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Risk management for motorcyclists

Risk Management

Risk management is very evident in our daily lives whether at home or in the workplace. In business, recognised frameworks exist that allow informed decisions to be made through use of a matrix that takes account of the probability of the risk and the severity should it occur.

Whist at home we may not apply such detail but are always looking at reducing risk and introducing suitable measures. Examples of this include installing smoke alarms, stair gates, additional security and so on. Often, this is based on a combination of knowledge and your own personal experience. For example living in a high crime rate area and having been the victim of a burglary should make you more aware of the risk, than those who have not.

Risk Management for Motorcyclists

Biker putting on their helmet credit devitt/rolling rouges

So how do we apply this to motorcycling?  UK law has already put some risk protection in place, for example:

  • to ensure the bike is road worthy the machine requires an MOT after 3 years
  • in order to reduce head injuries in 1973 all riders were required to wear a helmet
  • you must have valid documents and pass the respective test.

For many riders the enforced management of risk ends there, other than the basic human instinct of trying to stay alive and not get seriously injured.

Assessing Risk

At some stage of training a motorcyclist would have been made aware of the phrase ‘defensive riding’ which in essence means maintaining good safety margins whilst always thinking ‘what if?’

Whilst this is totally correct, we could apply a more scientific approach to assessing the scale of risk ahead and then riding according to it.

Flexible Positioning

As an advanced examiner I often see candidates whose positioning on the road is solely determined by a desire to increase their visibility based on the direction of the road ahead. Whilst this is good practise it is only a very basic rule of thumb, as positioning for a view can never be to the detriment of safety.

By example, a rider approaching a tight blind right hand bend would normally adopt a position close to the left kerb on the basis of increasing visibility and to potentially place distance between them and any traffic approaching from the other direction that may cross the centre divide.

On advanced tests many riders apply this with great consistency regardless of any nearside junction or vehicles waiting to pull out from the left. I often question their decision and offer the advice that positioning cannot be rigid and greater flexibility should be introduced into their ride based on a better system of risk management.


I explain that over the years road safety campaigns, such as ‘think bike’ have been with a junction bias, where the car pulls out on the bike.

Accident statistics published over the years, identify junctions as being a significant risk. The Police, RoSPA and IAM again have common ground with a message of agreeing there are five main causes of motorcycle accidents, which includes junctions.

Most riders through their own experience will have encountered cars pulling out on them. The severity of an impact hitting a near stationary vehicle at even 30mph is high. Based on this knowledge riders should elevate this above other perceived risks such as in the example above.

Learning from Experience

The system of advanced riding has to be flexible as riding is a dynamic aspect of being on the road. You could ride on the same road 5 times a day and potentially take different lines each time.

The mere presence of a nearside junction should not cause you to adopt an exaggerated approach line if the junction is empty and you have good visibility into it. Whereas a blind junction/entrance or the presence of a vehicle waiting to pull out requires a greater risk awareness.

So in addition to knowing what the statistics say is a risk, our own experience will also play a significant part in that decision making. For most the blind entrance of a farmers field may appear a minimal risk but for the rider who has had a tractor unexpectedly pull out on them, will forever be anticipating the same will happen again.

In summary, be better informed about the risk exposed to you and put into place measures that suitably reduce that risk wherever possible.

Mick Jones is the Chief Instructor for Total Advanced Training, a Bike Safe Assessor and a Rospa Motorcycle Examiner. He was a former Bike magazines resident expert for 4 years on their column ‘the riding clinic’ and ex Police Surveillance Motorcyclist in London.

To find out more information about Mick and Total Advanced visit or e-mail of phone 07813 167749. You can also follow them on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Click here to learn more about motorcycle positioning!