How the road surface can cause motorcycle accidents

road surface safety pothole

Published on 24 September 2016 by Robert Drane

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Filed under Category: Tips and advice

Top image for illustrative purposes only (see credit at bottom of page). It is not one of the road surface issues discussed in this article.

The integrity of the road surface is of critical importance to all road users, but perhaps more so to motorcyclists. A catastrophic loss of control due to a road surface defect is unfortunately commonplace.

Motorcycle Law Scotland explains road surface defects and the importance of gathering evidence...

It is difficult in any vehicle accident to keep your wits about you and if you are injured you will be distressed and suffering pain, making it difficult to concentrate on gathering evidence. However, evidence does need to be collected as soon as possible if you are to stand any chance of success in a claim against the Roads Authority or any other body.

In August 2009 a motorcyclist lost control on a road surface defect at point of entry into a roundabout on the main A76 road from Kilmarnock to Dumfries. This was a trunk road subject to weekly inspections. The defect caused the motorcycle to track and as such the motorcyclist sustained serious injury.

He was unable to take photographs of the defect until eight weeks post accident and the first available Google Earth images were taken in October 2009. However, at the time of the Court hearing in June 2013, the defect was still in existence and an expert civil engineer confirmed the defect was actionable (in other words, it should have been repaired) and constituted a hazard, particularly to motorcyclists.

He went as far as to say the defect had in all probability been in existence for some time prior to the accident.

There was conflicting evidence regarding the existence of the defect at the time. The judge found against the motorcyclist and stated he was not satisfied the defect existed at the time of the accident as the first available images were eight weeks post accident. This cautionary tale highlights the need to gather as much evidence as possible at the accident scene and make sure accurate reports are made to attending police officers.

surface before


surface after



Common road surface defects: roadworks, signage and patch repairs

There are significant problems encountered by motorcyclists faced with extensive gravel from spray application or patch repair works, especially at corners. If you have an off, you must try and take photographs or video evidence and, if you can’t, make sure any colleagues you are with do.

You must also report the incident to the responsible authority and, if injuries are sustained, ensure the police attend and provide an accurate description.



road surface overbandingBe aware of certain types of defect. The motorcyclist who came off as a result of overbanding was initially charged by the police.

A second motorcyclist had an accident on the same defect weeks later, but thankfully the attending officer was a motorcyclist and took steps to have signage erected until the offending tar join could be removed. The motorcyclist was successful in his claim for damages.


Diesel Spills

diesel spill on roadA diesel spill arises from a negligent act and the offending party will not necessarily be traced. The Motor Insurers Bureau will consider claims for damages arising from diesel spills under the Untraced Drivers Agreement, but:

• You must inform the police immediately and certainly within 14 days (five days for property-only claims).

• If you or someone in your party has been injured, ask the police to attend the accident scene and record the extent of the diesel spill.

• Inform the local council of the diesel spill and keep a note of that record, including the name of the person you spoke to.

• Obtain details of any witnesses at the scene and ask them to confirm the presence and extent of the diesel spill.

• Take photographs and measurements of the diesel spill.

The MIB will consider your claim if the incident has been reported to the police within 14 days and the spillage is ‘large’. What constitutes ‘large’ can be difficult to define, but generally if the local authority is called in to cleanse the road or if the police officers in attendance consider the spillage a hazard, then that should be sufficient.


Always seek professional help and advice from a specialist motorcycle lawyer if you have been injured as a result of a road surface defect. It seems to many of us that the Roads Authorities inspect and repair with drivers in mind and not two-wheeled road users.

Motorcyclists, of all road users, rely heavily upon the integrity of the road surface and should be afforded more consideration by Roads Authorities and others responsible for inspection and maintenance.


motorcycle law scotland

Main image: Newport Whitepit Lane pothole, author Editor5807. Cropped and resized. Original available here, under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported licence.