When pondering a question such as the relative safety of various modes of transport, it’s tempting to fall back on personal experience and anecdote and in the case of using a motorbike both of these will tend to indicate that it is in fact more dangerous than driving a car. If you want to establish the objective truth, however, it’s vital to dig a little deeper and unearth some verified facts and figures. The perhaps surprising thing is that if you do this you’ll find that anecdote, personal experience and assumption are, in this case at least, perfectly correct.
According to statistics compiled and released by the government, 362 motorbike riders were killed on UK roads in 2011, whilst 5247 were seriously injured. Shocking though these figures may be (representing a death virtually every single day), they can’t be used on their own to ascertain the relative safety of the motorbike.
Comparing the motorbike with other modes of transport paints a fuller picture. Although motorbike riders only make up 1% of road traffic, they or their passengers represent a fifth of all fatalities on the road. In simple terms, this means that if you were riding a motorcycle between 1999 and 2010 you were 61 times more likely to be injured to some degree than other road users. Looking at the likely extent of any injury, it’s salutary to note that a motorbike rider involved in an accident is 40 times more likely to suffer a fatality than a driver of a car.
There are various reasons for these figures, ranging from the inherent vulnerability of a figure on a motorbike and the lack of safety features such as seatbelts, airbags and crumple zones, to the manner in which car drivers sometimes tend not to notice motorbikes. What the situation adds up to is a clear message that motorbike riders should take their own safety very seriously, in terms of the equipment they use, the clothing they wear and the way in which they ride. It’s not enough to trust your own competence, you’ve have to be fully alert to the possible incompetence of some other road users.