18 of us are killed or seriously injured each day

An open letter to the IAM

I've just read a press release from the IAM and it leaves me with mixed opinions. What is it really saying?

The press releases says that: "1,690 motorcyclists were killed or seriously injured in July to September 2011. This means 18 motorcyclists were killed or seriously injured every day between July to September 2011 - an increase of two per cent compared to the same period in 2010"

It then goes on to say: "While all casualties among car users have reduced by seven per cent, the figures for motorcyclists have remained stagnant."

However it's the sign-off that confuses and worries me in equal measure: IAM director of policy and research, Neil Greig, said: “The increase in motorcycling casualties is worrying especially while casualties among car drivers continue to fall. The government needs to ensure that education campaigns targeting motorcycling continue and funding is made available for local initiatives. The police and councils must continue to work together to improve high risk routes, encourage post test training and target bad riding behaviour through innovative enforcement techniques.”

This sounds worryingly Daily Mail to me, and it concerns me that your press release will be pounced upon by these types of publications. It doesn't take a rocket-scientist to work out why casualties among car drivers are falling: manufacturers of cars are making them safer, driving standards have not improved 7% in the past year, believe me. Even with safer cars, you can't forget to factor in the people who drive them: 22% of car drivers say they don't wear a seatbelt. If they don't care about their own safety, how likely are they to be concerned with the safety of others.

To me, this release puts the problem squarely at the foot of the biker. I know bikers can bring it on themselves some of the time, but the IAM should push the police to take more detailed statistics of KSIs at the scene, so we can get to the heart of the problem. Firstly, let's separate Killed with Seriously Injured. That's important. Secondly, motorcycle deaths aren't all single vehicle accidents; the majority involve another vehicle. So let's get to the heart of this. Are these figures rising in city-centres or country roads? How experienced is the average biker or car driver who becomes a statistic?

If someone told me that my love of toast and a good soak in the bath, if combined, could be fatal, then I'd take notice. In the same way if - for example - a 35-40 year old man, who's new to biking and commutes on his 125cc scooter into the city knew he was much more likely to become a statistic than the 20-year old on the motorcycle next to him, then he'd take notice too.

High risk routes, as we all know, aren't all famously twisty biking roads where everyone runs out of talent, quite a lot are boring busy a-roads where traffic comes together. I think high-impact campaigns on famous roads like the A537 just cause people who want to 'go for a blast' (bikers and car drivers) to find other roads, not go out and ride or drive safer on the road that's being targetted.

These campaigns are generally hailed a success by the people who run them. Sure, that one road might have improved for as long as there's an unmarked police car on them but does the campaign work? Really?

I'd like the IAM to gather more detailed statistics so we can all see where it's going wrong and work to improve it. If these were published on your website, highlighting high-risk roads, locations, a typical high-risk rider, people would learn from it and thank you for it. I'd also like to see data on the number of Advanced Riders and Drivers who are involved in these accidents and if they're much less likely to get killed or seriously injured than the average rider or driver.

We need to make people want to improve themselves not try and force them to. My guess is that, like me, most people think they're enough above average not to worry about these kinds of press releases. If we lay the facts out bare, only then can people make an informed decision.

These figures won't change unless people want to change them.

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