21st October 2013

Blog: Motorcycle Safety

As I press letters to screen, the RSA‘s resonance of current motorcycle road fatalities cut to the quick. In keeping with our penchant for shortening words into capital letters, this years KSI, (Killed or Seriously Injured) figures for motorcyclists make tragic reading.

I was once told by a very learned Psychologist, that the continual telling to young people that they were in the high-risk category, coupled to the likelihood of their demise, would in effect form an acceptance by them of their extinction. Somewhere in the recesses of their minds was the acceptance of their fate.

For me, it all begins with Education, followed by Encouragement and at the very end, Enforcement. In keeping with the ‘E’ theme, it is absolutely vital the Engineering is a top priority with the National Roads Authority and Local Councils. The vulnerability of motorcyclists is hugely increased by badly maintained roads, including those dusted by spurious mounds of loose gravel in hot weather. Add in poorly placed road furniture/signage and the lack of joined up thinking is glaringly obvious. So many signs are either too close or too far away from the hazard they apply to, while some were placed because they were the nearest one on the truck.

Our National and Motorway network has improved beyond our wildest dreams of 20 years ago, allowing us to transverse our little island in no time. Typical enough, we have to seek replenishment and kidney relief by exiting most of our Motorways and riding into the urban areas we were looking to avoid in the first place. That aside, most motorcyclists spend the majority of their miles amid the hedgerows of our R-roads, where we can interact with the road and our motorcycles at a tactile level missing in other transport.

Anyone who has thrown an eye to one of my columns over the years will hopefully take away the enjoyment I take from driving, an acknowledgement of my own fallibility, the benefit of ADI and post Driving Test tuition plus the craic of friendly interaction – motorcyclists for motorcyclists.

I would like to see some slight revision to the Motorcycle Chapter in our Rules of the Road, beginning at the end of the chapter by removing the words, ‘Ten Tactics for Surviving as a Motorcyclist’; which has always made me shudder. The term, ‘tactics’ generally pertain to those wearing camouflage and carrying AR15’s, whilst the term ‘surviving’ is straight out of Bear Grylls. I get their intentions – I just have reservations about their methods, plus any parent flicking through the Rules will grab the rosary beads immediately.

I would also rewrite Point 1, which asks that riders look to far, middle and near distance and rightly advocates that proper use is made of mirrors and shoulder checks. These actions of far, middle and near are instructional terms primarily used in open road areas and are not suitable for most urban zones, where to look far ahead would be dangerous due to the busy nature of the urban environment.

Point 2 advocates keeping a safe following position – a very important road technique. But when it is mentioned that a bigger gap should be left in wet or icy conditions, I am flummoxed. In icy conditions folks – get the feckin’ bus – pull the quilt over your head – simply park your motorcycle. It is a total contradiction to have the RSA effectively encouraging the use of motorcycles when road grip is marginal or non-existent.

And then there is us!! There is no bypassing our own responsibility. We all love how motorcycling challenges us every journey. Its single-mindedness is a major attraction, but it does take some years to skill up mentally and technically, so as we don’t enter those KSI stats. Playing Gladiator with other road users is always dodgy, as is the ‘them and us’ attitude that only serves to distract and draw riders into an emotional game with permanent consequences.

There are areas of our behaviour that we as motorcyclists have to own up to. Like other road users, we have to obey the Rules and avoid adopting ‘Rights’ we have no legal cover for. Yes, we have to ride for others, their mistake often our ticket to A&E at best. Much good work has been done in the last 10 years to make our roads safer. We have to play our part in keeping the pressure on for inclusive interaction with the NRA, RSA and Local Government.

I have no idea as to how our minds work at the level of subliminal endorsement as espoused by the aforementioned Professor, but having been involved in Advanced Police and Authority Driver Training for 30 years, I know that mindsets can be altered for the positive and attitudes can be changed for the better. While we await greater understanding by the those with the mandate to legislatate, our existence is primarily in our head and hands.


By Tony Toner, BeepBeep.ie Motoring Correspondent.

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