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What Are the Leading Causes of Motorcycle Accidents in Kentucky?

April 10, 2023

To riders, motorcycles are an enjoyable, integral part of life. There’s nothing like the feeling of you, the bike, and the road.

That said, they are—by their very nature—more dangerous than most other types of vehicles. They are more difficult to control, they offer much less protection, and they are more difficult for other drivers to see because of their smaller profile.

Unfortunately, the danger for motorcycle riders isn’t limited to the road. Due to negative stereotypes, riders may be unfairly blamed for their accidents by insurance companies and juries, and have a harder time getting fair compensation.

In this blog, we’ll take a look at the most common causes of motorcycle collisions and what riders can do to protect themselves. And if you have been injured in a motorcycle accident and believe the accident was the fault of the other driver, we encourage you to reach out to an experienced motorcycle accident attorney in Kentucky to discuss how you may be able to recover compensation.

The Leading Cause of Motorcycle Crashes in Kentucky

By far, the number one cause of motorcycle accidents is the failure of other vehicle drivers to detect and recognize motorcycles on the road. Not speed, not lane splitting, not weather or road conditions.

That might be a surprise to you if you’re not a rider yourself. Unfortunately, motorcyclists get a bad reputation. People tend to think of riders as reckless thrill-seekers. While some riders might fit that category, the truth is that the vast majority or motorcyclists are acutely aware of the risks and take safe riding extremely seriously.

Why wouldn’t a driver see a motorcycle rider before it’s too late? Here are just a few of the common factors:

  • Vehicle blind spots. Today’s cars, trucks, and SUVs are bigger than ever. Small vehicles like motorcycles can easily disappear into the blind spots of larger vehicles, making them difficult to detect when a driver is changing lanes or merging.
  • Inattentional blindness. If a driver isn’t expecting to see a motorcycle and is only focused on scanning the roadway for larger vehicles, they might completely overlook a rider even if the motorcycle is in plain view. This concept is also sometimes called perceptual blindness.
  • Distracted driving. Especially since the rise of modern smartphones, today’s drivers have more distractions than ever. If a driver isn’t giving their full attention to the road, small vehicles like motorcycles are especially easy to overlook.
  • Speed misjudgment. Some car drivers have more difficulty judging the speed and distance of an approaching motorcycle than other types of vehicles, leading to a greater risk of collisions at intersections or while merging.

A Truman Law Client Story: Brad & Olive

Our client Olive was riding with her husband, Brad, one night when a stopped truck suddenly pulled onto the highway directly in front of them. Tragically, Brad lost his life, and Olive suffered severe injuries, including a fractured skull and traumatic brain injury. Her road to recovery was a long one—and it would be especially hard on Olive and Brad’s young daughter.

Sadly, their story is all too common. And unfortunately, motorcycle accident victims often must deal with victim blaming and unreasonable insurance companies.

We’re grateful that Olive called our office. We treated her like family and fought for her. In the end, we were able to settle her personal injury lawsuit and wrongful death lawsuit, and get her the compensation she needed to secure a good financial future for herself and her daughter. But there’s no way to truly ever replace the loss of a loved one.

Other Common Causes of Motorcycle Accidents

Motorcycle accidents occur for a variety of different reasons. While negligent car drivers remain the number one overall cause, there may be other contributing factors involved. Some of the more common include:

A motorcycle on the ground after a car pulled out in front of it
  • Weather conditions. Poor weather can make riding significantly more dangerous, especially for inexperienced motorcyclists. Wet, slippery road surfaces reduce traction and make motorcycles harder to control, especially when braking or cornering. Unexpected puddles and standing water can be especially treacherous.
  • Poor roadway conditions. A big pothole or chunk of road debris can be irritating for any driver. For motorcyclists, these hazards can have catastrophic consequences, especially at high speeds.
  • Lane splitting and lane filtering. Driving a motorcycle between lanes when traffic is slowed (lane splitting) or stopped (lane filtering) falls into a legal gray area in Kentucky. It’s neither explicitly legal nor illegal. The practice is controversial, though many people argue lane splitting actually makes riders safer, since it reduces the risk of being rear-ended by a distracted driver. Either way, if you do choose to split lanes, it’s important to exercise extra caution, as drivers may not be expecting it and may even respond negatively. A police officer may even pull you over if they consider it reckless driving.
  • Motorcycle defects. Without the stability and protection provided by four wheels and a passenger compartment, equipment failures (such as brake or tire issues) are more likely to result in serious consequences if they cause motorcycle operators to lose control of the vehicle.
  • Reckless driving. Although the vast majority of motorcyclists are careful, responsible drivers, there will always be exceptions. Excessive speeding, riding while intoxicated, and attempting to “show off” are extremely risky and could result in severe injuries.

RELATED POST: Can Motorcyclists Split Lanes in Kentucky? | Louisville, KY (

Kentucky Motorcycle Crash Statistics

Kentucky Traffic Safety Data Services (KTSDS) publishes traffic accident data every year. The most recent report, covering calendar year 2021, was published in October of 2022. Here are some of the most notable takeaways regarding motorcycle accidents in Kentucky:

  • In 2021, there were 1,491 motor vehicle accidents involving at least one motorcycle.
  • Of those collisions, there were 93 fatal accidents, resulting in the deaths of 99 motorcycle riders and passengers.
  • A further 1,086 people were injured in 942 injury collisions.
  • In other words, nearly 70 percent of reported motorcycle crashes result in injury or death to at least one rider or passenger.
  • While motorcycle accidents represented only 0.78% of total accidents, they represented 7.46% of all vehicle accident fatalities.

Clearly, this data shows just how deadly motorcycle accidents can be and just how important it is that we all prioritize the safety of ourselves and others while on the road. 

What Is the Kentucky Helmet Law?

In Kentucky, you are required to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle only if any of the following are true:

  • You are under 21
  • You have an instruction permit
  • You have had your motorcycle license for less than one year
Close-up of a helmet, a motorcycle driver, and a motorcycle

While ultimately the choice is yours, we strongly encourage all motorcycle operators and passengers to wear helmets when riding. The data is simply too strong:

  • Wearing a helmet reduces the chance of rider fatality by 22 to 37 percent, according to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
  • According to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, “when the universal helmet law was repealed in Kentucky in 1998, motorcycle fatalities increased by over 50 percent.”
  • Although the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that a little over half (56.9%) of motorcyclists in states without a universal helmet requirement wear them anyway, helmetless riders accounted for the majority of motorcycle accident injuries (53.4%) and a significant majority of fatalities (70.7%) in Kentucky. Many of those deaths could have been prevented if the rider had worn a helmet.

Hence, while helmets can be hot and uncomfortable, the stakes are simply too high to leave them at home. 

Safety Tips for Motorcyclists

While the most important thing you can do is wear a helmet, this is by no means the only way you can stay safer while riding. Some others include:

  • Get proper training and practice: It takes time for inexperienced riders to get the feel of accelerating, decelerating, shifting gears, and turning smoothly. Be sure to attend a motorcycle safety course to learn essential riding skills, techniques, and strategies for handling various road and safety conditions. Practice as much as you can in safe, low-speed environments. The first time you take on a passenger, they should also be an experienced rider.
  • Wear additional safety equipment. Your helmet isn’t the only important piece of safety gear you own. Road rash can be a very serious injury, leading to extended medical treatment and even skin grafts. Wearing thick clothing, such as denim or leather, along with boots and gloves, can help minimize these injuries if you are in an accident. 
  • Be more visible. It is also smart to add some reflection to your riding gear to make you more visible, whether that be wearing a brightly colored jacket or adding some reflective tape to your clothing. 
  • Ride defensively. You should never assume that a driver can see you, meaning you should avoid being in drivers’ blind spots, change lanes slowly, and be prepared for drivers making left turns in front of you or cutting into your lane. 
  • Keep your motorcycle well maintained. Unexpected mechanical failures can be catastrophic. Regularly inspect your motorcycle, checking tires for proper inflation and wear, brakes for functionality, and ensuring that all lights, signals, and controls are in good working order.
  • Use caution in adverse weather conditions. If you must ride in bad weather, reduce your speed, maintain a greater following distance, and be especially cautious when cornering or braking. If possible, avoid riding in extreme weather conditions.
Front view of a motorcycle driving down the highway

Motorcyclists in Kentucky and Indiana Count on the Colonel for Aggressive Legal Representation

The Karl Truman Law Office has a close connection with riders throughout the Louisville and Jeffersonville areas.

Karl Truman is a founding member of the National Academy of Motorcycle Injury Lawyers and our firm supports several local causes, including the Flag Ride of USA Cares. We regularly represents riders and passengers who have been injured in crashes, sustained serious injuries, and are having trouble getting fair treatment from the insurance companies and the courts.

Injured motorcyclists often face heavy challenges getting fair compensation for all their medical treatment, lost wages, and other damages. The best way to fight back is by speaking with an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer who will treat you with respect and is willing to fight for what’s right.

Hurt in a Motorcycle Crash? Contact a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer in Louisville Today

While the tips listed above can help you avoid wrecks and mitigate the severity of accidents, the unfortunate truth is that drivers’ negligence makes avoiding all motorcycle accidents impossible.

If you’ve been hurt in a motorcycle crash in Kentucky because of someone else’s negligence, our experienced Louisville motorcycle accident lawyer wants to hear your story. Contact the Karl Truman Law Office today online or at (502) 222-2222 for a free case evaluation.


Ross, P. et al (2022 October). Kentucky Traffic Collision Facts 2021 Report. Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. Report No. KTC-23-05/PT-2-22-00-00-87. Retrieved from

National Center for Statistics and Analysis. (2022, March). Motorcycle helmet use in 2021 – Overall results. (Traffic Safety Facts Research Note. Report No. DOT HS 813 270). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.