The dynamics of motorcycle crashes revealed

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Published on 9 March 2020 by Mike Waters

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Filed under categories: Features, The world of motorcycling

The findings of a global survey of 1,578 motorcyclists from 30 countries have been published in a comprehensive report and they call a frequent assumption about the analysis of crashes involving motorcycles into question. 

janfillem Cz SNZZyHgI unsplashAbout the survey
In 2019, riders of motorcycles, scooters and mopeds who had been involved in a collision over the last ten years were invited to take part in the survey which looked at the dynamics of motorcycle crashes.

The riders, who replied to the survey in eight languages, came from a range of ages and motorcycling experience as well as different levels of skills and training. Their crash details brought stories of personal experiences which included treatment of their injuries, pillion riders and the dynamics of their crash. This information, given in their own words, allowed a deeper insight into the dynamics of crashes and the circumstances which could not have been captured in a usual ‘tick box’ survey.

Unlike many academic studies, the research involved riders bringing their personal experience and expertise. Riders understand motorcycling in way that is quite different than that of academia, where statistical analyses of large databases such as police reports and hospital records have displaced research that requires in-depth crash scene investigative knowledge.

The fact that the authors of the report are all motorcyclists and are therefore aware of the potential risks that riders face was fundamental in the analysis of the responses. This meant that they personally understood the issues that riders face in traffic and out on the road.

royal enfield SlF40JIv82s unsplash 1Evidence from the riders’ responses
What became evident from the findings of the survey was that orthodox motorcycle accident analysis appears to be ‘looking the wrong way’. Typically, motorcycle accident studies have identified human error as the major cause of collisions. Other reasons considered are the lack of training, sports bike riders taking unnecessary risks and riding at high speeds.

However, the evidence provided in this report demonstrates that the correlation between speed and the seriousness of injuries is random. In other words, the speed of a motorcycle when it crashes with another vehicle, piece of road infrastructure, object or animal does not necessarily determine the severity of the injuries of the motorcyclist.

This finding is important because it allows analysts and researcher to refocus their attention on what the evidence in this study provides. It also found that the trajectory of the rider post-crash and what they hit have far more importance than speed in terms of the type and the severity of injuries. This is an area of research that needs further attention and the report recommends further research that has been drawn out from the conclusions. 

The authors – Elaine Hardy, Dimitri Margaritis, James Ouellet and Martin Winkelbauer – would like to thank all of the riders from all over the world who took part in the survey and made the report possible, and especially those who shared their personal traumas and those of their loved ones. Finally, profound gratitude is owed to all to those others who shared their expertise and advice as well.

The full report can be found here.

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