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How my experience of dealing with fatal motorbike crashes could make you a safer rider

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You've heard all that stats about motorbike collisions - but you probably haven't seen the horrendous things we see at crash scenes. If you did, it'd change the way you ride forever, says biker and roads policing Inspector Dave Barf.

Have you noticed that bikers are obsessed with statistics?

I’ve been riding for decades and I’m the first to admit my brain is chocked full of brilliantly useless motorbike stats – top speeds of the world’s fastest production bikes, the 0-60 times of anything on two wheels, winning lap times at whatever racetrack you care to name.

Biker and roads policing officer, Inspector Dave Barf

Unfortunately, I’ve learned some less desirable statistics over the years too.

Bikers are more than 30 times more likely to die in a collision than car drivers.  More than 140 motorcyclists have died and more than 1,300 have been injured in North Yorkshire in the last decade.

I don’t suppose that should surprise us really, given the level of protection we have as bikers compared to being in car (next to non-existent).

So you’d think we’d be more cautious but still seven times out of ten, rider error is to blame.

My problem with statistics

We’ve wheeled these stats out over the years to get riders to take it easy and slow down.

But there’s a problem with statistics… nobody thinks they’ll become one. You ride well and leave other, less able riders make up the casualty figures… right?

So this time I’m going to try to encourage you to ride more safely without using a single statistic.

I can do this because I have something you probably don’t have – first-hand experience of dealing with serious motorcycle collisions.


No figures can really describe the carnage we see

When we’re first on the scene of a fatal motorbike crash, we see things that nobody could forget.

Dealing with the carnage at the scene of a fatal motorbike crash is one thing. But then having to visit the next of kin – the wife, the girlfriend, the husband or the parents – and deliver the news that they’ll never see their loved one again is something else.

Each time we knock on a door with that news a family’s lives change forever.

It’s hard comparing what has just been witnessed at the scene with the family photos on the mantelpiece.

None of the riders involved set off thinking they’d become a statistic. They went out to enjoy the pure pleasure of riding, just like you and I do.

To meet friends, get fish and chips or grab a bacon bun and a coffee. Unlike you and I though, so far, they didn’t make it home.

Maybe they hadn’t ridden in a few months and their skills had got a bit rusty over winter – it happens to us all.  Don’t expect to be a comfortable on the bike until you get your eye in.  Give yourself space to refresh those skills and get back to where you were last year.

Why numbers don’t have to be big to be important

Lives are lost because of a split-second misjudgement. We talk about millimetres and milliseconds being the difference between life and death. Trust me – this is how small the margin of error needs to be. This can be the difference between life and death.

Ever run wide on a left hander with nothing coming and just chuckled and moved back onto your side of the road?  Believe me – some folk aren’t that lucky and how is the presence of an oncoming car anything to do with anything you can influence?  Your influence stopped when you entered that corner a little too quickly or lost your nerve on the apex.

If you saw what I saw, you’d be a safer rider

If you saw what I saw, you’d know that pushing that bit harder into a corner or squeezing a few more miles per hour out of a straight really isn’t worth it.

It’s great fun on a race track where you have run offs and bales but on the road you need to leave some margin for error.  I’ve never seen an oncoming car at Donnington or Cadwell.

If you saw what I saw, you’d know how that knock on the door would destroy your family in an instant.

If you saw what I saw, you’d slow down and give yourself a chance to react. Why wouldn’t you?

To sharpen up your skills this summer, book onto a Bikesafe workshop in North Yorkshire.

You’ll pick up new tips, techniques and have chance to go on an observed ride with a highly-qualified, police-trained instructor.

Click here for more information, including dates and venues.

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Last modified: July 5, 2018