Near Miss Accident Survey

A new study was published today—the Near Miss Accident Survey of Riders.

According to the report, “The purpose of the survey was to find out from motorcyclists, whether they had experienced situations in which they believed they could have crashed and/or been injured (but were able to keep control of their motorcycle) as well as the type of situations they had experienced.”

Near-misses are critically important because the rider both believed a crash couldn’t occurred but it didn’t–thus resulting in safer riding. Why near misses occur tells us information about why actual crashes happen–and may yield information in how to avoid crashes in the future.

An internet survey of 257 motorcyclists in Ireland (Northern and Southern) and Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) was conducted by Right To Ride, a Northern Ireland motorcycle rights group.

Profile of the respondent

The average respondent to the survey was a 40-year old male who had completed a basic training course. Basic training is mandatory (Compulsory Basic Training) in Southern Ireland and Great Britain. It is not in Northern Ireland. About 24% had taken an advanced course and another 38.9% had taken an “assessment course” like Bikesafe.

89.5% had taken a practical riding test. Over 99% were licensed with the vast majority having a full license (93.4%). (UK countries have graduated licensing including provisional and restricted and full tiers).

The average rider had ridden a motorcycle between 4,000 to 6,000 miles per year without a break in riding for 10 years. Almost 89% always rode in the summer with spring (70.4%) and autumn (65.8%) following. Almost half always rode in the winter with most of those using their bikes for commuting.

The motorcycle was, on average 7.5 years old and the majority (69.1%) rode adventure/sport/enduro/naked street bikes and were represented proportionally in near miss events. 82.9% of the respondents rode motorcycles with engine sizes between 401cc and 1200cc.

Almost half (45.1%) used their motorcycle for personal leisure and 38.9% for commuting to and from work.

(For USA readers’ background information, helmets are mandatory in all three survey areas.)

Crashing and near missing

Of those 257 riders, 78.2% of the respondents reported such near-miss events, 22.6% had had a non-injury crash in the past 24 months. Of all crashes reported, 49% were single vehicle crashes and 51% were multi-vehicle—which is roughly the USA percentages for types of crashes.

Of riders in injury crashes 62.9% reported that they were in multi-vehicle collisions and 37.1% had experienced a single vehicle crashes (4 did not answer).

Interestingly, there was no statistical difference between those who had taken either the assessment course or advanced training when it came to crashing without injury:

20% of those who taken an assessment course vs. 19.7% who had taken an advanced training course had a non-injury crash within 24 months.

Fewer riders who had taken either the assessment or advanced training had an injury crash: 15% of those who took an assessment course had a crash with injury and 16.4% who had done an advanced training course.

Iow, both means produced about the same results when it came to non-injury or injury crashes and 5% fewer injury crashes v. non-injury crashes.

However, when it came to those who hadn’t taken an assessment or advanced training it gets even more interesting:

Of those who did not take an assessment course, 24.5% had non-injury crashes—or 4.5% more than those who had taken the course. While that’s less than 5%, it still suggests that training or at least evaluation makes a difference.

However, it’s a different story when it comes to injury crashes—undoubtedly more serious in effect (though admittedly a non-injury crash may only have avoided injury by random factors).

Of those who hadn’t taken an assessment course 15.2% had an injury crash—which is virtually identical to the 15% of those who had.

And when it came to advanced course participation, only 14.9% who hadn’t taken an advanced course had an injury crash—or 1.5% fewer than who had taken an advanced training course.

Iow, we don’t find the difference we’d expect to find if further training/evaluation did make riders safer on the road. That was not observed by the writer of the report, Dr. Elaine Hardy.

This, however, supports what other researchers have found about training in the USA and Australia—it does not have an observable safety effect in injury crashes.

What the survey found

In brief, what the report finds is what riders would expect it to find:

A 2004 Department of Transport study that examined 1,790 accidents found that  38% involved Right Of Way Violations (ROWVs). “However, less than 20% of these

involve a motorcyclist who rated as either fully or partly to blame for the accident.” This, as the Near-Miss report states, is higher than the Hurt Study found. Other causes garnered far less than 5% each of responses.

In this survey, when it came to the cause of those near misses:

  • 40.6% reported “turning into your path from a side road, private driveway or opposite direction”.
  • 15.2% reported someone changing lanes in front of them “on the motorway”.
  • 13.9% reported on-coming traffic in their lane.
  • 12.5% “reported cutting you off at a junction” (or intersection for us Americans).
  • Road conditions were the other major cause of near-misses:
  • 45.3% cited slippery or loose road surface or loose gravel.
  • 34.7% potholes and grooves.

32.1% road markings or over-banding (as far as I can tell, “over-banding” means the strip of bituminous material to repair joints and cracks resulting in a smooth, often slick surface).

Of those respondents who had near misses (five cited more than one cause):

  • 61.5% considered the other vehicle (mainly car) as the cause of the near miss
  • 9% considered the near miss to be their own fault
  • 7.7% considered the conditions of the road as the cause of the near miss
  • 3.8% considered animals on the road as the cause of the near miss
  • 3.8% considered a pedestrian as the cause of the near miss
  • 2.6% considered another motorcycle(s) as the cause of the near miss
  • 1.3% considered a bicycle as the cause of the near miss
  • 10.3% gave “other” reasons or comments.

Focus Group input

The second part of the study was a focus group that discussed the survey findings. The participants were drawn mainly from the motorcycle safety and training community: a Chief Regional Tester for RoSPA in the Republic of Ireland, a Ballymena Rider Training, Instructor and IAM Observer and a Bikesafe Coordinator; and motorcycle rights officers—a former General Secretary, Road Safety Officers and Senior Training Officer. And a UK/Technical Officer Federation of European Motorcyclists Associations) Northern Ireland.

While they agreed with the need to address road infrastructure (and other road conditions), of note was what they had to say about both public PR campaigns to raise motorist/motorcyclist awareness and the marketing/advertising campaigns by motorcycle manufacturers.

The group was divided between how people reacted to “hard-hitting” commercials. Some felt that people would just avoid it by switching channels and “and that advertising of that nature needed to have a message that is factual, relevant and educational.” Others thought that even if they did turn off dramatic message, the point would still sink in.

But, when it came to how manufacturers advertised motorcycles, the group felt, “All participants indicated that the advertising of performance motorcycles by  manufacturers and magazines had a negative effect on rider attitude and behaviour and that this influence was an underlying cause of motorcycle crashes.”

The experts on training

“The view of the participants was that there is a systemic failure on the part of the authorities in all three countries to provide adequate training and relevant testing for motorcyclists and car drivers.”  This is especially significant since training and testing is far more rigorous in the UK than in the USA and there’s a significant portion of both that’s conducted in traffic.

As one participant observed: “In reality motorcyclists and car drivers need a system in place to fully prepare them to ride or drive on all types of today’s roads in different conditions. The system that we have in place at present does not do that. Over the last 3 years 70% of collisions and just over 70% of road users’ fatalities and serious injuries have happened in a rural environment. In stark contrast 70% – 80% of instruction, guidance and testing are carried out within an urban environment. The current scheme is not reflective of the types of driving that drivers and riders are engaged in post test.”

The focus group thought that more people didn’t take advanced training or assessment courses because it was too expensive and/or people didn’t think it was important. That there was no significant statistical difference between those who had and those who hadn’t when it came to any kind of (survivable) crash may be exactly why more riders don’t think its important—somehow, on a gut level, they may sense that in their own experience—more training doesn’t make a significant difference?

MSF has extended its Discovery Project for another year—but at the halfway point, MSF wasn’t getting the results they wanted—MSF training products weren’t showing further training was effective or that they could easily get people to come back for more. It will be interesting is MSF’s study of its own product (that the taxpayers paid for almost half) comes up with different results that so many other studies—including this last one.

At some point, rider educators are going to have to accept that study after study cannot be wrong and that there’s something wrong with the curricular products currently available. Or they may have to think outside the box and figure out why training doesn’t make riders safer and what kind of training would.

Unfortunately, while the report gives us information about the causes of near-misses, it doesn’t explore why the crash didn’t occur–how the rider avoided the crash successfully–and that’s the critical issue when it comes to increasing rider safety. It is to be hoped that Right to Ride will continue to explore near-misses along those lines in the future.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Motorcycle Awareness, Motorcycle crashes, Motorcycle fatalities, Motorcycle Industry, Motorcycle injuries, Motorcycle Rights, Motorcycle Safety, Motorcycle Training

7 Comments on “Near Miss Accident Survey”

  1. Elaine Hardy Says:

    Wendy, thanks for your brilliant analysis of my study. In answer to your comment – “It is to be hoped that Right to Ride will continue to explore near-misses along those lines in the future”.

    We certainly intend to.

  2. wmoon Says:

    Elaine, I am honored that you read my piece and am very grateful that you all are doing good work looking at the kind of things that have the most potential to saving our lives on the roads–whatever country those roads run through.
    Best,
    W.

  3. Jeff Brenton Says:

    As one participant observed: “In reality motorcyclists and car drivers need a system in place to fully prepare them to ride or drive on all types of today’s roads in different conditions. The system that we have in place at present does not do that. Over the last 3 years 70% of collisions and just over 70% of road users’ fatalities and serious injuries have happened in a rural environment. In stark contrast 70% – 80% of instruction, guidance and testing are carried out within an urban environment. The current scheme is not reflective of the types of driving that drivers and riders are engaged in post test.”

    I have to wonder if the reason the rural environment is now so much more dangerous than the urban could be because of the emphasis on the urban environment. Which would indicate that, rather than changing the focus, expanding it would be the appropriate action.

    Of course, now you get into a problem with time. Expanding what is covered means 2- and 3-day classes are inadequate. Will people be willing to spend more time in training? More extensive training IS available, both in Europe and the U.S., and there is a market for it… but it is much smaller than the “primary” training market, even when it isn’t mandatory.

  4. irondad Says:

    I seldom feel I have anything worthwhile to add by offering comments, so I quietly read. However, every once in a while I like to say that I appreciate your blog. It’s informative and thought provoking. Both good things!

    Take care,

    Dan

  5. wmoon Says:

    Well, thank you, Dan! I needed to hear that on this wet cold day.
    W.


  6. Great article. I’ve been seeing a lot more studies and surveys going around lately, hopefully it all leads to more education for biker’s – new and old – as well as all drivers, 4 wheels and more. Awareness and education can save a lot of lives.

    -BikerHiway

  7. Gypsy Hamlet Says:

    I had two near misses last year but none this year. Those and many more are people trying to share a lane with me. Out of 37 years of riding I’ve had two accidents and those were over 30 years ago. The older I get the more careful I am. Great blog by the way.
    Gypsy Hamlet


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