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What Can Be Done to Reduce Risks to Motorcyclists?

9th September 2016

At Co-op Legal Services we understand that motorcycling has always been viewed as a “risky” activity, but for many motorcyclists, riding a motorbike is a summer activity with the winter reserved for the “hard core” and motorbike messengers.

However, our team of Personal Injury Solicitors know that motorcycling does present “risks” regardless of the season or time of year and all road users need to “Think Bike!”

For a number of years the number of motorcycle accidents remained low and were down trending, certainly between 2009 and 2013. This has to be set against the backdrop of motorcycle traffic representing around 1% of all road users, but approximately 10% of all accidents and 20 % of all fatalities. 

An upward trend developed between 2013 and 2014 with approximately 5,500 serious accidents involving motorcycles in 2014 that resulted in approximately 340 deaths. 

Motorcyclists are 40 times more likely to be killed than car drivers. The Department of Transport (DoT) often alludes to the prevailing weather conditions as being a key factor, the warmer the weather the more motorcyclists on the road, but that cannot always explain the increase in the seriousness of the injuries.

There are a number of factors to consider which were clearly outlined by Clarke et al in their report in 2004. They highlighted that motorbike riders aged between 21-25 and 31-35 were most at risk by right of way violations, loss of control because of speed at bends and overtaking or filtering between traffic. 

They also confirmed that in the majority of these cases the “other” road user was the party at fault. Generally, most commentators suggest that 66% of motorcycle accidents are caused by “others”.  

Additional factors, include the speed of the motorbike, acceleration rates, lack of stability and their “invisibility”. The DoT reports that most accidents occur because of a failure to look properly at junctions, which account for approximately 45% of all motorcycle accidents. Compounding all of these are hazards caused by diesel spills, street furniture, pot holes and loose gravel on the highway.

It is recognised that motorcyclists are more vulnerable to serious injury and death because of greatly reduced protection compared to the motorcar. The major injuries with the greatest influence on survivability are those suffered by the head, despite the fact that motorcycle helmets reduce the risk of a fatal head injury by 50%. Other common injuries are to the arms and legs which may cause permanent disability and require long term rehabilitation.

So what can be done, and by whom, to reduce these risks to motorcyclists?

The answer is, quite a lot and by every road user and that includes those that design and manage our road networks. Motorcyclists themselves should ensure that they use daylights, wear conspicuous clothing that contains reflective material and adopt visible vehicle positions when using the highway. These simple measures should ensure that the motorcycle rider is more visible and less susceptible to an accident. 

Motorcycle manufacturers should put “rider” safety at the forefront of developments in both machines and clothing. There is a wide range of “clothing” accessories and helmet choices and the UK Government have produced a great guide about motorcycle helmets and the law

However, some motorcycle manufacturers have been much slower to design and implement state of the art safety features as standard such as airbags and ABS breaking systems. Likewise clothing manufacturers, although some have now introduced “inflating” clothing but prices remain high for some full protection suits at the present time.

Governmental safety initiatives should be targeted at the “other” road users and enhanced motorcycle awareness campaigns should be constantly implemented. More emphasis on other road users should be emphasised in the current curriculum for learner drives, including learner motorcyclists who should also receive more awareness on motorcycle safety clothing.

Highways England (formerly called the Highways Agency) and Local Authorities have considerable control over the road, road surfaces and road markings. More importantly, they can change the level of friction of the surface, repair uneven surfaces and pot holes faster, rectify poor repairs to the surface undertaken by utilities and communications companies and deal with spillages more effectively. 

The highways need to be more motorcycle friendly with re-siting of drains and street furniture which can not only be a causative element of an accident but exacerbate the injuries suffered by the rider.

At Co-op Legal Services our Personal Injury Solicitors specialise in motorbike accident claims and offer free legal advice.

Most personal injury claims can be dealt with on a No Win No Fee basis.

For free legal advice call our Personal Injury Solicitors on 0330 606 9587 or contact us online and we will help you.

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