For the purposes of this article, motorcycle collisions have been grouped into five separate categories. These are:-
- The Exhibitionist.
This category covers collisions occurring at all manner of junctions, including “T” Junctions, private driveways, crossroads, and roundabouts.
Research shows that in the majority of these types of collisions, primary blame lies with the other motorist rather than the motorcyclist. Majority of such collisions are found to occur at “T” junctions, where research shows motorcycle collisions are three times more common than at other types of junction.
Majority of collisions in this category where the motorcyclist is not to blame involve a failure on the part of the other motorist to see the motorcyclist. Where the motorcyclist has taken steps to increase their conspicuity by wearing high visibility clothing and or displaying headlights the chances of them being seen becomes greater and consequently collisions in this category become less likely. However research shows that such collisions are still common even where the motorcyclist has taken steps to render themselves more visible to other road users.
One might therefore ask “what else can a motorcyclist do to ensure they are not involved in a collision of this nature?” The only real answer is for the motorcyclist to regard themselves as not having been seen by the other motorist until there is some evidence to confirm that to be the case.
Take for example a car waiting at a “T” junction to the left ahead. What a motorcyclist approaching such a hazard should primarily aim for, is to give themselves an increase in the amount of time available in which to react should the car driver start to emerge from that junction. The first and most obvious action that can be taken is for the motorcyclist to reduce their speed on approach to the junction. Then assuming the position of other vehicular traffic allows it, the motorcyclist should consider altering their position in the road by moving further out from the kerb towards the crown of the road away from the potential danger of the car suddenly emerging. Care should be exercised when doing this so as not to encroach into the path of any opposing traffic. Once close enough to the junction the motorcyclist should seek to make eye contact with the driver of the car. This tends to give a good clue as to whether or not the car driver is likely to have seen the approaching motorcycle. If however the car driver is looking the other way and no such eye contact is made then the approaching motorcyclist should consider themselves as not having been seen by the car driver. Then by further reducing speed to a level that will enable the motorcyclist to react and stop should the car driver suddenly emerge from the junction, the motorcyclist can avoid becoming another statistic in collisions of this category.
By far the majority of motorcycle collisions occurring on bends are the fault of the motorcycle rider. In most collisions in this category the motorcycle leaves the bend to the outside of the curve and in the majority of such cases the motorcycle also falls onto its side either before or after leaving the carriageway.
The various causes of such loss of control on bends include overbraking, running wide due to travelling at too fast a speed for the bend concerned, under cornering, defective or contamination of road surface.
In countries where the rule of the road is to drive on the left, where a motorcycle runs wide on a right hand bend the machine and rider will then often go on to collide with whatever there is immediately beyond the kerb / road edge on the outside of the bend, such as walls, fences, hedges, trees and street furniture. Where a motorcycle runs wide on a left hand bend such loss of control often results in the machine and rider coming into conflict with opposing vehicular traffic with potentially catastrophic consequences.
Collisions on bends also occur due to poor positioning by the rider whilst negotiating the bend. This is particularly a problem with right hand bends where the rider attempts to negotiate a bend too close to the road centre line; then as he leans in order to negotiate the bend his upper body may overlap the road centre line thereby bringing him into conflict with opposing traffic. This is particularly a problem with inexperienced riders.
One of the major advantages of travelling by motorcycle is the ability to make good progress in heavy traffic particularly in urban areas. Motorcyclists are able to make use of the gaps between queues of stationary or slow moving traffic in order to arrive at their intended destination much sooner that drivers of other types of vehicle. However collisions can occur in filtering situations with blame being equally distributed between motorcyclists and other motorists. Where blame lies with the other motorist it is largely due to that driver not having seen the approaching motorcycle. This may be because they are not expecting motorcycles to be utilising such gaps between queues of traffic and consequently they fail to fully look towards such areas of potential danger before manoeuvring into the path of the motorcycle. Where the motorcyclist is considered blameworthy in filtering collisions, speed is often regarded to be the major contributory factor. By reducing speed whilst filtering through traffic, the motorcyclist is able to afford himself more time in which to react in the event that a motorist should manoeuvre into his path, thereby greatly reducing the chances of him being involved in a collision.
Collisions falling into this category are those where the motorcyclist can very much be regarded as the author of his own misfortune. Young male riders particularly when carrying pillion passengers often tend to ride beyond their capabilities in an effort to demonstrate to their passenger how good a rider they are. Similarly riders in groups may overestimate their own riding ability in attempts to impress their peers.
Additionally the various acts of practicing & performing for example wheelies, stoppies, burnouts etc on the public highway often end in disaster. Motorcyclists wishing to demonstrate how good they are and at the same time avoid becoming another statistic can nowadays do this quite easily by booking a track day, or if they are really a notch above the rest, join a club and get a race licence.
Collisions falling into this category include mechanical failure of the motorcycle, often due to lack of or poor maintenance. The failure of many component parts of a motorcycle can ultimately lead to the occurrence of a collision and the list of such parts is almost endless. However the most common of those neglected are tyres. It goes without saying that using a motorcycle with worn tyres on wet roads will result in lack of adhesion, and thereby heightens the risk of the rider being involved in a collision.
The fitting of non standard aftermarket parts can also result in the occurrence of a collision. For example changing sprocket sizes can give a motorcycle more acceleration, and the fitting of a racing throttle increases engine revs faster; however the rider needs to appreciate that as a result of such fitment acceleration may become harsh and it then becomes much more likely that the rear tyre will lose adhesion on a slippery road surface.
Finally the state and condition of the road surface can be the cause of collisions falling into this category. Although not normally considered to be the fault of the motorcyclist, keen observation by a rider can prevent him from becoming another statistic in such collisions. For example, keeping an eye out for diesel spillages where they are most likely to occur, i.e. at roundabouts, bus lanes, exit lanes from and roads adjacent to petrol stations etc. Also in times of austerity where many local authorities are spending less on highway maintenance the prevalence of potholes in the carriageway is more common. The motorcyclist with keen observation will give himself sufficient time to alter course, and so avoid riding into the pothole thereby eliminating the potential collision that may have resulted otherwise.