The most common motorcycle accidents and how to avoid them
Unfortunately, motorcyclists remain one of the most vulnerable road users. We understand that some accidents are unavoidable, but the majority can be prevented. Here, we list the most common motorcycle accidents and how to avoid them.
While we make up only around 1% of the traffic on British roads, motorcyclists account for a worrying 19% of all road user deaths . On average, a biker or cyclist is killed or seriously injured on British roads every hour, with bikers being the most vulnerable road user group in relation to fatalities per billion miles.
This won’t come as a surprise within the biker community, who have long called for more to be done for the safety of riders, none more so than Motorcycle Action Group. More often than not, these accidents are in no way shape or form the fault of the motorcyclist.
As motorcyclists ourselves, we understand the challenges and dangers that bikers face every day on the road. This is why we have written a list of the most common types of motorcycle accidents we see when dealing with injury claims. While some of these accidents are unavoidable, we hope shedding some light on them and providing useful tips may be the difference between a life-changing accident and riding away unscathed.
If you have been injured in a motorcycle accident through no fault of your own, get in touch to see if SorryMate can help.
Collisions at Junctions
An average of 30 bikers are killed or injured in collisions at junctions, each day . Many accidents occur at T-junctions where a driver pulls out in front of an oncoming motorcyclist only to be met with the classic “Sorry Mate, I Didn’t See You”.
The Government’s THINK! Campaign is going some way towards changing that, but despite the stickers and posters reminding people to look for bikers at junctions, the issue still remains.
As you approach the junction, slow down and look for any tell-tale signs that the driver has not seen you or is going to pull out in front of you:
- Are they edging out, ready to go?
- Are they only looking the opposite way to which you are arriving from?
- Which way are they turning?
- If the junction is open and you can see the car coming from a few yards away, are they slowing down?
We would recommend taking all of this into account and calculating the risk that they might pull out. Be ready to take evasive manoeuvres, or sound your horn if they do indeed start to pull out.
Collisions while overtaking
Another common type of motorcycle accident occurs while overtaking. 15% of motorcyclists were recorded as performing an overtaking manoeuvre when they were involved in a collision, compared to just 2.6% of cars. 
Overtaking is a basic skill for bikers and requires the ability to judge speed and distance, whilst also considering your own riding capability. Having said this, even BSB-level riders wouldn’t overtake at certain times. These include:
- When approaching bends, junctions, lay-bys, pedestrian crossings, hills, or dips
- When you do not have a clear view of the road ahead and everything around you
- When the vehicle in front is driving erratically
This is especially true for single-lane rural roads where you cannot see any oncoming traffic very well.
You will also need to consider the driver of the car. They may slow down when you perform the overtake, or they may do completely the opposite, and accelerate.
We would advise extreme care when overtaking, and always bear in mind that it is worth getting to the destination a little later, but in one piece.
Accidents while filtering
Many bikers filter through stationary or slow moving traffic and, we must reiterate, it is perfectly legal to do so. There are a few issues that cause accidents while filtering, however:
- The close proximity of the car and motorcycle
- The reduced space a bike has to manoeuvre
- Car drivers not anticipating anyone will pass them in slowed or stopped traffic – they don’t have the ability to filter, so they are probably not thinking about it
The Highway Code advises motorcyclists to always position themselves in a way that other drivers can see them in their mirrors. You should also keep your speed low, depending on the circumstances and space. You may need to perform an emergency stop if a car pulls out in front of you.
You should be looking in front of you to see if there is a junction coming up. Stationary or slow cars will regularly flash other vehicles to turn in front of them onto a perpendicular road. If you are moving through traffic and the turning car cannot see you, it is likely a collision may occur.
Finally, always be aware of other motorcyclists or cyclists who might also be filtering. If you decide to pull out, also check the relevant shoulder.
Being hit while stationary
Being hit while stationary can happen due to a whole of host of reasons, none of which make the outcome any more pleasant. It is also massively dangerous and can cause fatalities.
We advise bikers to use stationary cars as their own “crumple-zone”. If you and another vehicle are stopped at traffic lights, slowly pull in front of the car, perhaps giving a little nod of recognition as you go past. This means you have a buffer between yourself and any high-speed car who has forgotten to brake.
If there are no cars to use as a crumple-zone, there are still a few options to you:
- Stop to the side of the lane, rather than the centre
- Tap your brakes to bring attention to the driver behind you
- Keep your eyes on your mirrors, so you can pay attention to what is coming from behind you and be prepared to take evasive action
The increase of bikers being doored has led many industry leaders to call for more to be done in promoting “The Dutch Reach” in the UK. This type of accident happens when a parked car (or even a car in traffic) opens their door without first seeing if a motorcyclist is approaching.
The onus here is on the biker to be mindful of parked cars. We would advise to not ride between stationary traffic and parked cars on the side of the road. This is also because of pedestrians walking out and cars pulling out, not just doors flinging open.
The door width between parked cars is often called “The Death Zone”. Avoid this zone as much as physically possible.
Other drivers’ blind spots
A lot of the above accidents happen when the biker is in the drivers’ bling blind spot. Car drivers are taught to look over their shoulder when making a turn, but they often do not and instead rely heavily on their mirrors (sometimes not even on their mirrors!).
It is wise for bikers to consider different blind spots for different vehicles. These include:
- The areas directly next to a car, van, or truck
- The area in adjacent lanes near the back of a car, van, or truck
If you cannot see the driver’s face, the likelihood is that they cannot see you or your bike. Try to move into spaces where they can see you as soon as possible, while bearing in mind other road users.
You can also increase your own visibility by wearing bright, reflective clothing and safety gear. If a vehicle is edging towards you without noticing, you could also use your high beams or horn to alert them.
Poor road surfaces
Motorcycles are smaller and more lightweight that cars, and can’t just shake off poor road conditions like potholes or slippery surfaces. Bikers are much more vulnerable to injury if they hit a bad bit of road. Some of these poor road surfaces could be:
- Rough or bumpy roads
- Cracked roads or potholes
- Uneven road surfaces
- Loose gravel or rubble
- Debris in the road
- Oil and diesel spills
- Faded pavement markings
- Obstructed signs
- Malfunctioning traffic lights
- Poorly lit roads
- Muddy roads
Bikers are often at risk of “capsizing” because of these road defects. Unfortunately, hitting a bad bit of road is often a very last minute occurrence, and as such, it is hard to predict and hard to avoid.
We would advise leaving plenty of room between you and the vehicle in front.
Poor weather conditions
Similar to poor road surfaces, wet and slippery roads are a massive cause of biker injuries. Poor weather (and we get a lot of that in the UK) can be responsible for a whole host of motorbike accidents.
Sadly, there is not much we can do about the weather. There are, however, steps we can take to ensure we are safe whilst riding in rain and cold weather. Preparation is key. Keep yourself warm (cold will affect concentration) and visible to others. Make sure your lights are clean and in good working order before you set off. We advise checking your tyres on a regular basis to ensure you have enough tread, slowing down during rain or ice and keeping extra distance from the car in front of you. Manhole covers and painted road markings can also become super slippery in the rain, so try to avoid them.
Remember visibility could be impaired for all other road users too. Keep extra distance between you and other vehicles.
Loss of control
Leading industry experts estimate that around 20% of motorcycle accidents are caused by the rider losing control, without any other road user being involved. These types of accidents are associated with rider error, occur on mostly rural roads, and have been linked to excessive speed, alcohol, overconfidence, and reckless behaviour.
The research also suggests that new riders have relatively more single-vehicle crashes, which is to be expected.
In addition to excess speed and inexperience riders comes the “safety in numbers” paradox. When riding out as a part of an established group, motorcyclists can tend to have their mind switch off or wander, simply watching fellow riders instead of paying attention to what they are doing. We would advise that each biker in the group understand riding etiquette, and knows how to ride in a staggered formation, to increase vision and also move bikes out of line with each other.
It goes without saying, always stick to the speed limit and, while we encourage bikers to enjoy their ride, don’t get too cocky – you are a second away from tragedy.
Another one that goes without saying – don’t drink and drive. A motorcyclist is 2.7 times as likely to be involved in an accident when under the influence of alcohol than a driver.
Alcohol reduces the ability to concentrate, hinders reaction time, and also creates over-confidence.
We will repeat – don’t drink and ride.
Ask yourself if you are safe to ride before you set off – do you feel ill? Have you taken any medication that might affect your riding skills?
Keep a snack and bottle of water handy for a long journey, again hunger/thirst may reduce concentration.
Don’t ride if you are too angry, depressed or stressed to keep a focus on the road.
How can SorryMate help you?
We hope our common motorcycle accidents and how to avoid them blog has taught you something today. As always, a happy rider is a safe rider.
If you have been knocked off your bike, it can often feel like there is no one to turn to, to help you get back on. SorryMate are there for bikers who need legal advice when they have been knocked off their bike by a car, injured themselves due to potholes or poor road surfaces, or when they have been involved in an accident with other road users or pedestrians.
We are bikers, just like you, and understand the distress an accident can have. We want to make our roads safer, and we go after those who don’t.
SorryMate deal exclusively with motorbike accident compensation claims. We are made up of a team of specialist personal injury motorcycling lawyers, registered with the SRA, that can help you recover your deserved compensation.
Find out today if you have a claim for compensation by completing an enquiry form or by calling 0800 6 300 301.