Thomas Mitchell: Campaign to reduce motorcyclist deaths

Thomas Mitchell: Campaign to reduce motorcyclist deaths

Thomas Mitchell

Thomas Mitchell takes a look at the statistics around motorcycle casualties, which cast doubt on the claims made by Transport Scotland.

Over the five years up to 2022, motorcyclists accounted for 17 per cent of all fatalities but less than one per cent of traffic. In 2022, according to Scottish government figures, 467 motorcyclists were killed or injured in road collisions. This represents eight per cent of all road casualties and a two per cent rise from 2021.

Motorcyclists account for a disproportionate number of deaths on our roads. If you ask Transport Scotland why this is the case, their default response is that it was the motorcyclist’s fault: there were no other vehicles involved; they executed a poor turn or manoeuvre; they were going too fast; they lost control. Ask any motorcyclist, or indeed the personal injury lawyers who handle the cases of the bereaved and the struggling families of those seriously injured, and this does not hold true.

So, where is Transport Scotland getting its data from to support such assertions? The causes of road traffic accidents are derived from data gathered by Police Scotland when attending accident sites. At a time of emergency and heightened emotions, data is rarely objective. It is opinion-based and subjective, and this should be a red flag for policymakers.

There’s a concept in computer science where flawed, poor-quality, or biased information input produces a similar output or result. That concept is garbage in, garbage out (GIGO). Transport Scotland has potentially been operating with GIGO data for years because some of the data provided to them, especially around causation, is subjective.

It was Mark Twain who said: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” Equally, Mr Twain also quipped: “Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.” With that in mind, the perspective I have is very different to that of Transport Scotland.

Having analysed over 200 of our firm’s cases involving motorcycle casualties throughout the course of 2022 – 2023, we discovered that more than 70 per cent of fatalities and injuries were caused by errors made by another driver involved in the collision. Granted, we are only seeing a proportion of the casualties, but the snapshot does support a worrying sign where motorcyclists are killed or seriously injured because of a driver’s failure to look for them or see them.

Something needs to be done to change the narrative around motorcyclists as a road user group. Because of this, we are supporting a road safety campaign initiated by three women who tragically lost their motorcycling partners on Scotland’s roads. Fostering a culture of mutual respect and tackling what we see as the number one cause of motorcyclist deaths, i.e., other road users, is long overdue. Together, we are now calling for all drivers to #TakeAnotherLook at junctions.

The aim of the #TakeAnotherLook campaign is to remind motorists that every time they get behind the wheel of a car, they assume control of a machine capable of causing harm to others. The Scottish government has set a target of 30 per cent fewer motorcyclists killed or seriously injured by 2030.

However, this will not be achieved unless attitudes towards motorcyclists change. Simply put, motorcyclists are not killing themselves, they are being killed by other factors. Only by addressing those factors do we stand a chance of improving road safety for this vulnerable group.

Thomas Mitchell is an associate at RTA LAW LLP

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