Blog Detail

Motorcycle safety and accidents in Europe

10 Aug , 2016,
No Comments

fema-accident-report-coverEurope – The Federation of European Motorcyclists Associations (FEMA) – made up of rider organisations who represent their members in countries from across Europe report that, “Motorcycle safety and accidents vary between individual countries.”

FEMA has come to this conclusion in a summary report – “Motorcycle Safety and Accidents in Europe – pdf 569kb” which analyses surveys conducted between 2011 and 2014 of around  25,000 motorcyclists (m/f) about motorcycle safety and accidents.

The surveys were conducted through Riderscan – European scanning tour for motorcycle safety –

Riderscan was coordinated by FEMA, though funded by the European Commission with a variety of partners and experts.

The Motorcycling Survey – was conducted amongst more than 17,000 riders from 18 countries, aimed at collecting information about the motorcycling community around Europe in terms of riding, attitudes, and safety needs.

FEMA – Summary Report

The safety questions asked of riders in the surveys included the subjects:

  • How dangerous is it to ride a motorcycle in the various individual European countries?
  • What are motorcycle riders’ attitudes towards safety innovations?
  • And what safety precautions do they take for themselves?

Also in the latter part of 2014 FEMA’s Dutch member organization MAG (Motorrijders Actie Groep) conducted a survey- pdf 142kb of almost 4,000 Dutch riders with special focus on causes and the impact of motorcycle accidents.

The FEMA summary report shows what the motorcycle dangers are  in which ever country, recommending that motorcyclists need to be especially on the alert, with the report’s objective for: safer international motorcycle riding for all.

Further sub-conclusions in the summary report looks at other surveys completed via the Riderscan project.

ITS (Intelligent Transportation Systems) – Technological innovations should give priority to what riders feel as most useful for them and should thoroughly test ITS systems that motorcycle riders consider dangerous before being given formal European approval for usage in European traffic.

Motorcycle Driving Licence -European regulations determine what kind of driving licence can be obtained for what type of motorcycle at what age. The FEMA survey data show an understanding amongst motorcyclists that step-by- step motorcycle training could result in a safer riding style.

However, the actual operationalization (sic) meets with considerable objections in all countries. First and foremost, motorcycle riders feel that obtaining the full licence is too complex, takes too long and is far too expensive: it discourages people from obtaining a motorcycle license at all.

Secondly, motorcycle riders feel that the process is discriminatory compared to getting a car driving license: a starting 18-year-old new car driver does not first have to drive for years in a Trabant (?) before (s)he may start driving a Ford Focus and then only after years is allowed to hit the road with a Ferrari.

The latter, this new 18-year-old car driver may do from the  very first day (s)he has a car drivers licence.

All in all, European motorcycle riders are not convinced that  the step-by-step motorcycle license requirement really benefits motorcycle riding safety.

However specifically on driver licensing, at Motorcycle Minds we know that in Northern Ireland authorities there are trying to introduce a Graduated Driving Licensing system (GDL) for young and new drivers. Part of this looks at introducing a log book system similar to the UK/Northern Ireland – CBT (Compulsory Basic Training), that riders must progress through different modules before being “allowed” to ride unaccompanied on the road on a low powered motorcycle or moped.

Other aspects of the proposed GDL is looking at age limits so that young driver taking driving lessons must successfully complete the modules in the log book before they can take a test and that they must have taken training for at least a year before they can take a driving test.

auto-bianchi-picIt would be hard to find any country where Trabants – a lookalike of the Italian Autobianchi – still exist – maybe in rural East Germany? Perhaps a more likely example could be a Nissan Micra.

Irrespective of that example, if you are a  18-year-old (UK 17-year-old) with access to money to pay for insurance needed to drive a Ferrari then is that discrimination compared to a “rich” rider to get a full motorcycle licence?

Or is that just the power of capitalism compared to an argument from a pseudo socialist environmental perspective with ideals of  congestion busting means of cheap transport for commuting, working and hard earned leisure?

Whatever – but the Directive is passed, it is enshrined in EU legislation, so rather than flog a dead horse, it might be best either to get over it or lobby to change.  With of course the proviso that if there is a will by riders organisations, politicians, member states or the European Commission to do so, but to continue throwing up of what is past when there are other issue to sort is pretty pointless.

However we digress so back to safety and accidents!

Across Borders

harolddebock500The report looks at cross border riding  across European Borders and now possibly from Europe to mainland UK.

The report – flowery in its language – from riders themselves – puts down what should be known from training to experience gained:

Cross-border riding – Riding a motorcycle requires optimal use of all senses to monitor the ever vast-changing road environment behind, next to and in front of the rider in order to be able to react defensively before it is too late. To ride safely and prevent becoming a victim of an accident, it helps to be aware of the most important and most frequently occurring risks motorcycle riders encounter.

Not only in one’s own country but also in other European countries: these days so many riders take their bikes cross-border on long range tours.

To the high passes in the Alps. To the curvy roads in the hills of Sauerland or the Eiffel. To the sunny coastal areas all along the Mediterranean. To the vast emptiness of the Scandinavian countries. To the ever more popular destinations in the eastern European countries and the Baltic states.

How easy it is to assume that riding conditions in your own country also apply to other countries. Not so!

Cross-border risks – Truly reliable and credible ‘rider-be-aware’ advice comes from fellow-riders speaking from their own experiences. In recent years, rider survey data and motorcycle statistics have become available for almost 20 European countries about the dangers riders face in the various European countries. These dangers are often different from what one is used to in his/her own country. Being aware of these differences is indispensable knowledge when planning to ride cross-border.

The report looks at how many estimated riders there are in Europe from 2013 figures,  23,000,000 motorcycles in 31 European countries according to the European Association of Motorcycle Manufacturers (ACEM) who was the market leader, with on average, two-thirds of  European motorcycle riders own one motorcycle and one-third two or more motorcycles. Half of the European motorcycle riders use their motorcycles for leisure only; about one-third also for commuting to work.

The report asks – Are some European countries more dangerous for motorcycle riders than others? The answer in part is indicated in, “Official European Commission statistics (CARE 2012) report about 4,500 fatal motorcycle accidents. The danger rank of each country is based on calculating the number of registered motorcycles per fatal accident. The more motorcycles per fatal accident, the safer the country is; the fewer motorcycles per fatal accident, the more dangerous the country is. Countries can then be classified in two categories as relatively safe or relatively dangerous compared to the European average.”

With the caveat that, “Countries differ in climate conditions, in average riding kilometers per year, in quality of road infrastructure, in driving license training and in general car driver behavior etcetera.” the report states that, “the European average is 5,000 motorcycles per fatality. The calculations show that Croatia is the most dangerous and Denmark is the least dangerous country (for countries not categorized the required data is not available.)”

When analyzing data from FEMA’s Motorcycling Survey among 17,000 European motorcycle riders there is a rather similar country ranking, Greek motorcycle riders reported the highest percentage of accident incidences and Denmark the lowest percentage (for countries not categorized the required data is not available.)

Scandinavia has the lowest accident incidence. For Poland, it appears that accident incidences are limited but if an accident occurs that it is relatively often fatal. A possible explanation for the difference between Scandinavian and southern European countries could be that because of the long winter the riding season in Scandinavia is relatively short: more than 80% of Scandinavian riders avoid riding during the winter months.

On average, about half of the European motorcycle accidents are one-sided; the other half are collisions, almost always with a car.  In almost all countries motorcycle riders under 35 years of age report relatively high accident involvement.”

Seemingly harking back to the European Commission’s attempt to introduce mandatory road worthiness testing for Powered Two Wheelers in all member states (2012 – 2014) – not all European countries have – nor rider organisation want – road worthiness testing introduced, to reduce collisions and injuries the report states that, “Motorcycle riders know that the technical condition and maintenance of their motorcycle are critical to their personal safety (Do they really?)” with, “All available data show: the technical condition of motorcycles is not a significant factor in accident causation.”

While the technical condition of a motorcycle may lead to an near-accident or maybe not the report on the topic of the European road infrastructure the report states that the, “Quality of road surface and maintenance is of utmost importance for motorcycle safety. The FEMA survey among 17.000 European motorcycle riders reveals to what extent road infrastructure problems lead to near-accidents.” with, “A between-country comparison shows that according to the motorcycle riders themselves the most dangerous road infrastructure exists in Greece and the least dangerous in Denmark.”

With no surprise the report says that, “It is worth noting that the top-3 of road infrastructure problems is identical for all countries. The difference between countries is the extent to which they occur. This is the top 3 of road infrastructure problems:

  1. Poor maintenance:  potholes, fillings etc.
  2. Road surface itself: top layer material (slippery, repair patches, bitumen fillings etc.)
  3. Markings on road surface (painted or patched-on):  signs, lines, warnings, arrows etc.”

Nearly There – On Safety Innovations

At this point we will just let the report speak for itself as it runs through what riders think of innovations for rider safety, bearing in mind we are now two years ahead that safety innovations have become reality and are not just sitting on a drawing board and some have “crashed and burned” in the world of commercialism – e.g. SKULLY – HUD (Heads Up Display) – Augmented Reality Helmet.

Motorcycle riders rated innovations as to being useful or dangerous for motorcycle riding.

The motorcyclists’ top 10 of useful-for-motorcycles technological innovations is:

  1. (Curve) ABS (anti-lock braking system)
  2. Visibility improving helmet (prevention of visor fogging-up through heating or de-humidification)
  3. Monitoring of tire pressure and temperature
  4. Vision enhancement (contrast reinforcement in bad-sight weather conditions)
  5. Brake assist (applying maximum braking pressure in emergency situations)
  6. Linked braking systems (engaging both front and rear brakes also when only one is activated)
  7. Impact-sensing cut-off systems
  8. Motorcycle diagnosis (mechanical and technical problems)
  9. Adaptive front lighting (light beam projecting into curves)
  10. Automatic stability control (preventing rear wheel spin and front wheel lift-off)

The motorcyclists’ top 10 of dangerous-for-motorcycles technological innovations is:

  1. Helmet-mounted display of motorcycle information on helmet visor
  2. Intelligent speed limitation (alert and/or intervene when posted speed limit is exceeded; prevent acceleration over posted speed limit)
  3. Warning and automatic intervention when set cruise control speed is exceeded
  4. Continuous on/off flashing strobe lights for visibility
  5. Real-time rear-view display on helmet visor or windshield
  6. Adaptive cruise control (maintaining a fixed distance to vehicle in front)
  7. Lane departure warning (when changing lanes)
  8. Heads-up display of vehicle information on windshield
  9. Intersection collision avoidance (through vehicles transmitting speed, location and riding direction to roadside beacons)
  10. Curve speed warning (GPS-based warning for too much tilt / speed in upcoming curve)

Back to Basics

The report states that, “The vast majority of European motorcyclists – therefore – take their own safety precautions, the top three on taking safety precautions are:

Motorcycle gloves
Motorcycle helmet (fluorescent not so much yet)
Motorcycle jacket with protectors

with most riders also using:

Motorcycle boots
Motorcycle trousers with protectors

The report which gives a mixed outlook from the surveys with the vast majority of European motorcyclists agreeing that, “That riding a motorcycle will always involve a certain risk and that it is riskier than driving a car.  About half of the riders expect that new technology will make traffic safer and greener. About one-third fear for technology that will distract riders too much from their riding environment.”

Reiterating what the FEMA summary report is intended to improve it states this is:

  • awareness of riders’ potential cross-border motorcycle risks and as well as
  • awareness of ITS-parties regarding motorcyclists’ attitudes towards motorcycle-safe and motorcycle-dangerous technological innovations.

We ask has the report set out to achieve?

What do you think?

Original Source – FEMA website – Motorcycle safety and accidents in Europe

Read the full report at FEMA – Motorcycle Safety and Accidents in Europe a summary report – August 2016 pdf 569kb

The summary report is written by Harold de Bock, member of the board of MAG Netherlands, which is a FEMA member organisation.

MAG’s Grote Motorrijdersenquête & Enquête MAG-ondersteunende motorclubs pdf 142kb

Motorcycle safety and accidents in Europe