Are Certain Types of Motorcycles More Dangerous Than Others?

June 20, 2022

Although motorcycles tend to be generally more dangerous than other vehicles, studies suggest that some types and designs are more dangerous than others, not unlike the different classifications of cars and light trucks.

Read on to learn more about the different motorcycle types and their associated crash statistics and the steps you should take if you are injured in a motorcycle crash.

Essential Statistics

Nationwide crash statistics collected by the NHTSA estimated that 38,824 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2020, representing a 6.8% increase from 2019. Among these fatalities, 5,579 (approximately 14.4%) were motorcyclists, or 11% more than in 2019.

In Louisiana, the latest Louisiana Traffic Records Data Report indicates that 1,544 crashes involved motorcycles in 2020, resulting in 1,187 rider injuries and 82 fatalities (or about 0.015% of the nation’s motorcyclist deaths).

Types of Motorcycles

The type of motorcycle used can significantly influence the rider’s chances of survival in an accident. Here’s a breakdown of the most common motorcycle types and associated crash statistics according to registration data and fatality statistics compiled by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Standard motorcycles

A standard motorcycle, also known as a roadster or naked bike, is an average, general-purpose motorcycle designed primarily for street riding and commuting. These bikes feature medium-sized, low-powered engines, an upright riding position, and beginner-friendly handling characteristics.

According to IIHS registration data, standards only represented 3.8% of all registered motorcycles in the United States in 2019 (320,591 vehicles).

Cruisers

The cruiser is a motorcycle patterned after classic American bikes made between the 1930s and 1960s like Harley-Davidson, Indian, Henderson, and Excelsior. They feature a slightly reclined riding position and durable construction, favoring easy-riding characteristics and low-end torque over top speed.

According to the IIHS, cruisers are the single largest motorcycle category in the United States, making up 3,498,494 vehicles (41.3% of all registered motorcycles).

The fatality statistics from the IIHS group standard and cruisers together. In 2019, both categories represented 1,483 fatalities or approximately 3.88 deaths per 10,000 registered vehicles.

Touring bikes

Touring bikes, also called baggers, dressers, or dress tourers, are large-displacement motorbikes designed for long-distance riding. They feature large-capacity fuel tanks, large windshields, side-mounted saddlebags or storage devices, an upright riding position, and many comfort-oriented features.

IIHS registration data indicates tourers are the second-largest motorcycle category, with 1,882,533 million vehicles registered in 2019. 1,000 fatalities involving tourers were recorded in 2019, or approximately 5.32 deaths per 10,000 vehicles.

Sportbikes and unclad sportbikes

Sportbikes are lightweight, fast motorcycles equipped with high-powered, medium-displacement engines. They are designed with speed, maneuverability, and racetrack performance in mind. Unclad sportbikes are a subcategory of sportbikes featuring similar performance and design but lacking aerodynamic body panels.

According to IIHS registration data, 417,676 sportbikes and 255,161 unclads were registered in 2019, totaling 672,837 vehicles. 553 fatalities involving sportbikes and unclads were reported in 2019, or approximately 8.21 deaths per 10,000 vehicles.

Super-sport and superbikes

Super-sport bikes are even faster and more powerful versions of sportbikes. They are typically road-legal versions of racing bikes, featuring extreme power-to-weight ratios and top speeds exceeding 180 mph. A superbike is a super-sport bike with an engine displacement of 1,000cc or more.

Super-sport bikes are the fastest and the most dangerous motorcycle types to control. 2019 IIHS registration data indicated 585,172 registered super-sport bikes, and IIHS fatality statistics show 997 fatalities involving this bike type or 17.03 deaths per 10,000 vehicles.

This fatality rate is almost as high as standards, cruisers, tourers, and sportbikes combined, despite making up only 6.9% of all motorcycles in the United States.

Injuries Associated with Motorcycle Accidents

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), the average rider is approximately 29 times more likely to be killed on the road than a car or light truck occupant. The injuries sustained by riders tend to be far more lethal than those suffered by car or truck occupants.

Here are the top five injuries suffered by motorcycle riders:

  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
  • Spinal cord injuries (SCIs)
  • Lower-extremity injuries (e.g., leg fractures)
  • Internal organ injuries
  • Road rash and resulting infections

Riders Can Count on Dudley DeBosier Motorcycle Injury Lawyers

As the Official Injury Lawyers of the Motorcycle Awareness Campaign (MAC), Dudley DeBosier Injury Lawyers is proud to represent riders and motorcycle enthusiasts in Louisiana. We understand the dangers and unfair bias riders face better than anyone else; this is why we’ll negotiate on your behalf and get the compensation you deserve.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident, contact a team of qualified Louisiana motorcycle crash attorneys today.