How Dangerous Is Riding A Motorcycle?

Motorcycle Danger Statistics [1]

With improvements in motorcycle safety gear advancing every year, motorcyclists are now able to be better protected than ever before. Alongside improved qualifications, training, and awareness campaigns the number of fatalities in the UK, according to government statistics, fell from 585 in 2004 to 285 in 2020. 

According to those same statistics, the number of non-fatal but serious and slight motorcycle traffic collisions has also dropped significantly from 2004 to 2020:


Why is Motorcycling Thought To Be Dangerous?

Riding a motorbike may be considered more dangerous than driving a car simply because you are more exposed, are not encased in a steel cage, are not strapped in with a seatbelt and, because they have only two wheels compared to four, are less stable.

However, statistics on motorcycle casualties released by the Department for Transport show that seriously injured motorcycle casualties have fallen since the 1980s. 

Motorcyclists account for a very small portion of overall traffic, meaning they are considerably overrepresented when looking at the total number of accidents, perhaps more so than any other road user group. 

Overall, a long-standing downward trend in motorcycle fatalities has emerged since 2004.

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Is It More Dangerous To Ride A Motorcycle In The Rain?

When the weather deteriorates, driving any vehicle comes with an element of increased risk, but riding a motorcycle in such conditions requires focus and attention. For example, heavy rainfall may affect your visibility and minimum braking distances. 

Maintaining your field of view is also paramount when it comes to riding a motorcycle. You must be able to use your spatial awareness to judge your distance from other vehicles and anything negatively affecting your field of vision will increase the risk of an incident occurring. 

All public roads will have some debris, mud, oil and fuel on top of them. When it rains, particularly after a prolonged dry spell, these substances can mix and make the road more slippery. [2]

Riding in the rain without the correct protective clothing is also unwise. If your clothes are not waterproof and become soaked, you potentially face a lot of discomfort, and could become cold. Contending with being cold and wet while riding a motorbike is no fun, and dangerous, distracting you from concentrating and staying safe. Keep your body warm with good quality waterproof gear, particularly jacket, trousers, gloves and boots.

Why Motorcycles Are Safe

As mentioned, a downward trend in motorcycle fatalities has been steadily happening over recent years. Technological advancements on bikes such as anti-lock brakes, "always on" lights and improvements in tyre performance have all helped improve rider outcomes.

Manufacturing of biker clothing has evolved beyond the stereotypical leather jacket and open face helmet. There is a vast array of clothing now available to riders, all specifically designed with safety and style in mind. Riders also now have the possibility of wearing an airbag which inflates and protects them in the event of an accident.

There are also software solutions that riders can download to their mobile phone which detects when an accident may have occurred and can alert people to the exact location so as to provide faster response times for first responders.

Lastly, riders now have to undergo more rigorous training than ever before and are taught about potential road hazards to look out for. The best way to protect yourself in an accident is to avoid it happening at all!

How Dangerous Are Motorcycles Compared To Cars?

In the event of an accident, bikers are obviously more vulnerable because there are fewer protections for them than there are for car drivers. However, there are several safety advantages that bikers might enjoy over their four-wheel friends.

Firstly, bikers have a much better field of vision. Cars often have numerous blind spots which must be consistently monitored. Also, car passengers or interactive technologies could distract drivers from concentrating on the road. Bikers know that they are more vulnerable, so tend to concentrate on their safety.

Motorcyclists are also smaller and more nimble. This can be both a positive and a negative, but they may be able to avoid a collision as a consequence of their smaller size.

Motorcyclists can make themselves more visible to other road users by wearing high-vis safety gear. This way, they are less likely to be involved in an accident, especially at night.

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Some Common Causes Of Motorcycling Accidents:

Collisions While Overtaking

Motorcycles are compact vehicles that can snake between stationary traffic and overtake other drivers: this is called 'filtering' and is safe when the rider is highly observant.  The nature of motorcycles means that this technique is not afforded to larger vehicles. However, filtering comes with its own risks. Collisions while overtaking might happen when other cars, vans or trucks do not see the motorcyclist's approach and manoeuvre to change lanes or make a turn. The ability to make quick, safe judgements about overtaking is a skill that can develop with experience and further training.

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Negotiating Bends

When driving around bends, some motorcyclists may misjudge the speed and curve at which they should be turning or exiting from the turn. Any miscalculations may lead to a collision with other drivers or objects on the road.  Attempting a turn at too great-a-lean angle could result in a "low side" accident where the motorcycle falls into the corner because either the front or rear wheel loses traction. Alternatively, a "high side" accident may occur when exiting a corner and applying too much power. The rear wheel temporarily loses grip, then rapidly regains it when the motorcyclist reduces power, causing the bike to upright very quickly and the rider to be ejected from the bike and away from the corner, usually over the handlebars. High side accidents can be very dangerous.

Loss of Control

One of the most crucial parts of being a safe motorcyclist is maintaining a sense of control over your vehicle. Poor decision making, for example riding under the influence of drugs or alcohol can significantly impair your ability to brake on time, spot dangers and respond effectively.  Or, you could face road conditions that make handling your bike hazardous. Encountering potholes and slippery surfaces may be all out of the driver's hands: this is why it's vital to remain as vigilant as possible.

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How To Be a Safer Motorcyclist

Complete More Training!

To drive a motorcycle in the UK, you must take a CBT test, also known as Compulsory Basic Training. Once completed, you will qualify to ride a bike with Learning plates.
You must pass two additional tests to ride a moped without L plates (providing it's no more than 50cc and below 4kw) and carry a passenger. However, if you need more training, take a bike-safety course.
For example, BikeSafe is a police-led initiative to improve awareness of the importance and value of progressing to accredited post-test training.

Always Ride Defensively

Motorcyclists tend to ride defensively because they know they are more at risk of harm in the event of an accident. Efficient defensive driving will help to reduce the risk of collision.
It is critical to anticipate the actions of drivers close to you. While in an ideal world everyone would know the rules of the road, you cannot assume that all drivers will act with the safety of others in mind.
Observe and use your mirrors to spot hazards. The quicker you identify scenarios that might put you at risk, the faster you can adjust.

Wear Protective Clothing

If you are involved in an incident, protective clothing may prevent you from suffering serious injuries.
It is illegal to ride a motorcycle without an effective helmet which is compliant with minimum safety standards. If you want to be extra safe on the road, invest in high-quality, abrasion-resistant, waterproof riding jacket with back protection, trousers and boots. They may one day save your life!



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