcyclists become more visible to motorists from this position rather than when they ride in the middle of a lane.

California’s strict helmet-use laws also help reduce the risk of serious injury. It’s proven that helmet use can reduce traumatic brain injuries by roughly 69% and reduce rider fatalities by 37%. Currently, only 20 states have mandatory helmet laws, including California.

How Safe Is California for Motorcycle Riders?

Though the high number of accidents in the state may seem high, when per-capita data is analyzed, California actually ranks in the country’s bottom percentile for motorcycle accidents and fatalities.

Another major factor in motorcycle accidents is inclement weather. Snow, rain, and ice can make riding conditions especially hazardous for riders. Because California has some of the driest weather in the country, motorcyclists can enjoy good riding weather year-round.

Due to the state’s strict safety laws and motorcycle-friendly conditions, riding a bike in California is statistically safer than in many other states. However, despite these low figures, anyone planning to ride a motorcycle should follow safety standards and all posted traffic laws. Motorcycle accidents can happen at any time. Should you become involved in a collision, you’ll want to take the necessary precautions to reduce the likelihood of serious injury.

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