What Can Be Done to Reduce Risks to Motorcyclists?

09 September 2016

At Co-op Legal Services we understand that motorcycling has always been viewed as a risky activity, but for many motorcyclists, biking is a summer activity with the winter reserved for the “hardcore” 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!”

Motorbike Accident Figures

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 for Transport (DfT) often alludes to the prevailing weather conditions as being a key factor; the warmer the weather the more motorcyclists there are on the road, but that cannot always explain the increase in serious injuries.

There are a number of factors to consider which were clearly outlined by the DfT in their 2004 report. 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 DfT 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 cars. 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.

Reducing the Risks

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

The answer is that quite a lot can be done by every road user, including 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 with clothing manufacturers, although some have now introduced inflating clothing, but prices do remain high for many full protection suits.

Government 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 that have been 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 cause an accident but also 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.

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