Ixion FAQ

Aren't motorcycles dangerous?

From: cam@aifh.ed.ac.uk
Date: Thu, 6 Feb 92 10:21:03 GMT
 grahampm@spider.co.uk writes:
>  The fact is, motorcycling is inherently dangerous ...
Is it? What we know is that the kind of people of who use motorcycles, for the kind of journeys they use motorcycles for, have a lot more accidents per mile than the kind of people who use cars, for the kind of journeys they use cars for.

We also know that motorcyclists compared to car drivers are heavily biassed towards young men. Young men have much more accidents with anything than other people. We also know that motorcyclists' journeys are biased much more towards short urban trips. Short urban trips are known to be the most dangerous kind of trip (in terms of accidents per mile) than any other. Motorcyclists are also heavily biassed towards learners and people with less than 10,000 miles experience. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Now, if you guess that each of the above factors is worth an extra risk factor of 3 times, and then apply this to the motorcycle accident rate, the adjusted figure makes bikes slightly safer than cars. (bike rate is 20 times car rate, 3x3x3 = 27)

And don't forget the V**v* factor! -- People take less care (and more risks) when they feel safe; and more care when they feel exposed.

The first question is, are motorcycles more dangerous than cars when driven by the same kinds of people over the same kinds of journeys?

Nobody knows the answer to this question, but I suspect that the answer will come out with motorcycles having _less_ accidents per mile. In support of this is a study by the Kent police which showed that police motorcyclists have less accidents per mile than police car drivers. On the other hand, they suffer slightly more injuries per mile. Comparable populations and uses there. Now considering _you_ don't have to chase criminals at high speed while breaking all the traffic laws, if you drive as carefully as a police biker, you should be a lot safer per mile, shouldn't you?


I think they're safer. Just someone try and prove me wrong! Accepting the "dangerous" story without question opens us to all sorts of "well-meaning" legislation. Dispute the statistics!

Chris Malcolm

>  As far as I am aware, there is no evidence of risk compensation
A number of studies have been done. Usually cited are the increase in number and severity of pedestrian casualties co-incident with the intro of the seat belt law. Also the increase in bicycle accidents in Victoria, Oz, after they made cycling helmets compulsory. But the nicest one I know was quoted many many years ago in Motorcycle Sport. The study was of the accidents rates of Kent police, comparing bikes and cars. The author's thesis was that if risk compensation were true, then highly trained and experienced road users (e.g. police drivers and riders) would end up having similar accident rates, simply because their training and experience meant that their perceptions of risk would be accurate.

He found that the motorcycle police had LESS accidents per mile than the car drivers, but that they were more likely to be hurt in their accidents, in exact inverse proportion, so that in the end both bike riders and car drivers were running the same level of risk of injury.

He considered his thesis proved. MS published the findings because they were interested in the indication that bikes are no more dangerous than cars, when ridden by well-trained people; the high accident rate of bikes is due to the fact that bike riders are young loonies compared to car drivers.

If this is the case, then the Govt should encourage everyone onto motorcycles, since lunatics on bikes are more likely to kill themselves and less likely to kill others than if they drove a car. Safer and more ethical.

Chris Malcolm

This page last updated 04/01/05
[FAQ Index] [Ixion Home Page]