More to Bike Crashes than Mid-Life Crises

Posted: May 27, 2010 by BlogMaster in Bike/Rider Safety
Tags: ,

Motorcyclists, it hardly needs to be said, are not every other road user’s favourite breed. Whether it’s the lunatic behaviour of a few, the outlaw traditions attached to the fringes, or the simple envy of those caged in behind a steering wheel, they are frequently treated as an irritation on the road.

As a result, their horrific accident rate compared to other road users is seen in some circles as a case of them authoring their own misfortunes.

Tasman’s police chief, Superintendent Gary Knowles, will have stoked that view with his comment that “more and more” of the motorcyclists crashing on the region’s roads are middle-aged men unable to cope with either their bikes or the riding conditions.

Mr Knowles’ observation obviously contains more than a grain of truth, judging by reports of some recent crashes around the place; and the wider accident statistics back up the view that there is a trend for older men on motorbikes to come to grief.

Perhaps there is also an element of provocativeness on Mr Knowles’ part, knowing that the police’s usual cautionary messages about speed and respect for the conditions are too easily ignored unless they are accompanied by a more eye-catching line.

The wider reality, though – as he will surely be well aware – is that while the “middle aged men” trying to ride off the “mid-life crisis” he talks about may suit some interpretations of the accident-prone motorcyclist, at least as much of the problem can be sheeted home to other road users, namely the inattentive, careless or dangerous driver.

One Canterbury-based researcher says that something like 40 per cent of accidents involving bikes are caused by motorists.

A graphic illustration of that side of the problem was reported in Saturday’s Nelson Mail. A report of a court case told of a driver who reversed up a country road towards a rise, leading to a near-fatal collision with a blameless motorcyclist who rode across the rise at the wrong moment.

As any new motorcyclist quickly learns, the first rule of the road is “trust no-one”. Sadly, he or she may also soon discover that an abundance of caution is no match for a surplus of idiocy, not when that idiocy is encased in a tonne of steel and glass.

Last year’s proposal of greatly increased ACC levies on motorbikes, to reflect the greater dangers and more serious injuries associated with them, boiled down to a philosophy that motorcyclists should carry the can for their higher-risk mode of travel.

The motorcycling lobby fought a more-or-less successful resistance then, but it has a long and uphill battle ahead of it in continuing to resist such attitudes.

// Whether it can rely on arguments of fairness to carry it through is not guaranteed, and its cause cannot be helped if motorcyclists keep killing and maiming themselves through inexperience or risk-taking.

Mr Knowles certainly has a point with his warning that anybody who takes to the road on a motorbike unprepared for what might lie ahead is a nasty accident waiting to happen. But so too is the motorist who fails to watch out for other, more vulnerable road users.



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