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How we can prove Mellor wrong

Published: 24 June 2001

WITHIN days of David Mellor’s comments, the Transport Research Laboratory published a report into the real reason why people are dying in bike crashes.

And, Mr Mellor, it’s nothing to do with riders exercising their right to ride on the outside of a queue or getting up your nose by passing your chauffeur-driven motor.

The TRL looked into police reports of 717 fatalities which involved a motorcycle – and the blame lies with riders on more occasions than we would like to learn. Its stats show that other road-users are responsible for 56 per cent of all crashes involving bikes. But police blame us for 67 per cent of crashes which result in a fatality. The report found that no other vehicle was involved in 29 per cent of fatal crashes – and that a further 41 per cent involved cars or larger vehicles.

The surprise news is that 60 per cent of those crashes involving other vehicles were considered to be the fault of the motorcyclist. But what that means is that we have more control over our own destiny. If 90 per cent of us were being knocked off by muppet car drivers, we couldn’t do a thing about it. But we can do something about our own riding.

Each investigating officer completes a form after a fatal accident, and there’s room on it for one " precipitating factor " – the key action or failure that led to the impact. That is seen as the answer to the question " what went wrong? " On top of that, the police officer can record four " contributory factors " which also played a part in the accident.

Of the crashes on non built-up roads where bike riders were considered to be to blame, 28 per cent were considered to be down to loss of control – the precipitating factor – because of excessive speed – a contributing factor. On built-up roads, 23 per cent are down to that reason.

In 5.9 per cent of crashes which were the rider’s fault, the cause was put down to failing to avoid an object in the road because of excessive speed. That means the TRL figure puts 44 per cent of bike fatalities down to excessive speed.

When bikers were blamed for the accident, police reports put their speed at an average of 57mph. But that speed dropped to 43mph in the crashes which were the other vehicle’s fault.

The age group which is represented most in fatalities is from 20 years old up to 29. Riders in that age group are involved in 48 per cent of fatal crashes.

The study also splits the statistics into capacity of bike. There is a big problem with overtaking for middleweight machines from 201cc-650cc, possibly down to riders misjudging how much power they have available. And with bikes over 650cc, it is considered a bigger problem that we lose control on bends and winding roads.

We can all strive to make sure 100 per cent of fatal crashes are not our fault. We can avoid being a statistic.

Kevin Birch, from ROSPA’S advanced riders’ association, said: " Safety organisations like ours do have some people who knit bobble hats and sew anoraks, but most of us are about trying to ride as safely and enjoyably as possible. Those two factors are not mutually exclusive. "

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