Saturday, July 08, 2006

Rider Alert!

Next time, also wear a jacket and a helmet...

A few months ago, we saw a summary of the latest MAIDS (Motorcycle Accidents In Depth Study) report, which is funded by the Association of European Motorcycle Manufacturers (ACEM), and is perhaps Europe's most thorough study of motorcycle accidents. Based on investigations of 921 motorcycle accidents (including 103 fatalities) in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain, the study throws up findings that could be useful for two-wheeler riders everywhere – despite obvious differences in machinery, state of roads, traffic behaviour patterns and various other factors.

According to the study, passenger cars are something two-wheeler riders must be really wary of – most collisions happen due to car drivers failing to see riders at all. But don’t blame everything on the driver – rider inattention was deemed to be the cause of accidents in almost 11 percent of the crashes.

How about speed, the universally-maligned factor when it comes to mishaps? According to MAIDS, more than outright speed, it’s the sudden stop, which gives little or no time for the driver of the following vehicle to react, that causes accidents. However, the study does note that big speed differentials – going significantly faster or slower than surrounding traffic – is a major factor that was responsible for causing 18 percent of all crashes studied. Also, as you would expect, severity of injuries goes up sharply with crash speed, so think before winding open that throttle.

In the study, nine percent of helmeted riders who crashed lost their helmets during the crash – either because they didn't fit properly or because they weren’t fastened properly – so buckle up! And if you’re thinking of drinking, then riding, you’re an idiot – the MAIDS study showed that five percent of those who crashed had been drinking.

There are other factors to consider. Tyre failure caused 3.6 percent of the accidents), brake failure caused 1.2 percent of the crashes, and tricky weather was deemed the culprit in 7.5 percent of the cases. Keep your eyes wide open while crossing intersections – that’s where over 50 percent of all accidents happened. MAIDS also says that untrained riders are more likely to panic and crash, while riders who had undergone some kind of formal training were more likely to take some avoidance action.

Speed restrictions are easy to clamp on, but they don’t always work. Two-wheeler manufacturers and government bodies need to work together, promote rider safety training programs and perhaps even reward riders who go for these training programs, by having policies which dictate lower insurance premiums for properly trained riders.

Sure we love our motorcycles and there is absolutely no need to panic and start thinking of giving up riding. Just be aware of the dangers that exist and on the road, be supremely alert, ride defensively and be safe. We owe it those who love us.

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