Time For Change!

Time For Change!

Over many years, I have attended many motorcycle accidents and even early on it seemed quite obvious that the accidents were occurring for the same reasons…over and over again. It was true then as it is today!

Indeed it was this feeling of frustration that led me to start HELI BIKES some years ago, a way to shed light on the causes of motorcycle accidents where we associate the most severe injuries, and to offer some guidance how the accidents might be avoided & injuries prevented or minimised.

It became evident very quickly that there were relatively simple solutions to many of the accident scenarios, but fundamentally there was a problem! This problem was less to do with the individuals involved (although of course they were involved in the accidents and their actions resulted in a collision), but more to do with a ‘system’ that seemed to fail and not address the root causes.

The major problem is how we investigate road accidents, or rather collisions as they are termed! How do we determine not only the superficial and immediate causes, but also how do we determine the root causes or rather how we don’t.

We know what causes accidents, but do we know what ‘caused the cause’ and do we ever ask: “Is it a system failing?” More importantly, do we ever question the system and ask it to improve, change and modify to solve an issue. Do we ask this of it immediately and do we get a rapid response.

I’ll give an example! A rider decides to take a trip along a set of twisities…all is going well and every bend is negotiated successfully, until one particular bend where the rider runs wide, crosses over the white line and collides head on with an oncoming vehicle, resulting in catastrophic damage to both vehicles, severe injuries to the driver and the rider suffers a fatal injury!

You investigate this and you come to the conclusion that the rider went too fast for the bend, ran wide and hit the car, therefore…riders fault!

However, what you didn’t ask was why do so many riders run wide on bends? Why did this rider negotiate every other bend ok, but failed on this one? What you have not done is start at the accident scene and work backwards until you have investigated every contributing factor, not only in the immediate cause of the accident, but also in the lead up to it. We refer to this as an error chain, or cascade or domino effect!

What was the rider doing before the ride, the night before, the week before etc.

What was the rider’s history and what was their training and recent experience? 

What state of mind was the rider in and what physical condition was applicable.

What were the environmental and road surface conditions, road design and maintenance, road signs and markings?

Was there a history of accidents on this bend? How many and how far back in time?

The questions can be endless, but suffice to say that once you have asked these questions and determined answers, then do you ask the system to be reviewed…does anything ever change?

We know that motorcycle riders were running wide on bends since the dawn of riding bikes and they continue to do so. So what is it that makes riders do this and why is it that this will continue to be so in the future? For it will be so unless there is a quantum shift in how we address these kinds of incidents.

Is this a training & testing issue? Is it the lack of recurrent training and recent riding experience? Is it down to poor signage and poor awareness of the road environment? Is it poor road design and poor appreciation…is this a case where machine performance is out performing physical performance? Is this an attitude towards risk that is ignored by both motorcycling media and manufacturing alike that gives the rider a false sense of infallibility?

So now we have identified immediate and root causes…now we need to ask what can and will be done to help prevent future similar incidents!

If we are not asking the right questions, then we are left with only superficial explanations which lead to vague management and application of blanket policy.

If we do not ask questions, then the theory will be that the rider was going too fast for the bend and so ran wide…therefore the policy will be to apply a reduced speed limit which will surely cure this problem! Well for sure it will prevent some, but not all, therefore the real issues still remain!

So what do we do? Well I set up HELI BIKES to help explain some of the reasons for accidents and how we as riders and drivers can develop better awareness and coping strategies…but the issues are still there!

How many times how you heard calls for driver training to include greater awareness of motorcycle use? How many times have you called for drivers to use their indicators more and how many times have you called for drivers to “Open your Fu…ing eyes!”…but nothing ever changes.

How many times are we blaming drivers for the majority of accidents and how many times are we looking at riders who cause accidents in the same manner?

Have we ever considered that those who are to blame, may also be victim of a system that fails to properly address these issues.

I’m not saying that anyone who has an accident is not to blame for their actions…they are responsible for their actions and consequences, however they may not be alone!

So what can you do?

It is there to inspire anyone to raise their hands and ask… “Have we got this right?” What can we do to improve the underlying issues?”

What we can do as road users is offer our own ideas and expect to get answers and explanations why they are valid & practical…or not! 

We can act in the same vain as a quality control department in a manufacturing plant. We can inspect the products and identify the faults and identify the failings in the production process. Then we can affect change in the process, solve the failing and prevent those particular faults, instead of just constantly discarding the faulty items and never addressing the production failures.

I think it’s time for a change! Do You?

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