When the Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency updated the Highway Code to include a hierarchy of road users they placed motorcyclists as the fourth most vulnerable road users, after pedestrians, cyclists, and horse riders. However, statistically, motorcyclists are the most vulnerable road users in that despite representing 1% of traffic, they account for around 20% of all the deaths and serious injuries on roads in Great Britain.
Motorcyclists are more likely to be injured in an accident than any other category of road user (and despite public opinion to the contrary, most accidents involving motorcyclists were not the motorcyclist’s fault). A motorcyclist involved in an accident is around 40 times more likely to be killed than a car driver.
Motorcycle Accident Statistics for Great Britain in 2022
The latest accident statistics released by the Department for Transport illustrate that road traffic volumes have returned to pre-COVID levels.
Reported motorcycle casualties increased by 4% to 16,943, compared to 2019 - making motorcyclists one of only two types of road users to experience an increase over this period (the other type being ‘other vehicle occupants’ which includes riders of e-scooters). By comparison, occupants of buses saw a staggering 31% reduction in casualties, while occupants of cars also experienced a 17% reduction.
350 motorcycle fatalities were reported in 2022 which again represented a 4% increase on 2019’s figures, a pattern seen across most modes of transport. Car and lorry fatalities increased by 7% and 21%, respectively. In contrast, fatality rates for pedestrians fell by 18% and cyclists by 9%.
The figures show a return to pre-pandemic trends and that motorcyclists remain the most vulnerable road users in that they are more likely to be involved in an accident than any other category of road user and to suffer serious injury in that accident:
Despite making up around 1% of the traffic on British roads, motorcyclists still account for 20% of all fatalities and 12% of casualties. This equates to around 45 motorcyclists being injured on the road every day and the return to pre-pandemic traffic volumes is likely to result in next year’s figures showing an increase in both motorcycle casualties and fatalities. However, it remains to be seen if measures such as the 20-mile-per-hour default speed limit in Wales will have an effect.
Motorcycle Accident Statistics for Great Britain in 2021 (the most up-to-date available)
310 motorcyclists were killed in 2021, 5,264 were reported to be seriously injured and 10,264 were reported to have sustained less serious injuries.
The Department for Transport also released figures for the five-year period between 2016 and 2021 which show that:
- 35% of motorcyclists occurred at junctions;
- An average of 6 motorcyclists died and 111 were seriously injured every week;
- Most motorcycle fatalities occurred in 2 vehicle collisions involving a car (although the highest proportion of accidents involving the death of a motorcyclist were in collisions involving HGVs).
- Most fatalities (67%) occurred on rural roads, with only 3% occurring on motorways.
- A significant proportion of accidents (16%) did not involve another vehicle; however, this includes accidents involving diesel spills, potholes, and shed loads, to which motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable.
Motorcycle Accident Statistics for Great Britain in 2020 (during Covid-19)
The accident statistics for 2020 illustrate the impact of the national restrictions in place from March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and show a 14% fall in annual traffic rates over the year.
Despite the fall in traffic generally, and the marked increase of cyclists (and the introduction of both legal and illegal e-scooters) on the road, motorcyclists remain the most likely road users to be involved in an accident, and for that accident to be serious.
While reported motorcycle casualties fell by 16% (to 13,604) compared to 2019 figures, this represented the lowest proportional reduction of casualties across all types of road users. By comparison, occupants of buses saw a staggering 51% reduction of casualties and pedestrian casualty rates fell to 14,750, a 32% reduction.
285 motorcycle fatalities were reported in 2020, representing a 15% reduction on 2019’s figures. This pattern can be seen across all modes of motorised transport; with car and bus fatality rates falling by 16% and 71% respectively.
More significant reductions might have been expected due to the significant reduction in traffic resulting from the ‘lockdown’ periods, though anecdotal evidence from various police forces suggests that, although there were fewer accidents during these periods, the accidents which did occur were more often serious - generally because of excess speed.
In contrast, there was a significant rise in pedal cyclist fatality rates - with a 41% increase on 2019’s figure resulting from the substantial increase of cyclists on the road.
Recent trends would suggest that whilst figures are lower than expected, over 50 motorcyclists are still being injured on the roads every day and a return to pre-pandemic traffic volumes is likely to result in next year’s figures showing an increase in both motorcycle casualties and fatalities.
Motorcycle Accident Statistics for Great Britain in 2019
16,224 motorcyclists were injured or killed in 2019. Of these, there were 336 fatalities (19% of the total for all road users) and 6,198 serious injuries.
The number of motorcyclists killed represented a decrease of 5% based on 2018 figures – though it should be noted that in the 10 years between 2011 and 2019 motorcyclist fatalities have been relatively consistent, fluctuating between 319 and 365 with no clear trend.
The level of motorcycle traffic was consistent, with only a 1% reduction since 2018.
Motorcycle Accident Statistics for Great Britain in 2018
Motorcycle fatalities increased marginally in 2018 to 354 (20% of the total for all road users).
There were 16,818 casualties in total with 6,266 of these representing serious injuries or fatalities.
Motorcycle traffic was down 1% on 2017, with deaths up 1%, death or serious injury down 2% and total casualties down 7%.
Motorcycle Accident Statistics for Great Britain in 2017
In 2017 motorcyclists accounted for 19% of all reported road deaths on the roads, with 347 motorcyclists killed. This represents a 9% increase from 2016 despite overall motorcycle traffic decreasing by 2% over the period.
Motorcyclists had a casualty rate of 6,043 casualties per billion miles travelled, compared to 238 for the occupants of a car, and 62 for the occupants of a van. Bicycle riders were the next most vulnerable at 5,604 casualties per billion miles travelled, followed by pedestrians at 1,801 casualties per billion miles.
Motorcyclists also topped the fatality rates per miles travelled, at 116.9 fatalities per billion miles, compared to 35.6 for pedestrians, 30.9 for bicycle riders (so bicycle riders are the next most likely road users after motorcyclists to be involved in an accident, but those accidents are generally less serious) and 1.9 for the occupants of cars.
47% of all accidents involving a motorcycle occurred in London or the Southeast and the largest number of casualties (30%) occurred with riders aged 17-24. 91% of the 18,042 injured motorcyclists were men.
Motorcycle Accident Statistics for Great Britain in 2016
319 motorcyclists were killed in Great Britain in 2016, representing 18% of all road deaths. This figure was a 13% decrease on 2015 and a 10% decrease on the average taken from 2010 to 2014.
5,553 motorcyclists were seriously injured (a 10% increase on 2015) and 13,425 motorcyclists were slightly injured (a 7% decrease on 2015 figures) – though these figures should be interpreted with some caution due to changes in the systems for severity reporting used by some police forces.
Of the total 19,297 casualties, 91% were male, 32% were aged 17 – 24 and the vast majority (44%) of all accidents occurred in London and the Southeast. Motorcycle traffic increased by 1.9%.
In Wales, although motorcyclists accounted for just 0.7% of traffic, they represented a staggering 41% of killed or seriously injured road users.
- 46% of motorcyclist casualties were under 30 and 54% were aged 30 and over.
Interestingly (in terms of the levels of visibility) most motorcyclist casualties on Welsh roads in 2016 occurred in fine weather conditions: -
- 84% of motorcyclist casualties occurred in fine weather compared to 12% in rainy conditions.
- Fewer than 2% of casualties occurred in other weather conditions (including fog/mist, snow or unknown conditions).
Motorcycle Accident Statistics for Great Britain in 2015
Motorcyclists remained the most vulnerable road users, accounting for 21% of all road deaths in Great Britain in 2015. 365 motorcyclists lost their lives, the equivalent of one per day. This was an increase of 8% from 2014 and contrasts with the general downward trend for fatalities among most other road users (for example the number of fatalities among car occupants was down 5%; pedestrians 9% and cyclists 12%).
The number of seriously injured motorcyclists decreased by 5% (to 5042) though these figures represented an increase of 4% from 2013 levels. The number of slightly injured motorcyclists also decreased by 1% to 14,511; though 2015 was still above the 2010-2014 average for overall injuries to motorcyclists.
In Wales, motorcyclists represented 0.2% of traffic yet accounted for 41% of the deaths and serious injuries on the roads. Cardiff and Powys local authority areas had the most casualties, while Blaenau Gwent, Merthyr Tydfil and Anglesey had the fewest.
44% of the motorcycle casualties were under 30 and 55% of accidents occurred at a junction.
Motorcycle Accident Statistics for Great Britain in 2014 and 2013
The number of motorcyclists killed or seriously injured in Great Britain increased in both 2013 and 2014.
There were 5,558 serious accidents involving motorcyclists in 2014. 339 motorcyclists were killed in reported road accidents (an increase of 2.4% on 2013) and 5289 were seriously injured (an increase of 8.7% on 2013, and the highest level since 2009).
The Department of Transport generally points to weather patterns as being linked to motorcyclist casualty rates on the basis that motorcyclists are more likely to be on the road during periods of good weather.
2014 was a disproportionately dry and warm year; however, the increase in motorcycle traffic from 2013 to 2014 was only 3%, which clearly cannot account for the increase in seriously injured motorcyclists.
Most motorcycling accidents occurred at junctions (45%) and a ‘failure to look properly’ was the most frequently cited cause of all accidents on all road types.
Motorcycle Accident Statistics for Great Britain in 2012
There were 328 motorcycle users killed in 2012, which represented a 9% decrease compared to 2011 and a 40% decrease compared to the average number killed per year from 2005 to 2009.
The total number of users reported as injured also decreased, with 5000 serious injuries (a decrease of 5% on 2011) and 13,982 less serious injuries (a decrease of 4%).
However, some caution should be exercised in interpreting these figures on the basis that 2012 was the second wettest year on record, which likely meant that fewer motorcyclists were on the roads as reflected in the 2% reduction in motorcycle traffic.
Further, despite the general downward trend 8% of all accidents and 19% of all road fatalities in Great Britain involved motorcycle users, whereas motorcyclists made up only 1% of all traffic.
Most motorcyclist fatalities (70%) took place on rural roads, with motorway accidents accounting for only 1% of motorcyclist fatalities and 2% of serious injuries.
69% of all accidents involving injury to a motorcyclist took place at a junction, most accidents involved one other vehicle (70%), with the other vehicle involved most likely (79%) to be a car.
The most common reason for accidents caused by car drivers was by failing to look properly (24%), whereas apart from bus and coach drivers, motorcyclists were the road users least likely to cause an accident for the same reason (16%).
Motorcycle Accident Statistics for Great Britain in 2011
There were 362 motorcycle users killed in 2011, a 10% decrease compared to 2010 and in line with the trend for motorcycle fatalities.
However, the number of users reported as seriously injured increased by 10% to 5,247.
Total reported motorcycle user casualties increased by 8% to 20,150 in 2011.
Motorcycle traffic increased by just under 1% (0.9%) over the same period.
Rider deaths were down 33% in 2011 compared to the average number killed per year from 2005-2009.
The motorcycle fatality rate, taking into account miles travelled by bike, was down by 11% between 2010 and 2011.
Serious injuries for motorcyclists rose by 10% while all rider casualties were up 8% in a year. The figures also show that 48% of crashes between motorcycles and cars were the result of the car driver failing to look properly.
Failing to look properly was the most frequent cause of crashes for all vehicles except motorcycles, who were the road users most likely to crash through ‘loss of control’ and most likely to be the victim of someone else failing to look.
History & Studies into Motorcycle Accident Statistics
Studies by Clarke et al (2004) indicated that there are 2 clear peaks in casualty age (21-25 & 31-35) and that there are 3 basic discernible motorcycle crash types:
- Right-of-way violation accidents (38% of cases)
- Loss of control at bends at speed (11% plus of cases)
- Overtaking/filtering accidents (15% of cases)
They found that (despite public opinion to the contrary) road users other than the injured motorcyclists are usually the cause of crashes and therefore road safety initiatives should be targeted at those other road users in addition to bikers.
Fatal accidents often involve the motorcycle running off the road (41% of fatalities). These are often late at night, weekend crashes involving a drunken motorcyclist (Preusser et al 1995).
As solo accidents without collision with another vehicle account for only a small proportion of total accidents, it appears that impairment has a much more deadly effect on motorcyclists than simply rider fault.
European research reveals that nearly 70% of motorcycle accidents involved a car, lorry or bus and that approximately 55% of accidents occur at junctions. It is unlikely that in all these cases the motorist failed to look, but rather failed to see the motorcyclist.
Larger-engine machines are increasingly being involved in accidents, which typically peak on summer weekends. This is perhaps not surprising when one considers that machines over 500cc have trebled in number over the last 15 years and now account for over half the motorcycles on the UK’s roads.
Elliot et al (2003) showed that almost two-thirds of the riders killed on non-built-up roads were aged over 30 and were riding bikes with an engine capacity greater than 500cc.
Motorcycle-specific risks and injuries
Motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable to injuries due to the lack of protection that a motorcycle affords when compared to a car (seatbelt and bodywork/crumple zones).
Around 80% of motorcyclists killed as a result of road accidents suffer major head injuries and although there are serious injuries to other body areas in some of these cases many do die from their head injuries.
Head injuries can be caused in very low-speed accidents and motorcycle helmets offer good protection against such injuries (although they do not guarantee protection). It is believed that helmets reduce the risk of fatal head injury by around 50%.
Leg and arm injuries are also common and leg injuries, in particular, can be serious and often cause permanent disability. Leg protection is one area of design that should be further addressed by motorcycle manufacturers.
The failure of car driving motorists to detect and recognise motorcycles in traffic is the predominant cause of motorcycle accidents: either where the driver of the other vehicle involved in the collision with the motorcycle did not see the motorcycle before the collision, or where they did not see the motorcycle until it was too late to avoid the collision.
Factors that contribute to motorcycle accidents are:
- the speeds that they can reach;
- their acceleration rate (high power-to-weight ratio);
- their relative lack of stability (single track) when compared to 4 wheeled vehicles; and
- their conspicuity.
Motorcycles have poor sensory conspicuity (i.e., the physical qualities of the approaching vehicle that distinguish it from its background) and cognitive conspicuity (the degree to which the observer’s experience or intentions affects the salience of the approaching vehicle) due to the smaller size of the motorcycle and being less frequent and hence less expected than cars.
Improved visibility to reduce the poor conspicuity of motorcyclists can be achieved by utilising daylights; distinctive vehicle colouration and by wearing clothing that contains fluorescent and reflective material. This will increase the conspicuity of the rider and hence help to reduce the likelihood of an accident occurring in the first place.
The road environment can be hazardous to motorcyclists irrespective of other vehicles. For example, changes in the level of friction of road surfaces, potholes, uneven surfaces, poor surface repairs, spillages (especially diesel), drain covers, debris, and road markings.
Diesel and gravel can be especially hazardous on bends in the road when the surface area of the tyre in contact with the slippery road surface is reduced by the banking vehicle.
Note to editors: Statistics are from the Department for Transport unless stated otherwise.
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