RoSPA – 9. Conclusion & Policy Statement


9.1 Motorcycling is a popular form of transport, and seems to be increasing after a long period of decline, especially amongst riders of large, powerful machines. However, motorcyclists are also one of the most vulnerable road users, and the number killed rose by 10% between 1998 and 1999. Unfortunately, travel data about motorcycle use is fairly sparse, and does not capture the full level of motorcycling. There is also very little published data to indicate the level of motorcycle use between different age groups and on different types and sizes of motorcycle. Such data would be very useful in estimating accident risk and rates.

9.2 Research indicates that the prime cause of most motorcycle accidents is the actions of other road users, especially car drivers. Failing to anticipate the presence and likely actions of a motorcyclist, and emerging from a junction into the path of a rider are common errors. However, it is also clear that a large proportion of motorcycle accidents on rural roads are primarily the fault of the rider, and often involve the rider losing control on a bend or overtaking another vehicle.

9.3 Most motorcycle accidents occur on urban roads at relatively low speeds, but 60% of fatalities happen on non-built-up roads.

9.4 The number of motorcyclist accidents and casualties is still far too high, and improvements are possible in several areas. Not enough is known about the reasons for motorcycle accidents, nor about the effectiveness of safety measures. The DETR is soon to begin research into the behavioural aspects, and other relevant factors, of motorcyclist accidents.

9.5 Age, Experience and Training
Younger motorcyclists have more accidents than older ones and consequently the law restricts the size and power of motorcycles that may be used by novices, and requires them to take training before riding on the road. However, there has been relatively little research to evaluate the effectiveness of CBT and other training schemes, nor to conclusively establish whether trained motorcyclists are safer than untrained ones.

9.6 The DETR is shortly to commission research into the effectiveness of motorcycle training. RoSPA supports the Government’s intention, stated in the Road Safety Strategy, to further develop Compulsory Basic Training, and to consider introducing different training courses for different types of motorcycle.

9.7 ‘Born Again Bikers’
At the other end of the spectrum from novice riders are motorcyclists, usually aged 30 years and over, who have retained a full motorcycle licence and re-start motorcycling after a break of many years (commonly termed ‘Born Again Bikers’). It is feared that such riders are the reason why motorcyclist casualties amongst 30 – 59 years olds are increasing. In addition to lacking experience in riding in traffic due to a long period of absence from motorcycling, such riders are often not experienced in riding the type of powerful motorcycle they can now afford to purchase.

9.8 Rider assessment and development courses for motorcyclists have been developed by RoSPA, Bikesafe 2000 and others, and such courses should be promoted. A minimum syllabus should be agreed, and research into their effectiveness conducted. In addition, education and publicity measures should be targeted at ‘Born Again Bikers’ to raise awareness of the risks involved and the need for further training.

9.9 A system to ensure that motorcyclist instructors are trained, tested and monitored to minimum, national standards (in the way car driving instructors are) is needed, as is a statutory register of motorcyclist instructors.

9.10 Fitness to Ride
Riders of two-wheeled motor vehicles are probably more susceptible (than drivers) to anything that impairs their riding ability, especially alcohol, drugs and medicines and fatigue. However, there is no evidence that motorcycle accidents involving these factors are more prevalent than such accidents involving drivers.

9.11 Alcohol
There is little difference between the levels of drink driving by car drivers and drink riding by motorcyclists. However, 9% of motorcyclist fatalities are over the drink drive limit. Alcohol reduces the ability to concentrate, slows reaction time, creates a feeling of over-confidence and increases the risk of being involved in an accident. Motorcyclists should not drink alcohol and ride.

9.12 Drugs and Medicines
There is no evidence to suggest that this is a greater problem for motorcyclists than for drivers. Motorcyclists should not ride if they feel affected by medicines (including some everyday ones) or illegal drugs, or if they are taking medicine or undergoing any medical treatment which advises against driving or riding. Appropriate guidance from medical practitioners and pharmacists, and warning labels on medicines, are essential. Positive advice about alternatives to riding and advice to return to the GP if side-effects are experienced are just as important as warnings not to ride if affected by a medicine, or by an illness. Current developments in roadside tests for drugs and impairment should apply as much to motorcyclists as to drivers.

9.13 Fatigue
A tired motorcyclist is more likely to have a crash. Motorcyclists may be more susceptible to fatigue because of noise, vibration and exposure to weather conditions. It is more difficult for motorcyclists to find a safe place to stop and sleep and so they may be more tempted to keep going on long journeys. Riders should avoid starting a long distance ride after having worked a full day, and should take a break about every two hours. Riders who begin to feel tired should stop somewhere safe, walk around in the fresh air and take drinks containing strong caffeine. If tiredness persists, they should find somewhere safe and take a short nap, or if necessary, to stop overnight.

9.14 Helmets
Motorcycle helmets are a proven, effective safety measure that reduce the risk of receiving head and brain injuries in an accident. All motorcyclists should wear an approved motorcycle helmet (preferably one with a British Standards kitemark) whenever they cycle. It is inadvisable to use tinted, scratched or damaged visors, goggles or glasses, especially in the dark or when visibility is seriously reduced. Research is underway to identify improvements to motorcycle helmet design and standards.

9.15 Protective Clothing
A series of European standards are being developed for motorcyclist protective clothing to prevent or reduce laceration and abrasion injuries and prevent or reduce impact injuries, such as fractures and broken bones. It is also essential that motorcyclist garments are comfortable to wear, do not impede the movements of the rider and provide protection from the elements. These Standards will help motorcyclists distinguish between clothing that offers minimum levels of protection and garments that may look similar but which would offer very little protection.

9.16 While riders of motorcycles may be willing to wear protective clothing, it seems less likely that moped and scooter riders will do so. These riders tend to ride in their normal clothes which offer little protection from abrasion and impact injuries.

9.17 High Visibility Clothing
Protective clothing that contains fluorescent and reflective material will increase the conspicuity of the rider, and hence help to reduce the likelihood of an accident occurring in the first place. Research is needed to establish the most effective type and format of high visibility garments for motorcyclists.

9.18 Other Road Users
There is a need for improvement in the attitudes and behaviour of drivers (especially car drivers) towards motorcyclists. Drivers tend to be inattentive towards motorcyclists and fail to anticipate their presence or actions. Some research indicates that most motorcycle accidents are primarily caused by other road users. It is essential that drivers are aware that motorcyclists may be present on any road, at any time. The slogan “Think Bike” is as relevant today as it ever was. Further research into the behavioural aspects of drivers in regard to motorcyclists is needed to help develop appropriate counter-measures.

9.19 Motorcycle Engine Size
Modern motorcycles are often very powerful machines, capable of rapid acceleration and extremely high speeds. As with cars, RoSPA does not believe that there is any justification for producing such powerful vehicles which can so easily reach speeds of more than twice the maximum speed limit. There is some evidence that more powerful motorcycles have a higher accident risk, and in particular are associated with a higher proportion of accidents and casualties on non-built up roads, at night, and while going ahead on a bend or while overtaking. A Feasibility Study into the development of intelligent speed adaption devices for motorcycles is needed.

9.20 ABS for Motorcycles (ABS = anti-lock braking systems)
Braking, especially in an emergency, is one of the most difficult tasks of riding a motorcycle. Errors in braking a motorcycle may easily lead to skidding, capsizing or the vehicle becoming unstable. Incorrect use of motorcycle brakes is considered to be a factor in many TWMV accidents. ABS brakes for motorcycles have been commercially available on a limited range of large and expensive motorcycles for many years. Similar systems are now being developed for smaller motorcycles.

9.21 Daytime Running Lights
It is been suggested that motorcyclists should be required to use their headlights during the day in order to increase their conspicuity and hence reduce accidents. Lighting Regulations currently permit, but do not require, the use of daytime running lights by any vehicle, not just motorcycles. However, research into daytime running lights has produced contradictory results, and there are indications that headlamps on many motorcycles may be inadequate. This suggests that there would be little benefit in motorcycles using their normal headlights during the day. Specifically designed daytime running lights (separate from the normal headlights) may be more effective.

9.22 RoSPA would not support the mandatory use of daytime running lights for motorcycles, unless convincing evidence of its effectiveness in reducing motorcycle accidents can be produced. However, motorcyclists may voluntarily choose to use their headlights during the day to increase their conspicuity, and the Highway Code advises that using headlights during the day may increase motorcyclists’ conspicuity.

9.23 Leg Protectors
Leg injuries account for approximately 60% of serious injuries to motorcyclists, and frequently lead to permanent disability. Leg protectors have been suggested as a way of reducing such injuries. Unfortunately, research has resulted in contradictory claims for the efficacy of leg protectors, with some studies suggesting that they would reduce leg injuries, but others suggesting that they might even increase the risk of other injuries. Further research and development is required to establish the most effective design(s) for particular types of motorcycles.

9.24 Airbags
Airbags in cars are designed to absorb impact, whereas airbags for motorcycles need to absorb (or partially absorb) impact and influence the trajectory of the rider (to raise the rider’s head above the edge of the car roof and to direct the rider’s body upwards to reduce the impact against the side of the car). Initial research suggests that appropriately designed motorcycle airbags may be beneficial in reducing injuries to motorcyclists, but further development is required to produce effective, practical and affordable systems for different types of motorcycles.

9.25 Road Surface
Being two wheelers, motorcyclists are more susceptible to difficulties and hazards created by the design, construction, maintenance and surface condition of roads. It is essential that the particular needs and vulnerability of two-wheelers are considered carefully by highway designers, engineers and that appropriate road maintenance is maintained.

9.26 Accidents on bends on non-built-up roads, and night time accidents are a particular problem for motorcyclists. Design solutions to reduce these risks should be considered, especially at sites, routes and areas where accident data indicates that there is a motorcycle accident problem

9.27 Road Markings
Raised road markings can also cause problems for motorcyclists, either by affecting their stability or by retaining water on the surface, which results in a loss of adhesion between the tyres and the road surface. The use of bitumen can cause problems for motorcyclists, especially when the road surface is wet, and therefore, alternative repair substances need to be developed.

9.28 Traffic Calming
Traffic calming features need to be effective in reducing motorcyclists’ speed without inadvertently causing additional hazards to two wheelers. Traffic calming design guides provide a range of options for achieving this balance.

9.29 Street Furniture
Street furniture can hinder visibility and cause serious injury to motorcyclists who collide with objects on the roadside. It should be as far back from the road as possible, and where necessary protected by appropriate fencing (that does not itself cause an injury hazard to motorcyclists).

9.30 Crash Barriers
Crash barriers are a concern for motorcyclists. Exposed parts of support posts concentrate impact forces on a motorcyclist’s body, and the edges of horizontal beams or wire rope can cause laceration injuries. Crash barriers should be designed and tested with both two- and four-wheel vehicles.

9.31 Bus Lanes
RoSPA would not support use of bus lanes by motorcyclists unless appropriate trials, properly evaluated by Before and After studies, indicated that this would provide positive safety benefits for motorcyclists without unduly increasing risk for other road users.