Factors that cause motorbike accidents


This section deals with motorbike accidents and the factors leading to them


Motorcycle Accidents

Hurt Study Visibility

Riding School
Hard braking
The Solid Factor Protective gear
Pre ride check
Blind corners Surface Hazards
Quiz Question.You are most likely to have a motorbike accident less than 10 km from your home and in the first 12 minutes of your ride.

** True/False **

Quiz Question.In the urban environment motorcyclists are the cause of their own accidents

** True/False **


This page is an overview of motorcycle accident prevention and should be read in conjunction with the page called 'The Ride' where safe motorcycle riding is discussed in more detail. This page is based on the Hurt Study and a few other surveys conducted by motorcycle magazines.

Per mile travelled, the number of deaths on motorcycles is about 26 times the number in cars.1

The Solid Factor

Television often shows guys coming off their motorbikes on the track. Most times they dust themselves off and walk away. There is a truth here - it is not the coming off your motorcycle that does the damage. Injuries occur when . . .

1) You hit something solid.

2) You are trapped between the motorcycle's solid mass and something else that is solid - like the road surface or another vehicle.

The message here is simple. When the bike goes down or is about to hit something - get away from it! This is why mini bus taxis are dangerous (OK, we can write a book here!). The vehicle is high, flat and long and thus effectively blocks any escape route. A modern sedan car however is low and with its curves and smooth lines usually offers an escape route over the top leaving the motorbike behind.

NoNoZone.gif (7077 bytes)

Notice how this rider is crossing into your lane. When approaching a blind curve avoid this area where oncoming vehicles (bikes or cars) can cut into your path. 

Choosing a line that avoids this area also results in a better, faster line through the corner as a whole as it avoids an early entry.

From "Proficient Motorcycling" 
David L Hough

** Top of Page **


Factors that work for you in potential accident situation

High visibility from the front is critical

Approved helmets effectively prevent disabling and fatal head injuries

Full face helmets offer better protection than those that offer less coverage

Helmeted riders are less likely to sustain neck injuries

An expensive helmet does not offer better protection than cheap DOT approved one

Attending a riding school does improve your chances in avoiding an accident

Regular practice of swerving techniques is important as bikers often steer the wrong way in an accident situation

Regular practice of  hard braking techniques (this means the front brake and the back brake together)

Suitable protective gear does make a big difference

Bikers with off road riding experience are less likely to be involved in an accident.

Wearing bright, solid coloured riding gear avoids accidents

Riding in Traffic

The ability to read the traffic and then take a defensive line is a critical survival skill. Follow this link for more



The Hurt Study

All bikers should read the full version of the 'Hurt' Study. In it 900 motorcycle accidents and 3 600 traffic accident reports were analysed. A very readable copy is available at the BMW Motorrad website. Go to the discussion forum and open the article about factors that cause accidents (Find links page from the Navigation Page)

Factors often present at the scene of an accident

In the urban environment as much as 75% of accidents involve a motorist who although facing the motorcycle, does not see it and cuts in front of it. 

Multi-vehicle accidents often occur when the biker had the right of way

Many accidents could have been avoided if the rider had been properly trained in hard braking techniques (this means the front brake!)

In non-fatal accidents, studies have shown that the most permanent injuries are sustained to the legs, ankles and feet.

In one study of fatal accidents, 41% of the time the motorcyclist ran off the road, 18% either the motorcyclist or another vehicle ignored a  traffic control, 11% were head-on collisions, 8% a car turned in front of a motorcycle and 7% a motorcycle went down in a roadway 2 .  This study in particular hints that riders are more responsible for their own safety than is generally accepted.

24% of all fatally injured motorcycle riders in 2002 did not have valid licenses to operate their motorcycles (USA)

A thorough pre ride check is an important aspect of accident prevention. An amazing number of mishaps occur as a result of trying to ride off with the disc lock still in place! This can result in a very expensive repair bill  . . . both to yourself and to the bike!

Intersections are dangerous for motorcyclists especially when an oncoming vehicle wants to make a  right turn in front of the motorcycle (read 'left turn' for USA)

Often the car (in red) does not see the oncoming motorcycle (in yellow)

For the first 10km from home you are at your most vulnerable especially if you do not ride every day.

Chopper-type (cruiser) motorcycles are more likely to be involved in an accident.

Experience is choosing an appropriate line is an important skill (See diagram opposite)

You are more likely to have an accident in the first six months or during your second year of motorcycling.

Fast, smooth and safe cornering is a vital skill which should be learnt at a bike school or race track

Factors that work against you in potential accident situation

Excess speed in an inappropriate situation is a major cause of accidents.

Surface hazards e.g. gravel, oil etc is a major cause of single vehicle accidents.

Alcohol is a major factor in fatal accidents

Bikes with modified exhaust systems are more likely to be involved in an accident (do loud pipes save lives?)

Stray animals are a significant factor.

A cold rider is as dangerous as a drunk rider (RIDE magazine Dec 2003)

Not wearing a helmet. Helmets are 29 % effective in preventing a motorcyclist's death and 67% effective in preventing brain injuries.1 

Conclusion (Personal)

Bikers are more in control of their own safety than is generally accepted. Responsible riding habits, professional training and the correct use of safety gear goes a long way to ensuring many years of fulfilling riding pleasure.

1) National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2003. Traffic safety facts, 2002. Washington DC. US Department of Transportation

2) Preusser, DF; Williams, AF; Ulmer, RG; 1995. Analysis of fatal motorcycle crashes. Accident Analysis and Prevention 27:845-51

Useful link http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/pedbimot/motorcycle/

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