Well at last the bike season has started! I know we had a couple of decent weeks in May, but all my contacts in the motorcycle industry have reported a stalled season until now and thankfully it has got nothing to do with Brexit. Whilst retailers and manufacturers have suffered with every rain cloud meaning that that fair weather biker has delayed a little longer in buying the latest kit, as a service of distress I am actually delighted that the last months graph has been downward.
It is difficult as a motorcycle accident lawyer and passionate biker to revel in increased workflows when every case opened is another tale of distress where a member of my fraternity has been injured, often catastrophically. But a career spanning nearly 30 years gives me the succour that I have helped restore lives and I have retained many clients not just as clients but also as friends.
So as I swelter in the thirties, and having been up to the Ponderosa café on the Horseshoe pass this weekend with thousands of leather clad colleagues, I twitch whenever the phone rings. The purpose of this article is to make riders just think a little before heading off into North Wales this weekend for a blast in the sun. My starting point for sobering reading is a dated but relevant report from RoSPA into motorcycle accidents in 2006, the link for which is attached to the text below.
This report was compiled to advise the then government concerning motorcycle safety policy and if you read it dispassionately you can see how ministers took steps to change the motorcycle test and imposed policing policies that many of us have thought were discriminatory rather than benevolent in intention.
Starkly we have to accept as bikers, particularly in my area, that 29% of fatal accidents were “motorcycle only” and 67% of those were through rider error. That is a staggeringly high percentage and, as I have said, it is sobering. Excessive speed on bends and overtaking feature strongly as causes.
As a bike accident lawyer I only really get involved, obviously, where there is the potential for blame to be cast on another road user or occasionally on those responsible for a defective road surface, so the figures of self-inflicted disaster come as news to me as well and as a biker have the same effect as they will on you.
We are, by our nature, risk takers yet are vastly less likely to be drink-riding than our four wheeled brethren. So why, especially when we have this foresight, do we succumb to the last minute overtake or the desperate desire to get that knee down on our favourite bend and expose ourselves to such risk? I actually can’t really answer that and struggle at dinner parties and the like to persuade others that biking is in profit on the risk-reward ratio.
The risk associated with our beloved riding is one we are obviously prepared to accept whenever we go out and I “get” that. But look further down the report and you will see that in there is an educated estimate that of the 578 motorcyclist deaths, 93 of those could have been avoided if the riders had spent £150 more on a more advanced helmet.
I know £150 is a lot of money but to give yourself a one in six better chance of surviving it is a no brainer (if that is not a completely inappropriate way to put it!)
So there it is. Statistically, as the sun shines, more of us are tempted onto the roads and take the inevitable and undeniable risk associated with riding, but there are massive reductions in this risk that we can make by not overtaking ridiculously, not attacking bends as if we were Rossi (because let’s face it, we just ain’t) and by telling everyone that for your birthday and Christmas you want them all to pool together to buy the best helmet you can muster.
And that is only to take account of the risks we present to ourselves. The report also makes it abundantly clear that most bike accidents are caused by other road users particularly in urban situations and refers to a revealing study from the University of Queensland that concluded that as humans we cannot avoid the optical illusion of underestimating the approach speed of smaller objects such as motorcycles.
So there it is again. There is scientific theory behind the “sorry mate, didn’t see you” accident scenario that really should be called the “sorry, I underestimated the approach of your motorcycle due to the time to arrival illusion” scenario, but I doubt that will catch on. So even if you see the whites of the driver’s eyes, he may have unwittingly and unintentionally have underestimated your approach.
This article was prompted when I was at the Ponderosa (to which, by the way, I recommend the trip) with my daughter and we were discussing air ambulances, when she said she’d always pondered why people climb Mount Everest and put the rescue services at such risk. A valid point and I would just remind us all, myself included, to think before we ride and whilst we ride to do what we can to reduce risk and avoid us being another statistic now the weather has finally given us the opportunity to get out there.
Lampkin & Co Solicitors
Office address: Newgate House, Broughton Mills Road, Broughton, Chester, CH4 0BY. Telephone: 01244 525725. Vat registration number 736 401 842.