Two stories reveal why so many bikers die each year
Our Road Safety Authority expert makes an appeal to motorcyclists to stop the senseless carnage
Let me tell you about two recent but separate encounters with motorcyclists.
A biker parked in the staff parking area of the driving test centre. I presumed it was a colleague so I went over to say hello. It was someone else. It was a biker who'd pulled in to take his personal protection clothing off, because it was too hot to wear. In disbelief I asked him if it wasn't a foolish thing to do. Because if he comes off the bike wearing just a T-shirt and jeans, he'd hit the ground like a block of cheese on a cheese grater. He said that he was okay because he was still wearing the proper boots. He said it in all seriousness.
At this point I launched into a 'As a biker, you should know how vulnerable you are' speech. But it made no difference. He looked at me with eyes that said, 'You are probably right but I'm going to ignore you anyway'. And he did.
The second story is from a colleague who spent months poring over forensic crash investigation files, including those involving motorcyclist deaths.
She was sitting outside a pub in Dublin city centre around 5pm on a Saturday afternoon. At the table beside her was a guy with a motorcycle helmet on the table. Sitting beside him were two pints. He then left and she could hear the roar of a bike start up. So she stood up to see and sure enough it was the same biker riding off down the street, which was packed with pedestrians.
It was like she was watching one of the forensic fatal crash reports she analysed previously come to life. That exercise revealed that 30pc of bikers involved in fatal crashes had alcohol in their system. Half this group were more than four times the drink-drive limit. Speeding is a factor is almost half all motorcyclist deaths.
Of course, the majority of bikers are absolutely aware of their vulnerability. But some problem ones are difficult to talk to on road safety. They are typically male, 25 to 34, and ride powerful bikes.
They have been told a million times to slow down and never drink and drive. But they just don't listen. Why? 100 years of motorcycle mythology doesn't help. It has created an over-idealised utopia of the sense of freedom that riding a motorbike grants bikers.
It also conjures up an image of the kind of man who doesn't play by the rules and who values their freedom above all else.
We have used this insight to develop our new motorcycle safety campaign.
The new advert says to problem bikers: "No one likes being told what to do…but bikers' speeding is a factor in half of motorcyclist deaths. Sometimes you have to listen: Ease off the throttle and keep within the speed limits."