Sunday 16 December 2018

RSA expert: Why summer is a high-risk time for motorcyclists

Summer is a high-risk time for motorcyclists and drivers should beware of fatigue, says RSA expert

Photo posed
Photo posed

THIS week I had planned to focus on a silent killer that’s behind many deaths each year. I’m talking about tiredness behind the wheel.

And while I’ll devote some time to this important topic, I really need to talk about motorcycle safety.

When colleagues compared casualty statistics for the first half of this year to last, motorcyclists stood out as an area of great concern.

At the time of writing, seven motorcyclists have died this year. The same number of deaths as occurred in the first half of 2017.

But it was at this point last year that motorcycle safety went off the rails. Last year, almost three-quarters (14) of the 20 motorcyclists killed in 2017 died in the second half of the year.

Five motorcyclists alone were killed in the last week of July 2017. These figures are stark reminders of the added dangers motorcyclists face in the summer months and the need for extra care.

A study of fatal motorcycle crashes so far this year shows Sunday is the most dangerous day. It sticks out like a sore thumb, with 70pc (5) of deaths this year.

Whenever I’ve written about motorcycle safety I’ve managed to annoy some cohort of motorcyclists, so before the emails and tweets start flying into the editor I want to be clear that not all bikers are reckless.

The majority are acutely aware of their vulnerability and take steps to protect themselves.

Drivers need to take greater responsibility too. They need to be more careful and look out for bikers in blind spots and especially when turning, overtaking and at junctions.

Look and look again for motorcyclists.

While most motorcycle riders are safety conscious, there is a minority of risk takers: bikers who put on a helmet and think they are on a race track.

This isn’t a barstool opinion.

A detailed examination of forensic fatal collision investigation files published in 2016 by the RSA found that bikers speeding was a factor in almost half of the deaths. A typical scenario is cornering or going around a bend at speed.

As a result the rider ends up on the wrong side of the road, crashing into an oncoming vehicle, wall or tree. Another example is when a biker overtakes multiple vehicles at high speed, not realising that one of the vehicles ahead is about to make a right-hand turn.

The profile of the majority of motorcyclists being killed on our roads is male, aged between 25 and 34, and on a powerful machine.

The message to these motorcyclists is: enjoy the freedom you get from riding a motorbike. Nobody wants to take that away from you.

But you need to realise that with power comes responsibility, so ease off the throttle and slow down. And if you are not prepared to do this for your own sake, do it for those who love you.

As mentioned at the top of this piece, I want to talk about tiredness behind the wheel. This is especially relevant with the bank holiday approaching.

It’s a subject that’s now taken seriously in this country. This was made clear a number of years ago when a driver, convicted of causing a fatal crash after having ‘a micro-sleep’ was jailed for two years.

The judge wanted “to send out the clear message to the community that fatigue must be a phenomenon in the minds of all drivers”.

So don’t fight sleep at the wheel. Remember the message in our campaign. Stop, Sip, Sleep. Stop somewhere safe, sip a coffee and get a 15-minute nap.

To help, the RSA and Applegreen, will provide free cups of coffee to drivers this bank holiday weekend, Friday-Monday, August 3-6 (2pm-8pm).

Irish Independent

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