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Near Miss Study of Motorcycles

October 25, 2009

Near Miss Study of Motorcycles

A Study of Motorcyclists Northern Ireland in Southern Ireland and Great Britain
October 2009
Elaine Hardy, PhD – Right To Ride Ltd

PDF 48 pages:

During the months of May through to July 2009, a survey of 257 motorcyclists in Ireland (Northern and Southern) and Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) was carried out through the internet. The purpose of the survey was to find out from motorcyclists, whether they had experienced situations in which they believed they could have crashed and/or been injured (but were able to keep control of their motorcycle) as well as the type of situations they had experienced.

Overall, 78.2% of the respondents gave details of their experience of near miss situations. The findings of the survey have identified situations that appear to be more prevalent for motorcyclists, which are the potential for collisions between motorcycles and other vehicles, followed by problems with the conditions of roads and road infrastructure.

A focus group was conducted to gather the views of motorcycle experts including trainers, road safety officers, user representatives and a police officer (interviewed separately). The focus group discussed the results of the survey and also considered issues relating to road safety and casualty reduction including training, road infrastructure, legislation and enforcement and advertising campaigns to reduce casualties and the impact of manufacturer advertising on motorcyclists.

The findings of the survey and focus group aim to identify situations that appear to be prevalent in near miss events to support and compare to analysis of accident causation and prevention, but also to identify underlying factors that have up to now, not been the focus of discussions, such as the variations in training in different countries as well as the impact of both positive and negative advertising on rider behaviour.

Page 29-31:
4. Summary and Conclusions

Motorcycle accident causation has until now focused on post crash analysis and only recently researchers have commenced making enquiries into pre-crash experiences. This survey has aimed to analyse the major reasons for near miss accidents and has focused on skidding, loss of grip, loss of control and braking and swerving as a direct result of experiences due to road conditions or due to other vehicles entering the space of the motorcyclist.

Inevitably, the responses from the survey indicate that the riders reacted to situations which according to them, was mainly due to circumstances beyond their control. The objective of the focus group was on the other hand, to look behind these experiences to consider the underlying reasons for these incidents and ways in which to overcome or recognise them in order to reduce or prevent further incidents.

4.1 Survey

The average respondent to the survey was male, aged 40, who had completed a course of basic training and had ridden a motorcycle without a break for 10 years; between 4,000 to 6,000 miles per year. The respondents indicated that 45.1% used their motorcycle for personal leisure and 38.9% to commute to and from work.

The respondents were asked whether they had experienced accidents (or crashes) either with or without injuries over the previous 24 months. Overall, 22.6% (n.58) of all respondents, replied that they had crashed (with no injury); of those who replied (n.51 in total), 49% (n.25) had experienced a single vehicle crash and 51% (n.26) had experienced a crash with another vehicle (six did not answer). However, of the 38 who replied that they had crashed with an injury, 62.9% (n.22) replied that they had experienced a crash with another vehicle compared to 37.1% (n.13) who had experienced a single vehicle crash (4 did not answer).

23.7% (n.61/249) respondents replied that they had taken part in an advanced training course while 38.9% (n.100/251) replied that they had taken part in an assessment course (e.g. Bikesafe). Of these, both groups indicated that c.20% had crashed in the previous 24 months but had not sustained an injury, while 15-16% had sustained an injury.

The “near miss” questions gave a selection of 26 potential answers divided into four categories: skidding, loss of traction, loss of control and braking or swerving. A further question asked the respondent to comment on any other “near miss” experience.

From the findings from this survey, 75 riders indicated that their motorcycle skidded and of these 34.7% (n.26) indicated that this was due to “to slippery or loose road surface (e.g. paint or worn asphalt), loose gravel” while 28% (n.21) indicated that this was “due to oil spillage on the road”

53 riders replied that they had lost the grip of their motorcycle and 45.3% (n.24) of these stated that this was due to potholes or grooves in the road; in equal measure 17% (n.9) commented that their loss of grip was due to lack of focus and travelling too fast for the conditions.

56 riders replied that they had nearly lost control of their motorcycle and of these, 32.1% (n.18) stated that this was due to road markings or over-banding), a further 30.4% (n.17) indicated that this occurred at a curve and a further 26.8% (n.15) indicated that this occurred at a junction.

165 of the 201 (82.1%) riders that replied to these questions answered that they had to either swerve and/or brake because of another vehicle or pedestrian entering into their space. In fact 40.6% (n.67) answered that they had to swerve and/or brake because another vehicle had entered their path from either a side road, private driveway or opposite direction. This was followed by 15.2% (n.25) who stated that the other vehicle had changed lanes on the motorway in front of them and 13.9% (n.23) indicated that the other vehicle had crossed over into the rider’s lane and was coming towards them.

The respondents were then asked to describe in their own words any other near miss experience. Of the 201 riders who replied that they had a near miss accident, 36.3% (n.73) answered this question19. The responses to this question supports the replies to previous questions by highlighting that the majority experienced a near miss due to the actions of other vehicles or due to road conditions, however 7.7% of the respondents also accepted that their own actions were the cause of the near miss.

4.2 Focus Group and Interview

All agreed that the findings from the survey regarding near miss accidents were a reflection of what they all would have expected to see. Specific comments were made about road maintenance and collisions with other vehicles. In particular inadequate repairs and road maintenance in general was considered to be an important factor for motorcycles. Over-banding was considered a cause of crashes due to loss of control. Comments were made about sub contractors not adhering to road maintenance regulations when repairing roads in Southern and Northern Ireland. Another comment referred to the IHIE guidelines in Great Britain for road engineers, but queried whether these guidelines were actually followed by contractors.

Other factors including stone chippings (loose gravel) and slippery road surfaces due to paint on the road, were all considered a problem for motorcyclists and the cause of skidding and loss of grip. The view of the participants was that there is a systemic failure on the part of the authorities in all three countries to provide adequate training and relevant testing for motorcyclists and car drivers. They all identified specific inadequacies in the training and testing programmes for motorcyclists and car drivers as a major cause of casualties on the roads.

The 2nd European Driving Licence Directive was discussed in detail and the differences in the interpretation of this directive between Southern Ireland and the UK in general were highlighted. The consensus was that advanced training was only taken up by a minority of people, partly due to cost, but also because it appears that advanced training is not recognised as being important by drivers and riders.

The majority found that road infrastructure has an impact on motorcycle casualties and identified certain aspects of road infrastructure and design such as the camber on the road, crash barriers, the placement of signage at roundabouts and junctions, and also road paint creating slippery surfaces. The lack of coordination between the various government agencies and road authorities as well as insufficient budgets, were highlighted as contributors to poor road maintenance management. The importance of the responsibility of riders for their own safety was emphasised.

Most felt that policies on road safety tend to concentrate on car drivers more than motorcyclists, pedestrians and cyclists (vulnerable road users) and the group held the view that all road users need to be considered in any road strategy or road safety policy.

The consensus of the group was that the type of enforcement used by the police needed to consider all situations and to use discretion, however some felt that changes in policies and regulations as well as lack of funding for traffic police has meant that enforcement is now used to raise money through cameras and targets of tickets.

The group was divided in their opinions about the success of hard hitting videos and advertisements shown on television. Some felt that the immediate effect was that viewers changed channels and that this form of advertising is not successful in reaching out to the targeted audience and that advertising of that nature needed to have a message that is factual, relevant and educational. The others felt that although the effect of the video might encourage people to switch off, the message still remains in their minds.

All participants indicated that the advertising of performance motorcycles by manufacturers and magazines had a negative effect on rider attitude and behaviour and that
this influence was an underlying cause of motorcycle crashes.

In conclusion, “near miss” reporting offers authorities, road safety organisations, and researchers the opportunity to develop clearer and more meaningful strategies to reduce road casualties, through further research and even by developing a system of self-reporting.

Any motorcycle strategy aimed at improving road usage in general and at reducing road casualties, needs to have an holistic approach and include all stakeholders, such as experienced motorcyclists and trainers, because they are on the front line and have the knowledge of why motorcycle crashes happen in the first place. These active and experienced individuals within the motorcycling community and beyond are able to provide expert advice to the government in order to find solutions to reduce the number of motorcycle casualties.

The concept of Stakeholder collaboration is perhaps one of the more positive messages from the European Union, but also a priority of the International Transport Forum/OECD Workshop on motorcycle safety held in Norway in 2008: “Cooperation – Working together to achieve common objectives”.

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