Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Bikers at fault- gives all riders hope...?

The Age newspaper published [22/3/2004] a very interesting article outlining the Victoria Police Major Collision group inquiry into motorcycle accidents in Victoria:
Motorcyclists were at fault in three-quarters of fatal or near-fatal crashes involving them, according to a detailed Victoria

Police road crash investigation from May 2002 to April 2003.

The various motorcycle lobby groups (and of course seasoned campaigner, agitator and legend Damien Codognotto) will have a lot to say about this. Their argument will simply be "Yeah well cars caused them and drove off, meaning that a lot of single bike accidents have been recorded as biker's fault"

But I hold a different view. I think that bikers being at fault means that I, as a rider, am in charge of my own destiny. If three quarters of the current death rate was due to car drivers only, I would give it away. I am not taking a lotto ticket on my life, I would much rather "play" the stats. By this I mean I am taking steps to remove myself from the "likely to die" groups/demographics.

Further, I think the stats hold some secrets that reveal the age old "cars fault" argument to be false. Lets look at the stats:

[*note: Australian vehicles drive and ride on the left hand side of the road, so right hand corners are outside corners and vice versa for left!]
Inspector Geoff Alway, from the major collision investigation group, said the findings would not necessarily hold true for less serious accidents.

"With the 'at fault' we are talking about the major causative factor, but there's always more than one factor in accidents," Mr Alway said.

He said bike crashes were far more frequent on left-hand bends than on right-hand ones. On average, riders who crashed in left-hand turns were going 23 km/h faster than those who crashed on right-hand bends.

The huge over representation of accidents on left hand bends tells the tale. Left hand bends that are well cambered tend to encourage the average rider into going quicker than they would on a right hand bend. Over confidence=disaster. Anecdotally I have seen this in action:Road near Kinglake- CLICK FOR FULLSIZE
Case 1 Riding from St Andrews to Kinglake in January 2004, I was passed by a GSXR 750, 600 and Aprilia RS 250. They had been on my tail for a bit and were keen to speed where perhaps it was unwise (cops) and unsafe (cars, kids, etc). So I let them go. We left St Andrews proper and the really twisty bits began. The leader was on the 750, followed by the 600 and 250. I sat on the back of them as they slowed once in the hills. Despite being miles away from scraping their pegs on the road, they were all struggling with the tighter corners. The inevitable happened. On a left hand bend ALL THREE ran wide, onto the opposite side of the road, into the path of an oncoming car. It was a slow 25km/h posted corner, so the car was able to stop. Luckily. All three collectively crapped themselves, I passed them all and rode safely into Kinglake alone. They pulled up next to my bike and were sharing a nervous laugh about the incident. I'm no expert, but I know my limits and I know a bit about human nature. I gently pointed out a few things to them:
  • Never play follow the leader, ride your own bike to your own skill level.
  • Do a track day, training day, or have someone who knows what they are doing teach you.

  • There was NO excuse for running wide- ALL three bikes could have made the corner in question without going slower- they just didn't know how to get their bikes right over. An Aprilia RS 250 can corner like a rollercoaster, but this guy went wide and then put his goddamn foot down like a motocrosser!. Inexperience, group stupidity and bravado nearly killed all three of them.

    Case 2 In a group ride to Eildon, an experienced club rider went past me on his GSXR 1000 around the outside of a bend, on the white double lines at warp factor 9. I thank my lucky stars I was well within my comfort zone, because two corners later he went wide on a left hand bend and sideswiped a car. Bike written off, he's unconscious, and for a while there I wonder if he's going to make it. Three months of rehab and he's out of hospital. Over confidence, showing off, ego, and blind faith combine. It put me off club rides because the collective stupidity can be infectious if not headed off by cool, wise heads.

    In my time riding I've only seen one guy go off on a right hand bend, and he wrote of his bike and bruised his ego only. No oncoming cars in the left hand verge!

    Back to the article!
    Excessive speed and alcohol and drug consumption were found to be key elements in causing serious motorcycle crashes.

    The study raises the possibility of more interceptions and drug testing of riders in the early morning. This follows the finding that riders injured in all collisions between midnight and 6am tested positive for alcohol or drugs.

    I've read this before, and it makes sense. If you have an accident where it was technically the drivers fault, and you were over the (alcohol) limit, does it matter whose fault it was technically? If you were sober you might have avoided the incident altogether. As for speed- I don't think speed on it's own causes accidents, but combined with any one of alcohol, drugs, inexperience, stupidity, bravado, ego, fear of being last, etc and well, you know the rest.
    Solution: Don't drink at all before a ride. EVER. If you do get caught, I want you to lose your license.

    Unlicensed riders accounted for one in five motorcycle deaths. Learner and probationary riders were involved in a fifth of crashes. Almost half the crashes were at weekends.
    Get trained up dude!
    The unlicensed stat has been bandied about by the MRA and others as proof that the TAC increase here in Victoria was unfair given that unlicensed rider deaths and injuries were being paid for by legal riders. And fair enough too. In St Kilda recently the Vic Police were pulling over EVERY rider for a license check and rego label check. I have no problem with this at all. Some riders complained about being victimised, but you can't argue victimisation by the TAC and blame unlicensed riders on the one hand, and then complain about license checks on the other.

    Inexperienced riders (as outlined in case 1 above) are always a problem. Groups of inexperienced riders are the biggest worry of all. Their collective stupidity is your typical mob mentality and needs to be tackled by experienced riders- head on. Mentoring is the best way to turn a young, dangerous rider into an old, experienced and uninjured rider.
    Solution: Get your license if you want to ride. Police keep checking licenses. Older riders mentor younger ones. Even riders you don't know.

    The bikes were evenly divided between small, medium and large engine capacities.

    The focus on engine capacity, limits, Learner approved motorcycles etc are worthy, but do not go to the core issue of turning young, careless riders to experienced older riders. I am not a fan of legislation, but I do think that young riders should ride with older ones. A trial of this could produce interesting stats. I would like to see the MRA and Ulysses clubs get into the training centres and aggressively recruit new riders for a trial of a mentoring program. I think this alone would make a huge difference to the stats of young riders.

    Blaming car drivers is just spectating.

    The issue of mentoring is one I will address separately, as it opens a whole new can of worms...

    Bikers' fault in most crashes - National - www.theage.com.au
    Motorcycle training in Victoria: Evaluation of rider training curriculum in Victoria (Monash Uni Report)
    Turn Theory Into Reality With Stay Upright
    Australian Superbike School
    posted by thr at 4:57 pm


    Anonymous learner rider said...

    thanks, this is a great post for learner riders. I've been looking for this sort of info and it's surprising how hard it is to find good statistics on motorcycle (or any vehicle) accidents. Will probably reblog this one on my learner rider blog.

    1/23/2008 3:09 pm  

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