Statistics Reveal Top Causes of Motorcycle Crashes in Maryland

By Peter DePaolis

Motorcycle crashes are some of the deadliest types of traffic accidents in Maryland. Motorcyclists are highly vulnerable to fatal injuries in collisions, even when wearing helmets. Benchmark reports from the Maryland Department of Transportation show 1,268 total motorcycle accidents statewide in 2018. Motorcycle crashes caused 1,067 injuries and killed 58 others. Preventing motorcycle crashes in Maryland would save dozens of lives each year. Motorcycle crash prevention starts with understanding the top causes of collisions.

Inattentive Drivers

Drivers cause motorcycle accidents more often than motorcyclists, according to data from the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA). Drivers can cause collisions through many acts of negligence or recklessness. Ignoring motorcyclist rights-of-way, speeding, driving drunk, distracted driving, falling asleep behind the wheel and breaching traffic laws could all cause deadly motorcycle accidents. Driver inattention is a major crash factor in Maryland.

National distracted driving statistics state 3,166 people died because of driver inattention in 2017. Many of these victims were motorcyclists. Driver inattention is a serious act of negligence that can make it impossible to notice hazards or stop in time to avoid collisions. The main cause of driver inattentiveness is cellphone use. Almost 3% of drivers use handheld phones behind the wheel. An inattentive or texting driver could easily miss a motorcycle and cause a preventable collision in Maryland.

Rights-of-Way Violations

MVA motorcycle crash data names rights-of-way violations as one of the most common causes of collisions. Too many drivers do not understand the rules of right-of-way in Maryland. A right-of-way refers to one roadway user’s right to proceed across an intersection. The general rules of right-of-way state that the first driver at an intersection has the right to proceed. At a stoplight, the party with the green light has the right-of-way.

A motorcycle is a vehicle in the eyes of Maryland traffic laws. Motorcyclists have all the same rights as other drivers in the state. All drivers must yield the right-of-way to motorcyclists when applicable. Violating the rules of right-of-way could lead to serious crashes, including left-turn accidents, T-bone accidents and head-on collisions. If a driver violated a motorcyclist’s right-of-way, that driver could be liable for the collision.

Impaired Driving

Another common cause of motorcycle accidents according to the Maryland MVA is impaired driving. An alcohol-impaired driver has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher. A drunk driver is four times more likely to cause an accident than a sober one, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Drunk driving can impede the ability to see the road, stay within a lane, safely control a motor vehicle, make smart decisions and react to changing roadway conditions. Maryland motorcyclists experience dozens of drunk-driving crashes each year.


Speeding drivers put everyone around them at risk. Higher vehicle speeds can predict injury severity. In a collision between two vehicles, the crash forces occur at the combined speeds of the vehicles. Speeding increases the overall crash velocity and risk of serious injuries – especially if one of the vehicles is a motorcycle. Speeding drivers put motorcyclists’ lives in danger. Speeding as a motorcyclist could also cause deadly accidents in Maryland.

Environmental Causes

Not all motorcycle accidents in Maryland have to do with driver error. Other forms of human negligence can also contribute to collisions. For example, a common cause of motorcycle accidents in Maryland is dangerous roads. Roads with defects such as potholes or loose gravel could be calamitous for motorcycle riders.

It is important for a city to adequately maintain its roads according to industry best practices. If a reasonable and prudent city would have repaired a roadway defect before the motorcycle accident occurred, the city government could be liable for damages. Other environmental causes of motorcycle accidents are animals crossing and bad weather.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.