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How Vulnerable Are Motorcyclists To Road Traffic Accidents In The UK?

The thrill of riding fast on an open road without being surrounded by a metal box is incomparable. Unfortunately, that excitement comes with its fair share of risks. Most motorcyclists are aware of the dangers and take appropriate precautionary measures to stay safe on the roads. The big question is, are these precautions enough to keep motorcyclists safe on the roads?

The ‘Reported Road Casualties in Great Britain: Motorcycle Factsheet, 2020’ published by the Department of Transport offers an insight into how vulnerable motorcyclists are to road traffic accidents in the UK.

Statistics On Motorcyclists In Road Traffic Accidents In The UK

Two periods were considered for this purpose. The first was the period between 2004 and 2020. The second was over the period from 2015 to 2020. Here’s what the statistics reveal:

Motorcycle traffic fell by 22% between 2004 and 2020. During that same time period, serious injuries fell by about 48% and fatalities fell by 51% (from 585 to 285).

Between 2015 and 2020, there was an average of six motorcycle fatalities every week. About 40% of fatalities in two-vehicle accidents involved a collision with a car. During this same period, road casualties resulted in 115 serious injuries per week. This only takes into account the road traffic accidents that are reported. The number of motorcyclists injured in road accidents is thought to be much more. This is because many non-fatal accidents go unreported.

In the year 2020 itself, 285 motorcyclists died in road accidents in Great Britain, whilst 4,429 (adjusted) sustained serious injuries and 8,890 (adjusted) sustained mild injuries.

With regards to accidents in urban areas versus accidents in rural areas, the statistics reveal that the majority of motorbike accidents occur on urban roads with about 47% of the country’s motorbike crashes occurring in London. However, most motorbike accidents that happen on urban roads do not result in fatalities. A higher number of fatal accidents (66%) take place on rural roads, which are commonly not as well maintained.

Common Factors That Contribute To Motorcycle Accidents In The UK

One factor that contributed to the majority of motorcycle accidents in the UK was a collision with another vehicle. Police reports put the reason down to ‘the rider or driver failed to look properly, which caused the accident’.

The second most common contributory factor recorded by police as the reason for the accident was ‘failure to judge the other driver’s or rider’s speed or path’. ‘Rider or driver in a hurry or reckless was the third most commonly cited contributory factor.

One takeaway from the Department of Transport’s Road Casualties Factsheet is that some factors that contribute to motorcycle accidents are beyond the motorcyclists’ control. When out on your motorbike, you’re going to encounter reckless drivers, careless pedestrians, or unexpected potholes or oil spills on the road. However, there are some things you can do to minimise the risks and stay safe on the roads.

6 Things You Can Do To Minimise The Risk Of A Motorcycle Accident

  1. Complete the basic and advanced motorbike training course before that first ride on the roads – Only the basic training is mandatory but for your own safety, it’s better to complete the advanced motorbike training too. Do this before you set out on the road. Handling this powerful engine on the road while weaving in between traffic is more challenging than it may seem.
  2. Check your bike before you get it out of the garage – Faulty brakes will not allow you to stop your motorbike on time. Under-inflated tyres can cause you to lose balance at a crucial moment. A broken mirror will prevent you from seeing that large HGV coming up behind you. A seemingly small problem can result in a disaster on the roads. Always check your bike thoroughly before you set off. If something is not right, fix it or leave your bike behind. You never know when or how that minor fault may cause you to have an accident.
  3. Wear appropriate riding attire with a focus on safety – What you wear while riding a motorbike is a major factor in keeping you safe. A well-fitting helmet will protect you from serious head injuries and brain trauma if you do meet with an accident. A leather or heavy jacket will protect your upper body and a good pair of shoes will give you more control while riding. Never use flip-flops or loose clothing on a motorbike.
  4. Avoid distractions – It may seem reasonable to listen to podcasts or music or chat with friends while riding, especially if you’ve got a long ride ahead of you. After all, you’re not taking your eyes off the road while doing any of these activities. The problem however is that they can be hugely distracting. Focusing on anything else other than the road significantly increases the odds of meeting with an accident. It slows down your reaction time by a few seconds, which can make all the difference. While on the road, whether you’re in or on a bicycle, motorcycle, car or HGV, you must always remain aware of everything going on around you.
  5. While riding, leave sufficient space between you and the vehicle in front of you – Avoid the temptation to ride bumper to humper. It won’t help you get to your destination any faster. Keeping your gives you enough time to react if the driver ahead of you brakes suddenly or decides to turn into the lane ahead.
  6. Watch the weather before setting out – Riding a motorbike in the rain or snow can be very dangerous. Motorbikes are so much more difficult to handle on wet, snowy or icy roads. They are more likely to skid and more difficult to get under control during these conditions. Moreover, visibility is also lower when it’s raining or snowing, which only increases the risk of an accident.

It’s important to remember, that motorcyclists are among the most vulnerable road users, along with pedal cyclists. Staying vigilant and adhering to motorbike safety guidelines at all times can help to minimise those risks and help you stay safe on the roads.

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