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Keeping Riders Safe: A Motorcycle Safety Report

From hazardous conditions to unaware drivers, there are a number of safety concerns on the road which motorcyclists have to be aware of. As a result, they’re one of the most vulnerable groups on the road.

The Department for Transport’s Reported road casualties in Great Britain: 2017 annual report[1] found that motorcyclists have the highest casualty rate of any road users per mile travelled. They noted that riders made up just 1% of all road users but accounted for a shocking 19% of all road fatalities[2].

We’ve teamed up with leading road safety charity Brake to raise awareness ahead of the organisation’s annual Road Safety week, which begins on the Monday 19 November 2018. We surveyed more than 3,000 riders to discuss their concerns and experiences on the road, as well as the precautions they take to stay safe.

Dive in and discover their thoughts here…

Drivers can be distracted

Sixty per cent of our motorcycle riders admitted to feeling scared on the road because of the actions of other road users. With cars making up the majority of road traffic, Brake has published a list of additional safety precautions other road users can take to help safeguard those on two wheels. Whether you’re a rider, driver or both, taking a little extra caution can go a long way to protecting riders on the road.

  • ‘Car dooring’: Many riders are injured by drivers opening their car door without checking if a motorcycle is passing. This is called ‘car dooring’. To help prevent this, drivers should adopt ‘the Dutch reach’ technique. Instead of opening your door with the hand closest to it, use your opposite hand. This forces you to look behind you so you can check for approaching bikes before opening the door.
  • Overtaking: Ensure you leave at least 150cm between your vehicle and a motorcycle when overtaking. Using the height of an average person can give a good guide for the sort of distance motorists should aim to leave between them and those on two wheels.
  • Avoid the bike area: Whether it’s a box at a junction or specialist biking lane, keep clear of these at all times. Riders are often faster than other forms of traffic so, even if a bike area looks clear, there may be someone on two-wheels just down the road. Bike sections provide additional safety for those who don’t have the security and protection of an enclosed vehicles such as cars. So be sure to leave these spaces free for those who need them.
  • Watch your speed: Speed limits, speed cameras and speeding tickets are an everyday consideration in most people’s commute, with many very aware of the con sequences of going over the limit. However, hazards and collisions can happen unexpectedly. Make sure you slowdown in in advance of bends and other road obstacles, especially in adverse weather conditions. This gives you more time to react, protecting yourself, your passengers and others on the road.
  • Stop and look: With the majority of motorcyclist crashes occurring at junctions, it’s important for all motorists to stop in good time and look for bikes before pulling out.

Perception of vulnerability 

Motorcyclists are especially at risk on the road. This fact is a major safety concern among many road users.

When we asked our respondents if they felt the roads were more hazardous for motorcyclists now than they were five years ago, 65% said they were. The percentage of yearly motorcycle incidents has remained steady between 18-21% from 2012 onwards, which suggests today’s riders are becoming more aware of the number of hazards on the road.

Our respondents noted they feel most vulnerable at junctions and in busy traffic. In 2016 alone, 64% of all motorcycle collisions occurred at a junction[1], highlighting the importance of awareness at these intersections. Other incidents are most likely to occur due to overtaking or passing, losing control on a bend or at night time when visibility is poor.

However, what is interesting to note is that while the majority of our respondents felt most vulnerable on urban roads, most motorcycle causalities occur on rural routes. This could be linked to less frequent street lights, more winding roads and the longer time it takes for emergency response units, based in urban areas, to reach the scene.

Crash, injury and fatality

These feelings of being at risk on the road are well-founded. More than 45% of our respondents had been hurt while riding a motorcycle, resulting in slight or serious injury, with 31% being involved in a collision with another vehicle. On top of this, 77% of respondents were aware of someone they know being seriously injured or killed as a result of a motorcycle crash.

These results show just how actions on the road can impact an individual’s life. By being more aware of surroundings and the potential hazards on the road, road users can adopt safer riding and driving techniques to help bring these statistics down.

Reporting incidents to the police

While it is not a legal requirement in England and Wales to report an incident unless someone is injured or property has been damaged[1], the impact which even a minor collision can have on a motorcyclist shouldn’t be brushed under the carpet. Even a small crash can have a huge effect on a rider’s confidence on the road and should still be reported to the police or your local Highways authority in order to compile a road accident report. With this information, the police can report roads or bends which cause a frequent number of incidents to local councils, who will then analyse why these might be unsafe for motorcyclists and work to improve them.

 

Experience on the road

As you spend more time on the road, your confidence grows. More than 80% of our respondents hold an A licence for their motorcycle, with 46% having held their licence for over two decades.

Yet there are always risks on the road, from unforeseen hazards to other road users. It’s important to remain alert and remember that experience doesn’t always guarantee safety.

There are many ways to improve your safety, including additional training and preparation for each journey, such as being aware of the weather conditions. Read below to discover more ways to improve your personal safety as a motorcyclist on the road.

As discussed above, motorcyclists are particularly at risk of incidents while on the road. There are many ways riders can improve their safety, from the clothing they wear to the actions they take when riding. Here’s a small number of them.

Wearing protective gear

Wearing a full set of protective gear isn’t just beneficial in case of a crash. With the right gear, you can also shelter yourself from a range of adverse weather conditions and improve your comfort when riding for longer periods of time.

While more than 75% of riders understand the importance of wearing protective gear, a quarter of them still choose to only wear the full set occasionally, with a small minority never wearing them at all. While the reasons range from the summer weather to the expense of a full gear set, the benefits of wearing protective gear will always outweigh the cons.

When it comes to purchasing protective motorcycling gear, you should do your research and shop around. For the summer months, look for gear which is lightweight and has qualities such as breathable and heat reflecting materials. Then in winter, switch to waterproof and thermal gear to keep you warm and focused on the icy roads. To make a saving, watch out for discounts or deals and buy your gear out of season.

The value of Hi-vis

High-visibility clothing can be a beneficial feature to further enhance your visibility on the roads. Yet only a quarter said they wear Hi-vis clothing all of the time.

Especially during the autumn and winter months, Hi-vis clothing can have a huge impact on a motorcyclist’s safety. With longer nights and wet and foggy weather conditions, other road users may struggle to see a motorcyclist dressed in all black leather, which could lead to a serious crash or fatality. High-visibility clothing is also crucial on poorly-lit rural roads or journeys which include a large number of bends or junctions. Even where conditions are favourable, collisions can still occur between motorcyclists and other road users. Hi-vis kit can help make you more visible to drivers – especially in dense traffic.

Medical and mechanical preparation

Our survey revealed that the motorcycling community places great importance on first-aid skills. Nearly 75% of respondents said they are trained first-aiders. A substantial 80% said they feel confident in their first-aid skills – enough to respond to the scene of a motorcycle collision.

 

In stark contrast, a survey by the British Red Cross revealed that just 5% of UK adults feel confident in their skills to provide first aid.[1]. Due to the alarming number of  injuries which happen each year, riders see first aid as a much more necessary precaution than other UK adults. Through a variety of first-aid training courses, riders are becoming increasingly more confident in their abilities to respond at the scene of a crash involving another rider themselves.

On top of this, mechanical knowledge is recognised as another important means to increase motorcyclist safety on the road. More than 50% of our respondents said they felt confident in their ability to perform and fix their bike in the event of a breakdown. However only half of these said they always carry the necessary tools with them and therefore leave themselves exposed to the risk of a breakdown. Carrying tools doesn’t have to be bulky or impractical, in fact many tools can be stored away easily inside a backpack or under a rider’s seat.

Some of the most common mechanical issue motorcyclists may face include a flat battery, worn-out spark plugs and damaged tyres:

If faced with a flat battery, the two most common fixes involve leaving the bike connected to a battery charger or finding a car to help jump start it. However, charging a battery can take hours and there’s not always going to be a helpful driver to offer a boost. Riders should consider investing in a jumper pack, a compact jump starter which can get them back on the road in no time[1].

It’s not always easy to spot a potential hazard on the roads, such as something sharp which causes a puncture. To minimise your time on the side of the road, aim to carry a tyre repair kit. This allows you to easily plug up a hole or seal a tear for a temporary fix.

BENEFITS OF ADVANCED MOTORCYCLE TRAINING

While you can’t account for the behaviour of other road users, taking on additional training, no matter how many years of biking, has a heap of benefits. Yet, only 33% of our respondents have taken on further training to improve their riding skills, with many feeling the option is too expensive or not beneficial for them. Below we have listed just a small number of benefits advanced training can have:

  • Improve road safety: When riding a motorcycle, there’s many things to be aware of, from potential hazards to other road users and speed limits. By completing an advanced training course, you can develop new awareness skills to help you spot, react and prevent a hazard or incident from occurring.
  • Gain new skills and confidence: Even if you have been riding for years, advanced training can be great to refresh your mind on techniques you may have forgotten or even introduce new practices. Furthermore, if you have been in a crash recently, advanced courses can be beneficial to regain your confidence on the road while promoting road safety.
  • Lower insurance costs: In some cases, having an additional training certificate can lower your motorcycle insurance premium and save you some cash.
  • Enhance riding posture: While it may seem obvious, relearning the best ways to position yourself on your bike can help improve both comfort and safety.
  • Meet new riders: A big part of riding a motorcycle is the community. Going on one of the many courses available can help you meet new riders and expand your rider network.

Guidance from Brake


As part of the Road Safety Week ‘Bike Smart’ campaign, Brake is committed to promoting motorcycle safety and raising awareness about how everyone can be ‘Bike Smart’ to protect those on two wheels.

With 39% of rider admissions to hospitals suffering serious injuries to their arms and legs, there are hard-hitting benefits of wearing protective gear. From our survey, trousers were the item of clothing our respondents were most likely to rarely or never wear, yet this decision can lead to serious consequences. Together, with the awareness campaign run by Brake, we can ensure riders wear full protective gear when on the road and prevent serious or fatal injuries in the event of a collision.

Furthermore, there’s plenty of options riders can take to improve their safety such as Biker Down!, a free first-aid course for bikers. Even if you have previously taken first-aid training, this free course aims to boost rider’s confidence, so they can respond at the scene of a collision to help others. Also, with only a quarter of our riders admitting to always wearing Hi-vis jackets, this course aims to highlight the importance of staying visible on the roads.

 

No matter how many years you’ve been riding, it’s important to recognise that bikes are vulnerable on the roads and that crashes can happen. While our research focused on the safety of motorcyclists, the dangers and hazards faced on the road effect everyone. However, with additional skills under your belt and Brake’s essential awareness campaigns, we can reduce the high number of riders feeling unsafe, so you can enjoy your biking adventures to the full.

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