Unfortunately, motorcyclists still remain one of the most vulnerable user groups on the UK’s roads. Whilst they may only make up just 1% of total road traffic, they still account for 19% of all road user deaths – and more often than not, it’s simply not their fault.
Sitting aside this particular user group are also other ‘vulnerable’ road users such as cyclists, horse riders and pedestrians – all of whom are exposed to considerably more risk given that they’re not protected by a vehicle body in the same way that car users are. They also tend to be much harder for other drivers to see on the road and, despite the fact that motorcyclists have the highest accident and injury rate per mile travelled of all road user groups, the fatality stats simply never seem to fall.
In this blog, we take a look at the most common causes of motorcycle accidents and, more importantly, what can be done to reduce them. If you are unfortunate enough to have been involved in such an incident refer to our motorcycle accident claims page.
What are the most common causes of motorcycle accidents?
There are numerous reasons why motorcycle accidents happen – and, despite some of the bad press bikers get (particularly with regard to speeding) – it’s actually not always their fault.
So, what are the common causes? Here we take a look at the top 10 …
Failure to Look
- According to research from numerous sources (including the Government’s “THINK!” campaign), one of the most common causes of accidents involving motorcyclists is a driver’s failure to look properly – particularly at road junctions. Sadly, despite numerous campaigns spanning several years which remind drivers to “look out” for motorbikes, the problem still remains.
In better news, emotive campaigns have resulted in much thought around the effectiveness of messages currently being sent out to road users in preventing accidents. At the time of writing (January 2018), the “THINK BIKER” Facebook page has over 75,000 ‘likes’ which can only be encouraging news for road users nationwide.
- In addition to drivers failing to look properly whilst pulling away from junctions, another common failure is for the driver to completely underestimate the speed of an oncoming motorbike. Blame lack of attention, blame driver distraction, blame blind spots and even psychology, but a driver looking for cars merely perceives an “absence” of cars and not the “presence” of a motorbike, who might well be approaching the junction at speed.
Other Road Users
- That said, it’s not always the driver at fault. Motorcyclists also need to accept that they remain much smaller in size than an average vehicle, can travel much faster and are therefore less likely to be seen – particularly at speed. For this reason, bikers need to be much more on the ball and almost have a ‘sixth sense’ when it comes to predicting the likely actions of other road users. This isn’t restricted to vehicles either. Many accidents are also caused by motorcyclists failing to predict the presence of other road user types, such as pedestrians, horse riders and slow-moving farm machinery – particularly on rural roads – which are often (wrongly) perceived as being the ideal place to accelerate and enjoy the distinct lack of traffic. In reality, nothing could be further removed from the truth.
- Another common cause of motorbike accidents is failure to take heed of road surfaces and again, this is a particular concern on country roads where all manner of hazards can lie in wait, such as livestock manure, fallen trees, wet leaves and pot holes. For this reason, bikers should only ride at a pace where both reaction time and ability to take action fit well within their range of vision. In fact, whilst on the roads, “Slow in, Fast out” is an effective rule of thumb i.e. enter a corner wide to increase vision and only pick up speed on the way out.
Other Drivers Blind Spots
- Whilst often not intentional, accidents can also occur when vehicles suddenly veer into the space occupied by a motorcyclist. This is often due to the bike being within a driver’s blind spot – not to mention the fact that car drivers aren’t psychologically programmed to be on the look out for motorbikes generally, let alone during what they perceive as being a simple lane change. Most riding instructors will identify this as being a common hazard on the roads and it’s a fairly straightforward concept when given further thought. If one lane is moving faster than another, drivers will automatically want to be in that lane and not the one they’re in. It’s really not rocket science to understand why they might want to change – and often at a moment’s notice.
Not being Aware of Hazards
- The failure of motorcyclists not noticing obvious hazards is also another common cause of accidents on roads across the UK. These typically include failure to predict a car suddenly changing lanes (especially when approaching major junctions or turn-off’s), last minute signalling and distracted drivers (for example, those noticeably chatting to other passengers or worse still, attempting to send text messages whilst driving). Whilst these examples are all driver issues, failure to think ahead can often lead to accidents and even fatalities.
Being hit Whilst Stationary
- Another major cause of accidents is vehicles simply running into the back of motorbikes. This can be for a whole plethora of reasons, but it certainly doesn’t make the outcome any more pleasant and in some cases, can even cause death. Motorcyclists are well advised to avoid this particular scenario by simply using cars as their very own ‘crumple zone’. For example, if a car is stopped at traffic lights, with more cars approaching from behind, then the motorbike should move ahead of it (ideally whilst acknowledging this decision with a simple wave to the driver behind, purely out of courtesy!) and straight away, the bike is fully protected from any subsequent impacts.
- Whilst there might well be a common saying that there’s ‘safety in numbers’; this can also have the reverse effect – and the outcome can often be lethal.
Many motorcyclists choose to ride out as a hobby – particularly at the weekend or when the sun is making one of its rare appearances in the UK – and you’d be forgiven for thinking that such groups carry a whole wealth of experience in terms of road safety and avoiding accidents, right?
Sadly, it’s all too common that whilst riding out as part of an established group, motorcyclists can allow their mind to ‘switch off’, ‘wander’ or whatever else you want to call it. So, when something happens within the group, this particular rider can quickly cause an accident by running into the back of his fellow biker – and, at speed, this is never a good thing.
To avoid this particular type of accident, groups should always ensure that everyone understands basic riding etiquette and knows how to ride in a staggered formation in order to both increase vision and also move bikes out of line with each other.
- Another common cause of motorbike accidents is when a parked car suddenly opens its door onto the road, often referred to as ‘dooring’. Sadly, this is often due to the fact that the driver (or passenger) simply hasn’t looked, so again, much of the onus is on the biker to think ahead and remain mindful of any newly parked cars.
Poor Weather Conditions
- Last (but by no means least – as is often the case!), adverse weather can very often be responsible for all manner of accidents and of course, motorbikes very often come out of them much worse than those protected by cars. Sadly, whilst there’s not much we can do about the weather, it’s always advisable to ensure a bike’s tyres are checked on a regular basis and where necessary, that sensible precautions are adhered to – such as slowing down, keeping a reasonable distance from any vehicles in front and looking out for additional hazards such as manhole covers, patches of oil and so on. Yes, it might take the pleasure out of biking – but the main priority is to make sure the bike doesn’t take the pleasure out of YOU.