Los Angeles and Southern California are hotbeds for motorcycle enthusiasts. Whether you’re a weekend rider or a daily commuter, riding a motorcycle in Los Angeles is a thrilling and rewarding experience.
Not only do you get to ride in some of the best weather in the country, but you get to enjoy beautiful views and the perk of lane-splitting during LA rush hour. What more could you want as a rider?
Unfortunately, like many major urban centers across the United States, Los Angeles is also prone to motorcycle accidents. If you’re a motorcycle rider, you probably know the dangers of getting on a bike.
But just how common are motorcycle accidents in Los Angeles and California? What safety measures exist for riders? Is Los Angeles a safe place to ride? These are all questions that you might be asking yourself.
California Motorcycle Accident Statistics
California is the nation’s most populous state. Not surprisingly, it’s also home to the most registered motorcycles in the country. With over 800,000 bikes and counting, you can find a motorcycle in just about any corner of the state.
Los Angeles, a city with a population of almost 4 million people, registers approximately 160,000 new motorcycles each year — a fairly daunting number.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) compiled the following statistics on fatal motorcycle accidents in 2019:
- Between 2014 and 2018, California experienced 2,655 fatal motorcycle accidents
- California has, on average, 666 annual motorcycle-related fatalities
- Over 15% of all vehicle deaths in California happen on motorcycles
- California ranks in the top 15 states with deadly motorcycle crashes
- One in four motorcycle accidents involves driving under the influence
For many, the numbers can be shocking, but the truth is that motorcycles are dangerous machines.
Riders travel at high speeds and are exposed to the elements with little protection. There’s only so much a helmet and a jacket can do during a crash. Motorcycle accidents are more dangerous than those experienced by other vehicles because motorcycles lack effective safety systems.
According to data from the California Highway Patrol, more than 80% of motorcycle accidents in California lead to death or injury.
The last annual report from the Statewide Integrated Traffic Records System provided statistics on non-fatal motorcycle accidents from 2017. A total of 13,907 motorcycle accidents resulted in injury.
Motorcycle Helmets Are Mandatory in California
Helmets help save lives, and many fatal injuries in other states happen because riders are not helmeted. Statistically, helmets reduce serious brain injuries by up to 69% and help reduce rider deaths by 37%.
As of 2020, only 20 states had mandatory helmet laws. Unfortunately, the remaining 31 states have loose and optional helmet laws.
Fortunately, since 1992, helmets have become mandatory in all of California.
California Motorcycle Accidents are Down
As far as motorcycle safety is concerned, California accidents have decreased in the past few years.
One of these reasons is the allowance of “lane splitting” in 2017. California is the only state in the country that allows this practice.
Lane splitting is a maneuver where riders drive between two lanes of traffic, hence the name. Studies show that lane splitting reduces accidents because of the enhanced visibility of motorcyclists.
Is Los Angeles Safe for Motorcycles?
Although the number of total accidents in Los Angeles and across California may seem high, it’s important to remember that California is the most populous state.
When per-capita data is considered, California is one of the safest states to ride a motorcycle and ranks in the bottom third in per-capita motorcycle accidents and fatalities across the U.S.
Because California has strict helmet laws, allows lane splitting, and has motorcycle-friendly weather conditions, the number of accidents is not that high compared to other states.
Despite the numbers, if you plan to get on a bike, you should still practice safe riding and follow the posted road laws.