Nearly half of car drivers in crashes with bikes failed to look

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Nearly half of all car drivers in two-vehicle crashes with a motorcycle contributed to the accident by failing to look properly, according to a Government report published today.

In two-vehicle accidents involving a car and a bike, 47% of drivers contributed to the crash by failing to look while only 16% of riders made the same mistake.

In two-vehicle accidents involving a motorcycle and van, 50% of the van drivers contributed by failing to look while the figure for riders was again 16%.

The report cites ‘failed to look properly’ as the biggest cause of crashes, contributing to 35% of all road accidents. Exceeding the speed limit contributed to just 5% of all accidents. It was attributed to 3% of all vehicles involved in accidents and 4% of motorcycles.

Travelling too fast for conditions contributed to 11% of all accidents. It was attributed to 6% of all vehicles in accidents and 8% of motorcycles.

The report is a blow to recent claims from road safety lobbyists that ‘downsizing’ motorcycles by limiting power and speed would save ‘hundreds of deaths and thousands of serious casualties’ in ‘in quite a short time’.

The figures also seem in stark to contrast to previous claims, used to justify speed cameras, that speed is the biggest cause of crashes and contributes to around one-third of road accidents.

A ‘Think’ campaign document currently on the Department for Transport’s (DfT’s) website claims: ‘All reliable research into accident causation shows that the factors determining both excessive and inappropriate speed amount to about 30% of contributory factors in road accidents.’

It defines inappropriate speed as ‘too fast for the road and traffic conditions’.

A DfT spokeswoman said the document was first published in 2004 and that Think campaign material would be updated to “include and use” the new data.

She said that when fatal and serious accidents were looked at alone, today’s report, Road Casualties Great Britain 2006, showed speed as a much bigger contributory factor. Exceeding the speed limit contributed to 14% of fatal accidents and 7% of serious ones, according to the report. Travelling too fast for conditions contributed to 18% of fatal accidents and 13% of serious ones. The spokeswoman said that both factors added together were a contributory factor in 29% of deaths and 20% of serious injuries. She said: “We’re looking at educating against the serious injuries or the accidents that tragically kill someone.”

A summary in the report groups accidents caused by speed with accidents caused by other factors in order to claim: “Injudicious action (including going too fast for conditions, following too close and exceeding speed limit) was the second most frequently reported category, involved in 27 per cent of all accidents. However this increases to 34 per cent of fatal accidents.”

Road Casualties Great Britain 2006 reports that the rate of fatal and serious injury accidents for motorcyclists is almost the same as the average for 1994-1998, while motorcycle traffic has risen by 33% in the same period.

For all road users, deaths fell by just 1% from 2005 to 2006, while for motorcyclists they rose by 5%. Click here for the full report.

See the ‘Think’ document containing apparently contrasting claims here:

Steve Farrell

By Steve Farrell