Where Do Motorcycle Accidents Happen?

For the most part, motorcycle accidents tend to trend, i.e. the types of locations are similar regardless of international borders or geographic location, however there might be regional variations and there may be situations which lead to what is referred to as an ‘accident black spot’ i.e. a particular location or stretch of road that has had a statistically higher than average accident rate in a recent time period.

Many reports or studies have claimed that most motorcycle accidents tend to occur at junctions or intersections. However this in itself is somewhat misleading.

First what is defined as a junction or intersection? It is the crossing of two road ways! However one could also claim that any access onto a road or exit from a road could be considered a junction or intersection.

Secondly, where are these accidents occuring? Are they in urban areas or in rural areas? Evidence would tend to suggest that most occur in urban areas?

Thirdly, What type of motorcycles or mopeds/scooters are involved and what is the age and experience of the rider?

All these variables will flesh out the statistics and give a more substansive picture of what is actually occuring.

If we consider where trending motorcycle accidents occur, then this will probably give the best representation.

Junctions/Intersections: Mostly in urban areas involving high numbers of mopeds/scooters and young inexperienced riders. Lesser number in rural areas, however with a higher proportion of motorcycles and high performance engines and older and sometimes more experienced riders.

On Bends: Either left or right hand bends in which no other vehicle is involved and in which the rider has misjudged the bend and has approached with high speed and has lost control. 

When driving in the UK, on a right hand bend, if the rider rides near the center of the road i.e. near the white line and an oncoming vehicle also approaches near the white line and a collision can take place. Or on a left hand bend, the rider remains in the center of the road by the white line and an oncoming vehicle close to the white line or straddles the white line and contact is made.

The key with a succesful negotiation of a bend is to use appropriate entry speed and postion in the road in order to view any hazards and be able to avoid them. Expecially when on a blind or very tight bend the rider should be more conservative in the approach and almost expect a vehicle to suddenly appear in the middle of the road. Further training and advanced training will certainly help with the required riding skills, however it is the rider’s mental approach which will provide the extra safety buffer.

Filtering in high density traffic and at high speed. Whilst for the most part filtering is allowed at slow speeds in between traffic, it is still viewed upon by other road users as an infringement, and when motorcycles are seen to be travelling at higher speeds then this actually adds to the annoyance. When travelling at higher speeds in high density traffic the margin for error is dramatically reduced. The rider’s reaction times are reduced but also the drivers’ reaction times are also reduced and their ability to see the motorcyclist is compromised.

Riders should always ride at a slow appropriate speed in high density traffic and be mindful that the rider will operate in the driver’s blind spot where the driver may not expect the rider to be. The rider should always be concious that a driver may change lanes very quickly and may not have seen the rider because they may not have checked properly or the rider has suddenly ridden into the driver’s blind spot. The key here is for both parties to be extra vigilant. The rider should always approach either side of a vehicle with prudence and only pass through when sure that the path is clear. Be aware that stationary traffic may change direction or turn into a junction without indication or the driver or passenger or a vehicle may suddenly open a door in the rider’s path, because they are unaware that the rider is there. Regardless of what we as riders believe the drivers should be doing, we as riders should always adopt the best defensive road position and expect the unforseen hazards that may occur.

High Speed Roads: Motorways & Dual Carriagways. These accidents are caused by a combination of high speed and rapid lane chaging by either drivers or riders which lead either to loss of control or contact between vehicles. In some circumstances, because the traffic is flowing in the same direction the impact forces may be minimised as they are not head on collisions, however this certainly is not true for all instances. 

Other conditions lead to high speed traffic suddenly reducing speed which leads to a motorcycle running in to the rear of the vehicle in front or vice versa. Again the rider should use appropriate speed but should allow extra vehicle spacing in order to compensate for the changing speed and flow of traffic.

Country Roads: These roads can be a favorite of motorcyclists due to their twisty layout and either accidents occur on the bends as previously mentioned or the rider sometimes does not make allowances for the country variables, in which I mean slow moving farm traffic around a sharp bend with high hedges, or a tractor emerging from a field, or wildlife suddenly appearing out of the hedgerow and crossing the rider’s path, or either debris or mud or ice etc causing the rider to lose control. Of course there are the other vehicles to contend with also and hence the rider should be ever vigilant and aware of the country road variables.

In the Dry: It sometimes appears that many motorcycle accidents are caused by the deteriorating road conditions, either by weather or condition of the road surface or debris or pollutants. Whilst they do cause accidents, it is certainly not in the majority of cases. In many cases the conditions although deteriorated, are still perfectly rideable, however the rider has misjudged the conditions and ridden beyond their skill or machine limit.

In fact, most accidents occur in the dry conditions. Many riders tend not to venture out during the winter months or in wet conditions, so this leads to more motorcycles being on the roads in the dry conditions. Alternatively a motorcycle/moped is the only form of transport for young or inexperienced riders and this is the contributing factor. Many of these accidents in the dry are mainly casued due to a lack of recent riding experience either in motorcycle control or hazard perception and avoidance.

Where accidents have occured in deteriorating conditions, often this has been caused by inappropriate speed for the conditions or heavy braking on slippery surfaces, especially painted surfaces or drain and manhole covers etc.

The key to riding is wet conditions is firstly to practice in those conditions. Whilst only riding on dry days is perfectly acceptable, the probability is that at some point a rider will encounter rain or wet, damp road conditions so prior exposure and practice will be of benefit. Secondly the use of reduced appropriate speed and allow much more vehicle spacing to compensate for reduced riding, driving and braking performance and certainly to allow extra time for drivers to see a rider or for a rider to compensate for a driver that has not seen them.

In all cases, the use of appropriate speed, appropriate position on the road and riding to the weather and road conditions will assist the rider. Allow extra vehicle spacing and practice hazard perception expecially at junctions, in high density traffic and on bends.

An accident may occur at any time, however, the extra vigilance of the rider will reduce the probability of an accident occuring. The percentage probability of actually having an accident is actually quite low compared to the numbers of vehicles on the road and actual road miles travelled, however, the actual numbers of incidents, injuries and fatalities on the roads are still alarming and any reduction in these numbers can only be a good thing.

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