A Motorcycle Safety and Transport Policy Framework
It is important to put PTW safety into a proper context. All too often we have seen relatively small negative changes in the statistics lead to a misleading media frenzy when in fact, taken in context with the wider picture, the overwhelming thrust in casualty trends remains downwards. In much the same way, the digital age has now led to media reporting of video clips of anti-social behaviour by riders being widely distributed, skewing perceptions of motorcycling
This is not to say that attention to periodic increases or stalling in progress should be ignored. To the contrary, such events importantly provide focus on the overall safety issue and generate useful public debate.
But looking at the overall picture, we can be pleased with the progress made since the casualty high point of 1960, when 1,743 people were killed on motorcycles. It was not until 1983 that the number of deaths fell sustainably below 1,000.
Total motorcycle casualties have fallen from 67,155 in 1979 to 19,918 in 2015. (1979 was the first year where full casualty data, including slight casualties, became available).
To illustrate the long term trends, the table below sets out achievements over the last generation. Progress since 1984 compared to 2015 is illustrated. 1984 was chosen as this marked a point from where comparative averages were first used in later government analyses.
It can be noted that the number of riders killed has fallen by 62% and the total number of motorcycle casualties has fallen by 57%. Importantly, the casualty rate per mile travelled – the real indicator of whether motorcycling has become safer for individual users or not – has fallen by nearly a half.
This table also includes a comparison with the high point in motorcycle fatalities in 1960. The situation at the time unleashed a great deal of negative public comments about motorcycle safety. This, combined with media reporting of the day, created a negative attitudinal environment to motorcycling. These attitudes have proved surprisingly resilient over the decades – despite fatalities falling by over 80%.
The comparison with 1927, when records began, is for reference.
Historical Casualty Figures
Historically, it can also be seen that the general downward trajectory in the number of casualties seems unaffected by sometimes large changes in the motorcycle parc and number sold per annum. Even during the last period of rising safety concern (2002-2006), the overall trend remained downwards. This clearly demonstrates that the oft-claimed connection between motorcycle usage and increasing casualty trends does not exist in any meaningful way.
Casualties vs Registrations
(Source: DfT, MCIA)