• In 2009 there were 140 deaths and 1,709 people killed
and seriously injured (KSI) per billion vehicle miles for
motorcycle riders. The corresponding figures for car drivers
were 3 killed and 30 KSI per billion vehicle miles.
• The number of motorcycle rider KSIs fell from 2,631 per
billion vehicle miles in 1994 to 1,709 in 2009. This represents
a 35 per cent decrease. Over a similar time period, KSIs
for car drivers fell by over 57 per cent.
• There were 5,554 motorcycle rider KSIs in 2009; 94
per cent of the casualties were male. A decade earlier, in 1999,
there were 6,443 KSIs.
• As with other road users, the highest rate of motorcycle KSIs occur between
midday and 6 pm. There are very few accidents and casualties between midnight
and 6 am; this is probably due to there being fewer motorcycles and other vehicles
on the road at that time.
• The most common factors which contributed to motorcycle accidents were ‘loss
of control’ (a contributory factor in 16 per cent of accidents), ‘failure to look
properly’ (15 per cent of accidents) and ‘failure to judge another person’s path
or speed’ (12 per cent of accidents). However, on bikes with an engine size of
50cc or smaller, 23 per cent of accidents were due to the inexperience of the
• In 2009 nearly 11 thousand of the 21.5 thousand riders involved in an accident
had a breathalyser test. Of those that were tested, 2.6 per cent failed the test.
This is lower than the failure rate for all vehicles which stood at 3.4 per cent.
The age group which had the highest failure rate was 20 to 24 year olds; 4.2 per
cent of this group failed breathalyser tests.
Motorcycling Statistics: 2005
Much of the increase in motorcyclist casualties in recent years may be due to
the fact that the amount of motorcycling has increased (by 33% since 1994-98).
This means that the rate of motorcyclist killed or seriously injured casualties
per billion kilometres travelled in 2004 had fallen by 23% from its 1994 - 98
level. The slight casualty rate has fallen by 19% and the overall casualty rate
Nevertheless, motorcyclist casualty rates are much higher than other road users.
casualty rate for motorcyclists is 15 times higher than that of car drivers, but
similar to that of pedal cyclists. The fatality rate for motorcyclists is three
times higher than for pedal cyclists, but 36 times higher than that for car drivers,
reflecting the fact that motorcyclists are not protected by a vehicle body, seat
belts or the other occupant protection systems that car drivers enjoy.
Vehicle Involvement Rates
Vehicle accident involvement rates show that motorcyclists are seven times more
likely to be involved in an accident than a car, and 15 times more likely to be
involved in a fatal or serious accident.
Casualties by Age
There is a clear relationship between motorcyclist casualties and age. There are
few casualties below the age of 16 years because children do not generally use
motorcycles. Moped users show a casualty peak between the ages of 16 and 19 years.
Motorcycle and motorcycle scooter user casualties peak between 20 - 49 years.
These patterns probably reflect usage patterns of different types of motorcycles.
In-depth study of motorcycle accidents12 found that there are two peak ages for
motorcyclist casualties: 16 – 20 years and 35 – 39 years.
Motorcyclist Casualties by Gender
Motorcyclist casualties are predominately male. Men account for 91% of motorcyclist
deaths and serious injuries, and 89% of total motorcyclist casualties.
The In-depth study12
estimated that there are more than twelve times as many male motorcyclist casualties
than female ones.
Casualties by Location
Overall, almost three quarters (72%) of motorcyclist casualties occur on built-up
roads (roads with a speed limit of up to 40 mph), even though such roads carry
less than half of motorcycle traffic. Around 89% of moped casualties occur on
built up roads, compared.
One quarter (26%) of motorcyclist casualties and 10% of moped casualties occur
on non built-up roads (roads with a speed limit of over 40 mph). And less than
2% of motorcyclist casualties (and virtually no moped casualties) occur on motorways,
which carry 7% of motorcyclist traffic.
However, the pattern for motorcyclist fatalities differs: 59% of motorcyclist
deaths occur on non built-up roads, 38% on built-up roads and 2.5% on motorways.
The reverse is true for moped users: 64% of moped deaths occur on built-up roads
and 36% on non-built-up roads.
Urban A roads, followed by urban minor roads, have the highest casualty rates
for motorcyclists. However, the fatality rate for motorcyclists is much higher
on rural roads than on urban roads.
A detailed examination of 1,790 motorcycle accidents13 identified that almost
three-quarters of motorcycle accidents occur in urban or suburban areas. But it
also found that there are over five times as many accidents on bends in rural
areas than in urban areas. Motorcycle accidents in rural areas also tend to be
more severe – they are three times more likely to be fatal and 1.5 times more
likely to be serious, than motorcycle accidents in urban areas.
An earlier analysis of motorcycle accidents in Cheshire14 indicated a shift in
the balance of casualties from urban to rural roads, along with an increase in
the proportion of casualties who are killed or seriously injured.
Motorcyclist Casualties by Month
Motorcyclist casualties are highly seasonal. Fatalities and overall casualties
peak during the Spring and Summer months, which reflecting increased riding during
by Time and Day
Fridays have the highest number of motorcyclist casualties, followed by the other
days of the week which each have a similar level. During the week, casualties
peak between 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm and between 7:00 am and 9:00 am. The number of
weekend casualties is slightly lower, and more evenly spread through the day,
with a slight peak between midday and 6:00 pm.
An analysis of fatal accidents involving motorcyclists15 found that 63% of such
accidents occurred in daylight, and a further 26% occurred on lit roads in the
dark. However, there were a higher proportion of motorcycle only crashes in the
Road Surface Condition
Motorcyclists are more susceptible to the condition of the road surface. They
are more likely to skid on both dry and wet road surfaces, and in particular are
put at greater risk by mud or oil on the road. Snow and ice seems to affect car
drivers just as much as motorcyclists, although motorcycle use probably drops
significantly when ice and snow make riding very difficult and unpleasant.
study of fatal accidents involving motorcyclists15 found that 88% of these accidents
occurred in fine weather and 80% on dry roads.
Motorcyclist Casualties by Manoeuvre As with all road user groups (except pedestrians) most motorcycle accidents
are listed as “Going ahead other”. However, 12% of motorcycle accidents are listed
as “Going ahead on a bend”, compared to only 9% of cars. Similarly, 15% occur
when the rider is overtaking another vehicle, compared to only 3% of car accidents
during this manoeuvre. This reflects motorcyclists’ greater vulnerability during
of Motorcyclist Crashes
There are a number of common types of crashes involving motorcyclists
Failure to negotiate
bends on rural A roads
Collision at junctions
(Right of Way Violations)
Rider losing control
without another vehicle being involved.
Losing control on a bend accounted for about 15% of motorcycle accidents in the
In-depth study. This type of crash tends to be the fault of the rider, often because
s/he approaches the bend too fast and/or mis-judges the curve of the bend. They
occur more often on leisure rides. Riders involved in this type of accident are
more likely to be inexperienced, either because they have not held a motorcycle
licence for very long or because they have returned to motorcycling after a long
Right of way violations accounted for about 38% of motorcycle accidents in the
In-depth study. They were usually the fault of the other road user, who was usually
a driver. Most occurred at T-junctions, although they also happened at crossroads
and roundabouts. About two-thirds of these types of crashes, where the rider was
not to blame, the driver failed to see a rider who was in clear view (and was
often seen by other road users). In about 12% of these cases, the driver failed
to see the motorcyclist even though s/he was wearing high visibility garments
or using daytime running lights.
This concurs with earlier research. The Booth report17, published in 1989, assessed
nearly 10,000 motorcycle accidents in the Metropolitan Police area. It concluded
that nearly two-thirds (62%) were primarily caused by the other road user. Half
of the accidents were caused by car drivers, and 10% by pedestrians. The report
found that two-thirds of motorcycle accidents where the driver was at fault were
due to the driver failing to anticipate the action of the motorcyclist.
Another common type of motorcycle accidents at junctions identified in the In-depth
study was ‘shunts’, which accounted for over 11% of all motorcycle accidents in
the study. The rider is more often at fault in shunt accidents than the other
driver, and the rider tends to be younger, less experienced and riding a smaller
Rider Losing Control
Almost one in five (18%) motorcycle accidents involve the motorcyclist losing
control, without any other road user being involved. They are due to rider error,
poor road surfaces and avoiding other road users.
Over one quarter (29%) of the fatal accidents in TRL’s analysis of Police reports
of fatal accidents involving motorcyclists18 were motorcycle-only accidents. These
were more common on rural roads and often linked to excessive speed, alcohol,
other impairment or careless/reckless behaviour.
An analysis of motorcycle accidents in rural Cheshire19 found that 67% of such
accidents were due to rider error, with losing control on a bend and overtaking
The In-depth16 study found that overtaking by a motorcyclist was involved in 16.5%
of crashes in which the rider was wholly or partly to blame. A further 5% involve
riders ‘filtering’ through stationary or slow moving traffic. In filtering accidents,
a driver is more than twice as likely to be at fault for the collision than the
The study of police reports of fatal accidents involving motorcyclists16 suggested
that poor overtaking was a more common factor in accidents involving riders of
201 – 650 cc machines, possibly because the riders were seeking to emulate the
behaviour of riders of more powerful motorcycles.
Motorcyclists and Drink Driving
Motorcyclists have a lower breath test failure rate than car drivers
lower proportion of motorcyclist fatalities (14%) were over the drink drive limit
than car driver fatalities (21%).
Various studies20,21 have assessed the types and frequencies of injuries to motorcyclists.
Legs are the most commonly injured, followed by the head and arms.
80% of motorcyclist casualties suffer leg injuries, 56% suffer injuries to the
arms and 48% to the head. However, head injuries are usually more severe than
those to the legs or arms, and account for over 70% of motorcyclist fatalities9.
Injuries to the thorax and pelvis are infrequent, but usually severe.
Around 80% of seriously injured motorcyclists, and 73% of motorcyclist fatalities
suffer head injuries (they usually suffer other injuries as well), including cuts,
abrasions, concussion, severe facial injuries, skull fractures and brain injuries.9
They appear to be more likely in crashes in which the motorcyclist collides with
another vehicle at right angles and the head impacts against the vehicle, or where
the rider slides along the ground and strikes their head on a kerb or piece of
roadside furniture. Skull fractures may occur at speeds of 30 km/h or more, but
brain injuries may happen at much lower speeds, from 11 km/h upwards.
Leg injuries, including cuts and abrasions, fractures, broken bones and dislocated
joints, account for 60% of serious injuries. The knee and lower leg appear to
be the most vulnerable. Leg injuries are most frequently caused in accidents that
involve the motorcyclist striking the side of a vehicle at an oblique angle, or
a vehicle striking the motorcyclist side-on. The injuries are caused by a direct
impact or by the leg being trapped and crushed between the vehicles.
THE MAIN SAFETY ISSUES
The following sections of this report explore a number of key issues: