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Motorcycle Accidents vs Car Accidents

By Matt Lalande in Motorcycle Accidents on June 26, 2022

Motorcycle Accidents vs Car Accidents

There are major differences in the patterns of injury suffered by motorcyclists compared to car drivers in the case of an serious accident. While any sort of accident on the road, whether involving a car or motorcycle, is a significant trauma, there is a huge difference between the level and number of injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident versus a car accident. 

Did you know that the chances of fatality in a motorcycle crash is approximately 30 times higher than in a car accident? Also, bikers who are over the age of 40 are around 20 times more likely to be injured in the case of an accident than car drivers of the same age.

The Ontario Road Safety Annual Report in 2018 reported that out of the 57, 818 drivers who were involved in car accidents, 1% suffered major injuries and 25.6% suffered minor injuries.

In contrast, out of the 1,317 motorcyclists (who were driving) involved in accidents in the same year, 13.8% suffered major injuries and over 58% had minor injuries. The same report showed that fatality rates for car drivers were less than 1 percent, while 4.8% of motorcyclists involved in accidents did not survive the crash. 

A few major differences between motorcycle and car accidents

To understand more about what makes motorcycle accidents more dangerous than cars, there are a few basic differences between cars and motorcycles to remember. 

  • Having only two wheels means that it takes much more mental concentration for motorcyclists to keep their motorcycles upright and balanced, while car drivers just need to remember to drive in their lanes.
  • Being able to see ahead on the road and foresee potential traffic issues and upcoming risks is a huge advantage that car drivers – van and truck drivers in particular – have over motorcyclists. Being able to recognize a troublespot well in advance means that car drivers are able to proactively navigate away from any potential situations that might result in an accident. 
  • Car drivers have the advantage of being safely inside their vehicles while driving on muddy or rocky roads to motorcyclists, where debris might kick up and cause distraction or injury to riders who don’t have a pane of glass protecting them from anything kicking up off the road in front of their vehicle. 
  • While car drivers have at least one layer of protection in the event of an accident, motorcyclists are protected by a helmet and not much more. Car drivers also have the added protection of seatbelts and airbags. 
  • With their four wheels, cars involved in accidents stand a better chance of maneuvering after the initial impact of the crash and staying upright, but with its two wheels, a motorcyclist will often have injuries as a result of both the crash and being crushed by the motorcycle itself as it falls over. 

From the very start, it’s clear that there are significant safety advantages to being in a car than on a motorcycle. It’s partly because of some of these differences that the injuries sustained by motorcyclists during accidents are also much worse than in cases of car accidents. 

Most motorcycle crashes are caused by human carelessness and irresponsible drivers

Most motorcycle accidents are not normally caused by improper safety features or faulty machinery. Most motorcycle accidents are caused by human carelessness, negligence and irresponsibility. Many, if not most of the motorcycle accidents that we see are caused by irresponsible or distracted drivers of cars and trucks not paying attention, following motorcycles too closely, rear ending stopped motorcycles in front of them, cutting off motorcycles or turning left through an intersection in front of or in the path of a motorcycle rider.

In Ontario, as high as 45% of motorcycle accidents are caused by cars turning left while the motorcycle was traveling straight, passing or overtaking another vehicle. Many, if not most fatality motorcycle accidents that we see in our office are caused by drivers turning left in front of riders.

Inattentive driving, or distracted driving is also a major cause of motorists colliding with motorcycles. Motorcycle accidents that have led to death as a result of distracted driving has doubled since 2000 in the province of Ontario. The province has made it illegal to use any mobile devices while riding a motorcycle, but distracted driving continues to be a serious cause of accident, injury and death. 

Conversely, in most cases that we see, motorcyclists are actually on heightened alert. Many motorcyclists, particularly ones that are experienced, will never let themselves get distracted to the point of not paying attention to the road. In fact, a very small amount of motorcycle accidents that we see are caused by motorcyclists, and the ones that may have contributed to their own injuries are normally motorcycle riders who are inexperienced, or do not know how to safely operate a motorcycle in terms of defensive maneuvers. While it’s true that motorcycle riders sometimes engage in speeding, lane splitting or weaving, or putting themselves in a blind spot of a motor vehicle changing lanes, most motorcycle traffic accidents that we see are caused by drivers of other vehicles.

Motorcycle Accident Injuries

The injury patterns among motorcycle trauma victims are quite a bit different then injury suffered in car accidents. Motorcyclists are no doubt extremely vulnerable and when serious accidents happen, are prone to fatality, much more so than a motorist driving a car. The reality is, that motorcycles are vehicles which are inherently unsafe.

Many if not most motorcyclists are hospitalized after a serious accident and mostly, in our experience, with very severe physical injuries to the victim’s body. Head injury is a very common type of motorcycle accident trauma despite mandatory helmet use. Although helmet use does decrease the incidence and severity of head trauma and motorcycle accidents, traumatic brain injury often does occur, and in turn, can lead to an extremely wide range of psychological and mental health disability in the victim.

Besides traumatic brain injury, injuries to the face and neck are extremely common, particularly with motorcyclists writing with open faced helmets.

Thoracic injuries, spinal cord injuries and lower extremity injuries are also quite common and serious motor vehicle accidents.

Some of the absolute most common injuries however, are injuries to the upper extremities, particularly de-gloving type injuries. Road rash or road burn is also extremely common – an injury that rips off skin and flesh as the person slides across a rough surface, like asphalt – is also a common injury for motorcyclists in the event of an accident, as is biker’s arm, a severe injury to the arms, which can be the first point of impact with another vehicle for a motorcyclist.

Is there a difference in injury patterns between older and younger motorcycle riders?

Absolutely. In one well known peer reviewed article, the authors noted that, in their study, differences were noted between older and younger motorcyclists admitted to hospitals following injury. Older riders were more likely to ride larger motorcycles (bigger engine sizes), and also more likely to wear helmets. Older motorcyclists also differed with respect to their crash patterns: they were more likely to be involved in collisions involving overturning, or striking other highway structures such as embankments, fences, bridge overpasses or others. This does not appear to be a result of older riders’ preference for motorcycles with larger engines, as their increased risk of overturns was observed for both smaller and larger engine sizes. The increased risk of thoracic injury is present primarily among older motorcyclists riding larger motorcycles. When they are injured, older motorcyclists are significantly more likely to incur serious thoracic injuries, which carry a high risk of death.

Motorcycle Patients costs are a Tremendous Burden on the Ontario Health Car System

The medical costs in cases of motorcycle accidents greatly exceeded those in cases of car accidents as well. In 2017, the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) did a study on comparing the medical costs of motorcycle accidents and car accidents between 2007 and 2013 and found that, on average, the medical cost for motorcycle accident victims were about twice as much as the medical costs for car accident victims.

These costs came from the emergency care given at the hospital, costs for any hospital stays that were necessary, as well as any bills for medication, laboratory work that had to be done to assess the physical injury, as well as the cost for assistive devices during and after the hospital stay. It was also reported that there were three times as many motorcyclists injured as car drivers per year, meaning that motorcycle accidents cost the provincial health care system about six times as much in medical costs as car accidents, making it a significant load on the medical health care system. One of the medical professionals who wrote the report also commented that motorcyclists involved in these sorts of accidents were more likely to have complicated injuries, which could require serious medical intervention like the amputation of arms and legs. 

If you ride, ride safely

Motorcycling is an activity that many enjoy; like other activities, it comes with inherent risks. It’s apparent that, compared to car drivers, motorcyclists run a much higher probability of getting involved in a motorcycle accident, and that those accidents also mean a much higher probability of resulting in serious injury. Aside from opting to drive a car, the one thing that motorcyclists can do is continue to exercise safe driving techniques:

  • Always wear a helmet.
  • Leather or motorcycle-specific wear will help reduce the injury from road rash.
  • Wearing highly visible clothing will allow other, larger vehicles to better see you on the road, reducing the chances of being side-swiped or hit on a left turn.
  • Avoid risky driving practices like lane splitting and distracted driving.

There are no good outcomes with being involved in a motorcycle accident, particularly when it involves a larger vehicle. Practicing safe driving techniques is the best advice for motorcyclists: stay alert on the roads and ride safely. 

Our Hamilton Motorcycle Accident Lawyers serve Victims all over Ontario

Compared to car accidents, many risk factors and causes are associated with the incidence of severe injuries in motorcycle crashes. Protection, demographic, helmet wearing behavior, helmet types, collision types, the types of other vehicles involved – the risk factors are endless. There are countless contributing factors related to severe motorcycle accident injuries which for many victims, can be life changing.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a motorcycle accident, call us today no matter where you are in Ontario at 1-844-LALANDE or local throughout Southern Ontario at 905-333-8888. Alternatively, you can reach us confidentially by emailing us through our website and we would be happy to get back to you or your family, and advise you of all of your legal options today.

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