Viewers wrongly told ‘running off on bends’ is most common bike crash as BBC muddles data

Published: 02 November 2012

A BBC road safety documentary wrongly claimed ‘running off on bends’ was the most common motorcycle accident, based on an apparent misunderstanding of data.

BBC2’s How Safe Are Britain’s Roads? claimed: ‘Two-thirds of motorcycle deaths happen on rural roads. Running off on bends is the most common type of accident.’

Questioned about the claim, a BBC publicist pointed to the number of riders who were ‘going ahead’ on a bend when they crashed, according to an annual government report. But the Department for Transport says this doesn’t mean they ran off the road, only that they were travelling forward on a bend at the time of an accident.

The DfT’s report, Road Casualties Great Britain 2011, says four times as many crashes happened when riders were ‘going ahead other’, meaning simply travelling forward while not on a bend. That includes bike crashes caused by car drivers pulling out on the rider, one of the most common types. It is not clear why BBC programme makers apparently ignored this. 

The BBC publicist said: "We accept there was an error in the interpretation of the statistics in this section of the programme and our language could have been more precise."

Over 1.6million people watched the programme, the first in a two-part series, broadcast on Wednesday.

Nich Brown, General Secretary of the Motorcycle Action Group, said: "The biggest single group of bike crashes is collisions at or near a junction - 14,369 in 2011. This type of collision is usually with a car and the driver's failure to see is typically the primary cause."