Other Road Users - Accident Prevention Policy

Motorcycle UseMotorcycle AccidentsRidersRoad User BehaviourMotorcycle DesignThe Environment

Most motorcycle accidents involve a collision with another vehicle, usually with a car, but large vehicles also feature strongly. Although, there is much that motorcyclists can do to avoid such collisions, the behaviour of drivers is equally crucial.

There are many accidents in which the motorcyclist is using the road responsibly and safely, but is put at risk because a driver fails to do the same. Drivers need to be aware of the characteristics, needs and vulnerability of motorcyclists.

The in-depth study of motorcycle accidents55 showed that right of way violations accounted for about 38% of motorcycle accidents. They were usually the fault of the other road user, who was usually a driver. Most occurred at T-junctions, although they also happened at crossroads and roundabouts.About two-thirds of these types of crashes, where the rider was not to blame, the driver failed to see a rider who was in clear view (and was often seen by other road users). In about 12% of these cases, the driver failed to see the motorcyclist even though s/he was wearing high visibility garments or using daytime running lights.
Earlier research9 reached similar conclusions, finding that nearly two-thirds (62%) of motorcycle accidents were primarily caused by the other road users. Half of the accidents were caused by car drivers, and 10% by pedestrians. Two-thirds of motorcycle accidents where the driver was at fault were due to the driver failing to anticipate the action of other traffic.

A great deal of emphasis has been placed on the need for motorcyclists to be as conspicuous as possible with day time running lights and riders wearing fluorescent and reflective clothing and an increased frontal area56. Other research57 has concentrated on the attitudes of drivers having found that drivers who are involved in collisions with motorcycles have less familiarity with motorcycles. Even with their increased popularity, motorcycles are still comparatively uncommon on our streets and drivers fail to consider them when making decisions at junctions.

Research58 has identified a third factor involved in this type of collision. When waiting at junctions, drivers estimate the time-to-arrival for smaller, closer vehicles such as motorcycles as later than for larger, further away, vehicles such as cars and vans. This research suggests that drivers will underestimate how close a motorcycle is and pull out into smaller gaps than they would for a car or van. This optical illusion has serious consequences for motorcyclists, and drivers need to be made aware when at junctions, not only to look out for motorcycles but, to assume that the motorcycle they see is closer to the junction than they appear to be.

The Department for Transport has commissioned research into drivers attitudes and skills in relation to motorcyclists.

When overtaking a motorcyclist, drivers should give the rider the same amount of passing space as if overtaking another four-wheeled motor vehicle. Drivers of large vehicles in particular need to give motorcyclists plenty of room when overtaking them, as two wheelers are easily affected by side wind and the draught created by overtaking vehicles. Two wheelers may need to suddenly avoid a pot hole, debris or spillage on the road, and drivers should be prepared for unexpected movements, and keep a safe distance between themselves and motorcyclists.

Other Road User Behaviour - Conclusion

While motorcyclists can help themselves by increasing their conspicuity, it is essential that drivers are aware that motorcyclists may be present on any road, at any time.
Given that motorcyclists are more difficult to spot, drivers must be aware of the need to look carefully for them. The slogan “Think Bike” is as relevant today as it ever was. Government road safety publicity campaigns rightly target drivers with key messages to raise their awareness that they need to look out for motorcyclists, especially at junctions.

Further research into the behavioural aspects of drivers in regard to motorcyclists is needed to help develop appropriate counter-measures.