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Bike accident statistics

2011 Motorcycle Accident Statistics for Great Britain Released

There were 362 motorcycle users killed in 2011, a 10% decrease compared to 2010 and in line with the trend for motorcycle fatalities.

However the number of users reported as seriously injured increased by 10% to 5,247.

Total reported motorcycle user casualties increased by 8% to 20,150 in 2011.

Motorcycle traffic increased by just under 1% (0.9%) over the same period.

Rider deaths were down 33% in 2011 compared to the average number killed per year from 2005-2009.

The motorcycle fatality rate, taking into account miles travelled by bike, was down by 11% between 2010 and 2011.

Serious injuries for motorcyclists rose by 10% while all rider casualties were up 8% in a year.

The figures also show that 48% of crashes between motorcycles and cars were the result of the car driver failing to look properly.

Failing to look properly was the most frequent cause of crashes for all vehicles except motorcycles.  Motorcyclists were most likely to crash through ‘loss of control’ and also most likely to be the victim of someone else failing to look.

History & Studies into Motorcycle Accident Statistics

Motorcyclists represent 1% of traffic yet account for up to 20% of the deaths and serious injuries on our roads. Motorcyclists involved in accidents are 40 times more likely to be killed than car drivers.

The number of motorcycles (including scooters and mopeds) licensed in the UK was nearly 950,000 by the beginning of 2003. In 2004, 25,641 motorcyclists were injured (6,063 seriously) and 585 killed.

Fortunately these figures represented a significant decrease from the statistics for 2003 although the figures are clearly still too high with the majority of such accidents being arguably avoidable.

Casualty age and crash types

A study (Clarke et al 2004) has indicated that there are 2 clear peaks in casualty age (21-25 & 31-35) and that there are 3 basic discernable motorcycle crash types:

 - Right of way violation accidents (38% of cases)
 - Loss of control at bends at speed (11% plus of cases)
 - Overtaking/filtering accidents (15% of cases)

Clarke et al found that road users other than the injured motorcyclists are usually the cause of crashes and therefore road safety initiatives should be targeted at those other road users in addition to bikers.

'Born again' bikers
The "born again" bikers seem to be becoming somewhat of a public health problem as middle aged (and older) men take to the roads again on ever increasingly powerful vehicles but with possibly rusty riding skills. This is important in framing new policy towards rider training and licensing which to date has focused on younger riders and less powerful machines and which has assumed a continuity of motor cycle use.

Fatal accidents often involve the motorcycle running off the road (41% of fatalities). These are often late at night, weekend crashes involving a drunken motorcyclist (Preusser et al 1995).

As solo accidents without collision with another vehicle account for only a small proportion of total accidents, it appears that impairment has a much more deadly effect on motorcyclists than simply rider fault.

European research

Recent European research reveals that nearly 70% of motorcycle accidents involved a car, lorry or bus and that approximately 55% of accidents occur at junctions. It is unlikely that in all these cases the motorist failed to look but rather failed to see the motorcyclist.

Larger-engine machines are increasingly being involved in accidents which peak at summer weekends when recreational use is at its highest. This is perhaps not surprising when one considers that machines over 500cc have trebled in number over the last 15 years and now account for over half the motorcycles on the UK’s roads.

Elliot et al (2003) showed that almost two-thirds of the riders killed on non-built-up roads were aged over 30 and were riding bikes with an engine capacity greater than 500cc.

Motorcycle specific risks and injuries

Motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable to injuries due to the lack of protection that a motorcycle affords when compared to a car (seatbelt and bodywork/crumple zones).

Around 80% of motorcyclists killed as a result of road accidents suffer major head injuries and although there are serious injuries to other body areas in some of these cases many do die from their head injuries.

Head injuries can be caused in very low speed accidents and motorcycle helmets offer good protection against such injuries (although they do not guarantee protection). It is believed that helmets reduce the risk of fatal head injury by around 50%.

Leg and arm injuries are also common and leg injuries in particular can be serious and often cause permanent disability. Leg protection is one area of design that should be further addressed by motorcycle manufacturers.

The failure of car driving motorists to detect and recognise motorcycles in traffic is the predominant cause of motorcycle accidents. The driver of the other vehicle involved in collision with the motorcycle did not see the motorcycle before the collision, or did not see the motorcycle until too late to avoid the collision.

Contributing factors

Factors that contribute to motorcycle accidents are:

 - the speeds that they can reach
 - their acceleration rate (high power to weight ratio)
 - their relative lack of stability (single track) when compared to 4 wheeled vehicles; and
 - their conspicuity.

Motorcycles have poor sensory conspicuity (the physical qualities of the approaching vehicle that distinguish it from its background) and cognitive conspicuity (the degree to which the observer’s experience or intentions affects the salience of the approaching vehicle) due to the smaller size of the motorcycle and being less frequent and hence less expected than cars.

Improved visibility so as to reduce the poor conspicuity of motorcyclists can be achieved by utilising day lights, by distinctive vehicle colouration and by wearing clothing that contains fluorescent and reflective material. This will increase the conspicuity of the rider and hence help to reduce the likelihood of an accident occurring in the first place.

The road environment can be hazardous to motorcyclists irrespective of other vehicles. For example, changes in the level of friction of road surfaces, pot holes, uneven surfaces, poor surface repairs, spillages (especially diesel), drain covers, debris and road markings.

Diesel and gravel can be especially hazardous on bends in the road when the surface area of the tyre in contact with the slippery road surface is reduced by the banking vehicle.

Diesel Spill Accidents
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