Everyone will have an opinion as to why motorcyclists crash. Many will say that the majority of crashes are self inflicted because of the way they are ridden, whether it be because they are ridden too fast for the conditions, or because riders are over aggressive and ride in a reckless or dangerous manner, and whilst in some cases this is true, the reality is that in the majority of incidents bikes crash often as a result of the behaviour or other road users.
Case studies have shown that there are historically 5 main reasons responsible for the cause of crashes involving motorcycles.
- Collisions at Junctions
These can be down to a driver failing to give way or stop and fall into the category of “sorry mate, I didn’t see you” (commonly know as a SMIDSY crash). Many of them happen at T-junctions but they can happen at other junctions.
Some road users are desperate to take any opportunity to join the flow of traffic. They may not spot your bike in the traffic even though you think you are easy to see. There is research showing that drivers have difficulty judging the speed of a bike and underestimate the bike’s time of arrival.
Always remember that if there is a collision between a car and your bike, you and the bike will come off worst whoever is at fault. Consider how you would deal with the vehicle unexpectedly pulling out in front of you.
- Collisions whilst overtaking
Overtaking not only requires the skill to judge speed and distance, but a good knowledge of your bike’s acceleration. With a bike you are not used to riding, take time to learn how it reacts to acceleration and braking in different gears, before doing any overtaking.
- Don’t overtake when approaching:
- pedestrian crossings
- hills or dips in the road
- where there are double white lines or other signs prohibiting overtaking.
There could be a high speed vehicle coming the other way, hidden from view. To overtake safely you need a view of everything going on around you and none of us have x-ray vision. You have no idea how a driver or rider will react when they see you overtaking them. You can’t assume they will slow down to let you in. They may do the opposite.
If you are filtering past stationary or slow moving traffic, do it with care. The closely packed vehicles reduce your visibility, manoeuvrability and reaction time to a minimum. A lot of drivers will not know that you are there and may move across in front of you or open a door.
If you are riding with others, plan everything for yourself. Snap overtaking decisions are dangerous.
- Road Surface conditions.
Part of the challenge of riding a motorcycle is adjusting our riding to deal with different road conditions. There are all sorts of conditions we need to have the skills to deal with but some examples that can lead to loss of control of the bike are:
- poor weather conditions
- diesel spills
- manhole covers
- painted road markings.
Look out for these and for road signs warning you of hazards ahead. Even new road surfaces can be slippery in certain conditions. There maybe other clues to the presence of some hazards. For example, where there are lorries there maybe diesel spills, where there are building sites, or farm and field entrances there may be mud.
Make sure your tyres are in good condition and at the correct pressure; your life is dependent on two small patches of rubber. Allow yourself the time and space to see what is ahead of you and take avoiding action. The safest response will depend on the circumstances around the hazard such as road conditions, weather, the limitations of your bike, and your skill as a rider.
These are usually down to riding too close to the vehicle in front, or the vehicle behind you being too close.
To protect yourself:
- Leave plenty of room between you and the vehicle in front
- Be able to stop in the distance you can see to be clear
- If the vehicle behind is too close give yourself more room in front.
Bends and Country Roads
Most of us learnt to ride on town not country roads. Country roads are different so we need to apply our skills, knowledge and ability in a different way.
Some bends on country roads are smooth and even, opening up once you are into them. Others tighten up dramatically. If you have gone into a bend at too high a speed you will find yourself with a major problem. If the road gives you clues on how it bends then use them. You may see:
- The line of trees
- The path of telegraph poles
- Hedges at the side of the road copying the path of the road.
Most crashes occur because the rider has misjudged the bend, or failed to appreciate and anticipate potential hazards on the exit side of the bend.