Bike Insurance

How Dangerous are Motorcycles?

Motorcycles have a reputation for being dangerous. Whilst we can all accept that riding a motorcycle does come with an increased level of vulnerability, how "dangerous", per se, are motorcycles? We've dug into Department of Transport figures to find out.

Motorcycle Accident Statistics UK

As soon as you utter something along the lines of "I think I might get a motorbike" you will likely be met immediately by a long list of horror stories. After all, we have all heard them—motorcyclists weaving in and out of traffic at breakneck speeds, being taken out by careless drivers, and even being robbed at knifepoint by motorcycle-riding criminals in and around London.

To learn more about the danger faced by motorcyclists, it is best to turn to statistics—these are objective and are not swayed by horror stories, popular opinion, or the media.

Likelihood of Getting in a Motorcycle Accident

In 2022, 361 motorcyclists were killed on Britain's roads, representing 21% of all road-based fatalities.

What Percentage of Motorcyclists Have an Accident?

To understand the odds of getting in a serious motorcycle accident we can look at the rate of accidents per mile travelled. As you can see in the table below, motorcyclists are nearly 5X as likely to be killed or seriously injured in an accident than a pedal cyclist per mile driven, or a being a pedestrian; being a motorcyclist is 62X riskier than being a car driver.

Casualty rate per billion vehicle milesKilledKilled or seriously injured
Car driver231
Pedal cyclist231,064
Motorcycle rider1232,103
chart showing ksi rates by mode of travel

Given the higher odds of a motorcycle crash, it's better to buy a full comprehensive motorcycle insurance policy for broader cover of damage to you and your bike. (Learn more about types of policies in our guide What Does Motorcycle Insurance Cover?) Motorcycle insurance is usually the largest annual cost of motorcycle ownership, with a cheap motorbike insurance policy costing around £340 to insure a 30-year-old driving a Honda PCX.

How Many Fatal Motorcycle Accidents Per Year?

According to the Department for Transport (table RAS0601) the number of people killed in motorcycle accidents in 2022 was 361. While this may sound high, figures show that motorcycling has become progressively safer over the years with the number of fatalities dropping significantly over the past few decades. For example, in 1982 there were 1,091 motorcycle fatalities—3X higher than the number in 2022.

chart showing number of motorcycle fatalities in UK over time
Dropping Number of Motorcycle FatalitiesMotorcycle Fatalities

How Many Motorcycle Accidents Result in Death or Serious Injury?

As motorcycle accidents can lead to life-changing injuries as well as fatalities, it's important to consider the number of accidents resulting in both death and serious injury each year. In a prior year, the Department for Transport reported that just 6.6% were riding 50cc bikes while 49% were riding bikes between 51cc and 500cc and 42.5% were riding motorbikes over 500cc. Motorbikes with larger engines actually have the lowest casualty rates per registered bike, however.

Proportion of Motorcyclists Killed or Seriously Injured by bike size
Bikes 50cc and under6.6%
Motorbikes 51 - 500cc49.0%
Motorbikes over 500cc42.5%

What Causes Motorcycle Crashes?

According to RoSPA, collisions at junctions are by far the most common location for motorcycle accidents. Each day, around 30 motorcyclists are injured or killed at junctions, culminating in 64% of all motorcycle accidents. Coming in second and third are loss of control and overtaking-related collisions, accounting for 15% and 20% respectively.

The overriding theme here is that motorcycle accidents are caused by carelessness and a lack of attention either on the part of motorcyclists or other road users.

chart showing location of motorcycle crashes

Collisions are Major Cause of Motorcycle Deaths

Among fatal motorcycle accidents where a specific cause of death was identified, 34% of deaths occurred in collision with a car, pick-up truck or van, 39% in collision with fixed or stationary object, 16% in a non-collision transport accident and 9% in collision with heavy transport vehicle or bus.

Causes of Motorcycle Deaths
Collision with heavy transport vehicle or bus9%
Noncollision transport accident16%
Collision with car, pick-up truck or van34%
Collision with fixed or stationary object39%
chart showing causes of motorcycle death

How Risky is Motorcycling?

In comparison to other countries, UK roads are moderately dangerous for motorcyclists—depending on whether you're looking at deaths per inhabitant or death per vehicle. For example, while Great Britain (4.9 deaths per 10,000 vehicles) ranked worse than the Netherlands (only 1.4 deaths per 10,000 vehicles) motorcyclists are much safer there than in Slovenia (23 deaths per 10,000 vehicles).

chart comparing motorcycle deaths by European country

Whilst these figures sound daunting, it is important to balance all the doom and gloom with a dose of reality. Many motorcyclists will never have anything worse than a minor bump or scrape, and there are plenty of people willing to share anecdotal stories of them never having been involved in a motorcycle accident. As a motorcyclist, there are plenty of ways you can mitigate the risks that come with riding a motorcycle such as the wearing of helmets and specialist protective gear and heightened care and attention.

Erin Yurday

Erin Yurday is the Founder and Editor of NimbleFins. Prior to NimbleFins, she worked as an investment professional and as the finance expert in Stanford University's Graduate School of Business case writing team. Read more on LinkedIn.


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