Motorcyclists: The Most Vulnerable Road Users

18th February 2020 Personal Injury

Motorcyclists in the UK are 66 more times likely to die on the road than car drivers, making them the most vulnerable type of road user, new data has shown. 

According to figures from the Department for Transport, the fatality rate per billion passenger miles for motorcyclists was 119.7, compared to just 1.8 for car drivers. 

The second-most vulnerable road users were pedestrians, with a fatality rate of 33.7, while cyclists were third-most vulnerable at 29.7.

Despite reported casualties from motorcycle accidents in 2018 being at their lowest since 1979, the number of motorcycle fatalities are at their highest level since 2015 at 354. 

Furthermore, while overall motorcycle casualties have fallen by almost 17% over the same time period (19,259 in 2015 to 16,209 in 2018), motorcyclists are more likely to suffer more serious injuries compared to other road users. 

Serious injuries amongst motorcyclists accounted for 33% of the total number of casualties in 2018, compared to 21% for pedal bike incidents. 

The number of slight injuries reported in motorcycle accidents stood at 10,967 in 2018, accounting for 65% of the total casualties.

There is such a stark difference between the fatality and accident rates among motorcyclists compared to other road users that it’s clear that, despite efforts, road safety for bikers is not improving. This suggests that motorcyclists are putting their lives in danger every time they head out on the road, and this should not be the case.

In this blog post, we take a look at why motorcyclists are the most vulnerable road users and what can be done to improve their safety.

Why are Motorcyclists the Most Vulnerable Road Users? 

Even though motorcycles are quick and easily manoeuvrable, they are at the highest risk from other drivers as they easily fit into their blind spots, while newer models tend to be quieter, making it more difficult for drivers to hear them.

However, the dangers to motorcyclists do not end there. Many issues arise from a lack of proper road maintenance, potholes for instance, which increases the risk of serious accidents that are unique to them. 

We carried out research into the number of potholes in two of the largest cities in the UK - Manchester and London. There are currently 6,783 potholes in Manchester - a 19.5% increase in the number reported in 2018 - and around 34,500 in London.

In addition to motorcyclists being placed in the most danger, when they are involved in an accident, they are more likely to suffer a serious - or even catastrophic - injury, as they lack a protective layer between them and other vehicles, or the road itself.

What Can Motorcyclists Do to Stay Safe on the Road?

Road safety advice for motorcyclists includes the following:

  • Never leaving home without your helmet to protect your head if you’re involved in an accident. Also, the protective shield will protect the face from wind, dust, rain, insects and debris
  • Make sure to wear safety gear from head to toe - opt for leather or denim pants and a jacket to completely cover the arms and legs, boots that cover the ankle and riding gloves to provide a firm grip 
  • Wear bright or reflective clothing to improve visibility at times when it might be hard for other road users to spot you 
  • Stay alert by avoiding riding when drowsy
  • Follow all rules of the road and don’t take any unnecessary risks
  • Maintain a two-second gap between you and the vehicle in front (increase to four seconds in inclement weather)
  • Watch your speed as the faster you go, the less time you have to react. Average stopping distances from motorbikes are:
    • Travelling at 30mph - 23 metres
    • Travelling at 50mph - 53 metres
    • Travelling at 70mph - 96 metres
  • Make sure your motorbike is fit for the road by keeping it clean and carrying out simple maintenance checks regularly

What Can Other Road Users Do to Help Motorcyclists Stay Safe on the Road?

Advice for other road users includes:

  • Give motorcyclists the time and room they need - especially when overtaking them - as it can be difficult to judge their speed and distance
  • Always check your mirrors for your motorcyclists, particularly when turning left and at roundabouts
  • Take extra care when pulling out of junctions by checking and rechecking for motorcyclists
  • When carrying passengers, encourage them to alert you to the presence of motorcycles as they have a different range of vision
  • Ensure mirrors are in the right position before setting off on a journey so you are able to fully check blind spots
  • Use caution when opening the vehicle door, especially in areas with heavy traffic

What to Do if You’ve Been in a Motorcycle Accident

If you are involved in an accident while on your motorcycle, there are a number of things you should do if you can. Once you’re safe and any immediate medical needs have been attended to, you should try to:

  • Take down the names, addresses and telephone numbers of anyone who witnessed the accident
  • Photograph the scene, including what caused the accident and the damage to any vehicles involved
  • Contact the police and report the accident as soon as possible. This should be a priority if the driver flees the scene

Taking these steps can help you to make a claim for compensation should the accident have been caused by another road user.

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Paul Breen is a Partner located in Manchesterin our Personal Injury department

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