In depth Study of Motorcycle Accidents

  • Published: Department for Transport, November 2004
  • Authors: Clarke, D., D., Ward, P., Bartle, C., Truman, W.
  • Date Added: 09 Apr 2012
  • Last Update: 12 Jan 2018
  • Format: pdf


The aim of this study was to investigate the causes of motorcycle accidents. Very little research has been done in this country on the types of crashes experienced by motorcyclists. Motorcycle accidents have somewhat different characteristics when compared with other vehicle groups.


A sample of 1,790 accident cases was considered, including 1,003 in detail, from Midland police forces, involving motorcyclists of all ages, and covering the years 1997–2002 inclusive. Each case was summarised on a database including the main objective features (such as time and place) and a summary narrative, a sketch plan and a list of explanatory factors. The summary narrative, in particular, included judgements by the researchers that emphasised the sequence of events leading up to the accident. In addition, a 25 item questionnaire was completed by a sample of relatively experienced motorcyclists recruited through the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG).

Key Findings:

Significant differences were discovered in the sample with respect to the types of accidents involving motorcyclists (and their blameworthiness). The main findings were as follows:

  • There seems to be a particular problem surrounding other road users’ perception of motorcycles, particularly at junctions. Such accidents often seem to involve older drivers with relatively high levels of driving experience who nonetheless seem to have problems detecting approaching motorcycles.
  • Motorcyclists themselves seem to have far more problems with other types of accident, such as those on bends, and overtaking or ‘filtering’ accidents.
  • There are two main groups of riders that interventions should be focussed on. The first is young and inexperienced riders of smaller capacity machines such as scooters, and the second is older, more experienced riders of higher capacity machines. Both the skills and attitudes of these riders need to be addressed.