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Speed not the biggest killer, says MCC NSW

Honda Blackbird killer visibility
(Pic from need4speed)

Speed is cited as the biggest killer on our roads because of a lack of expertise among police accident investigators, says Motorcycle Council of NSW chairman Steve Pearce.

He says police accident investigators are not trained enough in motorcycle accident investigation.

“Are investigators using speed as a catch-all reason for motorcycle accidents?” he asks.

Police accident investigators are also in a conflict of interest as they are responsible for prosecuting motorists.

“Therefore, they are only looking for offences committed, not the cause of the crash,” he says.

“We need to look for world’s best practice in this area.”

During NSW Motorcycle Awareness Month, the MCC NSW is calling on state police forces to follow the UK example.

In the United Kingdom, specially selected and educated police conduct road crash investigation and these police do not initiate prosecutions for traffic offences,” Steve says.

“The UK model of crash investigation involving motorcycles would provide a better indication of why crashes happen.

“There would be a positive flow-on effect in terms of improving rider safety, where to allocate prevention resources most effectively and lower costs for insurance.”

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Based on police accident investigations, most Australian statistics seem to show that speed is the biggest killer.

For example, the NSW Motorcycle Safety Action Plan 2017-2019 says “inappropriate speed” is a contributing factor in 54% of motorcycle fatal crashes and 28% of motorcycle serious injury crashes.

It’s more likely less than 10% based on two significant studies in the UK and USA.

The British Transport Laboratory found that less than 8% of all road crashes were caused by exceeding speed limits and the 2005 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s long-term Naturalistic Driving Study said it was just 7%.

Both studies found driver inattention was the biggest killer. The US study said it was as high as 80%, yet NSW road authorities say it is only 25%, based on inadequate police crash investigations.

It is significant that an Austroads 2015 Motorcycle In-Depth Crash Study report found that slippery substances on the road account for 13% of single-vehicle crashes.

That’s almost double the figure the US study said was due to speed.

Single-vehicle crashes

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Steve Pearce

Steve says speed is too often cited as the biggest cause of single motorcycle accidents when there are plenty of other factors involved.

“Other factors unique to motorcycling such as the impact of road conditions, weather, bike setup, rider experience, rider familiarity with their motorcycle, rider fatigue are too often ignored,” he says.

“If we took crash investigation to the next level, we would be better equipped to determine what factors to employ to educate riders and reduce injuries.”

  1. Less than 10% related to speed as the cause seems very reasonable. The UK and USA have better demographics to fund such crash investigations, so as a cost saving measure we should adopt those findings as accurate then just adapt the recommendations to Australian conditions.

  2. Of course motorcycle crashes are all caused by “inappropriate speed”. Any speed greater than 0 is inappropriate according to police and other authorities!

  3. In the list of check boxes for accident causes the one for speed is printed with the x already marked and police need whiteout to clear it!
    I might be kidding but politically I’m not. The revenue junkies need to justify their over use of speed measuring equipment at all costs!
    Speeding fines rake in hundreds of millions every year and this revenue is factored into state budgets as if it is a given. If everyone started driving ten percent below the speed limit for a year the junkies would go nuts but would the road toll actually drop? Not really if at all and in some cases it would go up, pedestrians would still get hit the sidsy would still happen and the number of fatigued drivers would skyrocket.

  4. Jeremy Clarkson “Speed Limits Kill!”
    I don’t agree with Clarkson on many things, but THIS is without a doubt true.
    Speed Limits cause;
    1. drivers and riders to focus on the SPEEDOMETER… not the act of riding/driving.
    2. the act of riding/driving TO the Speed Limit takes secondary importance over Driving To The Conditions. (which is what they ACTUALLY mean by “inappropriate speed”)
    3. Cause ROAD RAGE because SOMEONE will take the Role Of Judge Jury and Executioner when they KNOW someone is speeding.
    4. Speed Limits just get in the way….

  5. Question: is speed a contributing factor in this crash? Answer (unless the bike was stationary): yes.
    Question: did inattention contribute to this crash? Answer (unless the rider says so): don’t know.
    Question: what other factors contributed to this crash? Answer (unless the surface well before has been examined carefully and witnesses questioned): don’t know.

    Therefore speed caused the crash. Simplistic and incorrect.

  6. My hospital visit was caused by a slippery substance falling off the back of a Ute. I trying to change the law in Victoria to- loose loads MUST be covered by a tarp or cargo net(current law in Vic. states MAYBE covered). Not good enough.

  7. Just like any corporation its about marketing and selling your product. Their product is speeding fines and empire building so they always spin this propaganda as its free advertising. The death toll will never improve as long as they blindly pursue this and ignore the real issues – incompetent and no confidence drivers (The majority of voters).

  8. Hi Mark
    Would be interested in links to the studies to which you refer:
    “The British Transport Laboratory found that less than 8% of all road crashes were caused by exceeding speed limits and the 2005 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s long-term Naturalistic Driving Study said it was just 7%.”
    Encouraging to see that some jurisdictions looking at speed as part of a broader range of factors.

    There are also studies which show an inverse relationship between the number of speeding offences and probability of having an accident. Put simply, “speeding” motorists are concentrating on driving – as they all should be – and less likely to crash.

      1. I know I have said it before but it bears repeating. For a hands-on, real life, experience of the effect of speedo gazing, one has only to ride across the SA/NT border. Nothing changes except the speed limit. Note, we are not talking about excessive speeding here, either side of the border, just cruising. What happens is that suddenly you realise that you can forget the speedo and continue on at a safe pace, probably below the NT limit. Its hard to describe the mental relief that comes with that border crossing.

        The current heavy focus on speeding means paranoia about exceeding the limit, – even momentarily and accidently, – is your main focus. As soon as you cross the border, that all goes way instantly, and the feeling of being safer is very tangible. Why? Because now your focus is entirely on the road, the surroundings, animals, and other motorists. Try it…

        1. Of course common sense would tell you this would be the case, but it’s super interesting to hear this first-hand.

  9. Finally, Steve Pearce says something sensible… 🙂

    Keith – “Encouraging to see that some jurisdictions looking at speed as part of a broader range of factors.”

    Nice if it were true, but as far as I know, the 8% figure from the UK was only discovered after a freedom of information request when the Government covered up their own report after it didn’t support the speed kills propaganda they were pedalling at the time!

    I have only ridden on a racetrack once in my 40 years on the road on 2 wheels. Looking at the speedo was the LAST thing you would need to do. It is extremely dangerous on the track and forcing motorists to speedo gaze on the road must surely be contributing to collisions. Not to mention the mobile phone menace and other things that rarely get a mention…

  10. I learnt the (zero) value of official reports many years ago. A good friend, a Canadian visitor, was riding with me in the Victorian high country. He left the road to avoid a collision wiht another bike going in the opposite direction. Unfortunately a ditch was waiting for him, and he as killed instantly. Speed was NOT blamed, it all happened quite slowly, confirmed by two witnesses in trucks. I was interviewed by Police about the circumstances, as were the two attending truck drivers.

    When I saw the official report months later I did not recognise it. It bore little resemblance to what happened. The accident was not a complicated one, so I can only guess at the accuracy of reports that involve multiple factors.

  11. From the experience of many officers in different countries ,there are very few accidents!
    Most incidents where a crash occurs is caused by many factors but mostly inattention by the rider.
    This is a combination as we all know to road and environmental conditions and a lack of defensive driving techniques.
    When teaching riders we stress that other motorists are out to kill you so be your own best savior and
    learn spacial awareness and observation techniques that can help you reduce the possibility of an incident.
    Red mist and road rage have been for many years a problem .
    Now science has shown the brain can filter out things that it decides you shouldn’t need to see!
    Example ,a motorcycle at an intersection ,so you turn in front of it.
    You have to help yourself !
    Have fun and stay alive.

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