Who causes bike accidents? Is it the bikers or the other road users?
The answer to this question differs depending on who you ask. A landmark study in 1981, undertaken by Prof. Harry Hurt of the University of South California, concluded that two-thirds of multi-vehicle accidents involving motorcycles were caused by the other vehicle violating the bike’s right of way. On the other hand the government of Queensland, Australia, found that in 83% of fatal accidents in Queensland in 2006, the biker was at fault. The jury, it seems, is still out.
This is a debate that will probably rage on for all time, but in the meantime we read and hear about bike fatalities with depressing monotony. Those of us who ride regularly are all too familiar with the risks that we face: cars ignoring traffic lights and stop signs, cars changing lanes suddenly without indicating, drivers chatting on cell phones instead of focusing on the road. These actions, and other similar ones, pose a mortal danger to bikers. But instead of apportioning blame, we need to focus on the real issue: what can we do to increase our own safety?
The answer is to assume full responsibility for our safety. It is not difficult to identify the risk factors, because bikers fall victim to the same basic traffic violations over and over – the car turning in front of you at an intersection, the sudden U-turn across your path, the quick lane-change that cuts you off. We know these things are likely to happen, so why not make provision for them? Bike safety is as much a factor of rider attitude as it is of bike awareness – you have to be prepared to take steps to ensure your own safety before you can expect other road users to do so.
In a world in which there is an increasing tendency to shift blame and avoid responsibility for one’s own actions, we need to take the road less travelled. Yes, the motorist ignored the stop sign, but if I had slowed down while approaching the intersection, I would have had more time to react. Yes, the motorist changed lanes without indicating, but if I had anticipated his intention, I wouldn’t have had to brake so hard to avoid hitting him. Shifting the blame won’t solve the problem, and solving the problem can help to keep you alive.
At Think Bike we have the benefit of the collective experience of thousands of active bikers, and we will mine that experience to bring you relevant, practical and usable safety advice in this column. But all the advice in the world will mean nothing if you are not willing to take responsibility for your own safety. Our campaign encourages motorists to “Think Bike”. By the same token we encourage you to “Think, Biker.”