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23 October 2022 | Comment | Article by Mark Robinson

What Percentage of Motorcycle Accidents are Fatal?

Understanding the statistics surrounding motorcycle accidents is not just crucial for riders but also for policymakers, road safety organisations and the general public. This blog post aims to delve into the specifics of motorcycle accidents in the UK, focusing on the critical question: What percentage of motorcycle accidents are fatal?

Drawing from UK statistics between 2004 and 2020, we will explore various facets of motorcycle accidents, including trends in fatalities and serious injuries, the types of accidents that are most common, and the contributing factors that lead to these unfortunate incidents.

Overview of motorcycle accident statistics

The landscape of motorcycle accidents has seen some significant changes over the past couple of decades. To provide a comprehensive understanding, let’s first look at the general trends in all motorcycle crashes, fatalities and serious injuries from 2004 to 2020 in the UK.

Decrease in fatalities

One of the most encouraging trends is the substantial decrease in motorcyclist fatalities over this period. In 2004, the number of motorcyclists who lost their lives on the road was 585. By 2020, this number had fallen to 285, marking a 51% reduction. While any loss of life is tragic, this downward trend is a positive sign that road safety measures may be having an impact.

Reduction in serious injuries

Alongside the decrease in fatalities, there has been a significant reduction in the number of serious injuries sustained by motorcyclists. Adjusted figures indicate that serious injuries fell by 48% over the same period. This is another encouraging statistic, suggesting that not only are fewer lives being lost, but the severity of injuries is also diminishing.

Decline in motorcycle traffic

It’s worth noting that the volume of motorcycle traffic has also seen a decline, falling by 22% between 2004 and 2020. While this could be one of the factors contributing to the reduction in fatalities and serious injuries, it’s essential to consider it in the broader context of road safety initiatives, technological advancements in motorcycle design, and public awareness campaigns.

Weekly averages

While long-term trends provide a broad overview, it’s also valuable to zoom in on more recent data to get a snapshot of the current situation. For this purpose, we’ll consider the weekly averages of motorcycle-related deaths and serious injuries for the period from 2015 to 2020.

Weekly fatalities and serious injuries

According to the available statistics for reported road casualties, an average of 6 motorcyclists died and 115 were seriously injured per week during this period. These figures serve as a stark reminder that, despite the positive long-term trends, motorcycling remains a high-risk activity on a week-to-week basis.

Contextualising the numbers

To put these numbers into perspective, consider that every week, families and communities are impacted by these accidents. The weekly average of 6 fatalities may seem like a small number in isolation, but when you multiply that by 52 weeks, it amounts to over 300 lives lost in a year. Similarly, the 115 serious injuries per week translate to nearly 6,000 individuals facing life-altering circumstances annually.

Comparing with long-term trends

When juxtaposed with the long-term trends discussed in the previous section, these weekly averages underscore the importance of ongoing vigilance. While the numbers have decreased over the years, the risks are still present and warrant attention from both individual riders and governing bodies.

Location of accidents

Understanding where motorcycle accidents most frequently occur can offer valuable insights into the nature of these incidents and help in devising targeted safety measures. In this section, we’ll explore the locations where the majority of motorcycle fatalities and serious injuries take place, based on data from 2015 to 2020.

Fatalities away from junctions

Interestingly, a majority of motorcycle fatalities – 58% – do not occur at or within 20 metres of a junction. This statistic challenges the common perception that junctions are the primary danger zones for motorcyclists. It suggests that open roads, perhaps where higher speeds are involved, are also significant areas of concern for motorcycle deaths.

Rural roads: A high-risk zone

Another eye-opening statistic is that 66% of motorcycle fatalities occurred on rural roads, despite these roads accounting for only 41% of total traffic. This disproportionate figure indicates that rural roads, often characterised by winding layouts and varying road conditions, pose a higher risk to motorcyclists than urban or suburban areas.

Comparing with serious injuries

For a more nuanced understanding, it’s worth noting that only 39% of all seriously injured and motorcyclists killed (adjusted figures) were involved in accidents at or within 20 metres of a junction. This further emphasises that while junctions are a concern, they are not the sole focus when it comes to improving motorcycle safety.


The data on accident locations suggests that road safety initiatives should not be limited to urban settings or junctions. There is a pressing need for targeted interventions on rural roads and open stretches, where the absence of traffic signals and the allure of higher speeds can create a false sense of security.

Types of accidents

The nature of the vehicles involved in most motorcycle accidents can offer another layer of understanding when it comes to assessing risks and planning safety measures. In this section, we delve into the types of accidents that most commonly result in motorcycle fatalities.

Two-vehicle accidents involving cars

A noteworthy statistic is that 40% of motorcycle fatalities in two-vehicle accidents involved motorcycle collisions with a car. This is a significant figure, as it highlights the vulnerability of motorcyclists when sharing the road with larger, more robust vehicles. It also points to the need for both motorcyclists and car drivers to be extra-vigilant in their interactions on the road.

The car-motorcycle dynamic

The statistic becomes even more notable when you consider the inherent imbalance in the car-motorcycle dynamic. Cars are equipped with various safety features like airbags and crumple zones, which offer car occupants a level of protection that is not available to motorcyclists. This disparity underscores the importance of defensive driving techniques for motorcyclists, and raises questions about how car drivers can be better educated to share the road safely with two-wheelers.

Addressing the issue

Given that a significant percentage of fatal motorcycle accidents involve cars, there is a clear need for targeted interventions. These could range from public awareness campaigns aimed at car drivers to technological solutions like advanced driver-assistance systems that can detect motorcycles more effectively.

Broader context

While cars are a major concern, it’s important to remember that they are part of a broader ecosystem that includes other types of vehicles, road conditions and human factors. Understanding this complex interplay is crucial for developing comprehensive safety measures that protect motorcyclists.

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Our team is here for you and we’re ready to get you the help, compensation and support you need. Speak to our motorcycle accident compensation claims specialists today on 0800 027 2557. If you’d like to send a message instead, fill in our contact form and a member of our team will get back to you.

Gender disparity

While motorcycling is an activity enjoyed by individuals of all genders, the statistics reveal a significant gender disparity when it comes to both fatal crashes and serious accidents. In this section, we will delve into this aspect to better understand its implications for road safety and awareness programmes.

A male-dominated statistic

A staggering 92% of those killed or seriously injured in motorcycle and car accidents were male. This overwhelming majority raises several questions about why men are disproportionately represented in these grim statistics.

Risk-taking behaviour

One possible explanation could be the tendency for men to engage in riskier behaviours while riding, such as speeding or overtaking in unsafe conditions. While this is a generalisation and not applicable to all male riders, it is a factor that could contribute to the high percentage of male motorcycle casualties alone.

Motorcycle usage

Another angle to consider is the type of motorcycling activity predominantly undertaken by men. Are they more likely to be involved in long-distance riding, sports biking or off-road activities that could inherently carry higher risks? Further research could provide insights into this aspect.

Implications for safety campaigns

The gender disparity in motorcycle accidents has clear implications for road safety campaigns. Targeted interventions focusing on male motorcycle riders, addressing the specific risks they are more likely to face, could be a strategic approach to reducing the overall number of fatalities and serious injuries.

A note on female riders

While the focus here is on the high percentage of male casualties, it’s important not to overlook the serious injury that female riders face. Although they represent a smaller proportion of the statistics, the dangers are just as real and should not be neglected in safety initiatives.

Contributory factors

Understanding the underlying reasons for motorcycle accidents is pivotal for crafting effective prevention strategies. In this section, we will examine the most common contributory factors cited in fatal or serious motorcycle accidents, based on the available data.

Failure to look properly

The most common contributory factor allocated to motorcyclists in fatal or serious accidents was ‘driver or rider failed to look properly.’ This factor was also the most commonly cited for other vehicles involved in these accidents. This recurring theme points to a fundamental issue in road awareness and attention, affecting both motorcyclists and drivers of other vehicles.

The human element

While road conditions, vehicle types and other external factors do play a role, the data suggests that human error—specifically, a lack of proper attention—is a leading cause of accidents. This highlights the need for improved training and awareness for all road users, not just motorcyclists.

Implications for training and awareness

Given that ‘failure to look properly’ is a significant issue, there is a clear need for targeted training programmes. These could include advanced riding courses focusing on situational awareness for motorcyclists. and defensive driving courses for car drivers. Public awareness campaigns could also emphasise the importance of attentiveness on the road.

Technology as an aid

Modern technology offers potential solutions, such as advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) that can alert drivers to the presence of motorcycles. While technology should not replace human attentiveness, it can serve as a valuable aid in preventing accidents.

A shared responsibility

The fact that the same contributory factor—’failure to look properly’—is common to both motorcyclists and other drivers underscores that road safety is a shared responsibility. Both parties must be vigilant and aware to reduce the risk of fatal or serious accidents.

Contact us

Our team is here for you and we’re ready to get you the help, compensation and support you need. Speak to our motorcycle accident compensation claims specialists today on 0800 027 2557. If you’d like to send a message instead, fill in our contact form and a member of our team will get back to you.

Author bio

Mark Robinson


Mark Robinson is a Partner in the Serious Injury Department in Manchester and specialises in motorcycle accident claims of the utmost severity and complexity. He understands that motorcyclists remain one of the most vulnerable road users and the effects of an accident are a genuine concern for the motorcyclist and their loved ones. Mark has assisted clients with life changing injuries including brain and spinal injuries, severe orthopaedic injuries and amputations.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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