As we enter the new year, the news that 166 motorcyclists in South Africa died last year in accidents that ranged from motor vehicle collisions, to pedestrians and even self-inflicted causes tends to offer a sober warning. And while you may think that is a small percentage of the riders on our roads, it represents a worrying number in what is still a relatively small active biker community in this country.
The statistics for 2017 show that 641 accidents took place last year, with 72.3% involving motorcars while 25% involved other motorcycles, and pedestrians were the cause of a mere 2%. And the leading cause of accidents? Well, the stats and reports show that 77% of all motorcycle accidents could be attributed to rider error, and perhaps this is the most disconcerting element of the statistics. Our death rate as motorcyclists last year was 24% of the total number of accidents, and if a large part of those deaths resulted from rider error, then we have a problem in our biking community.
With some of the finest roads in the world and some absolutely awesome routes to ride, we still have far too many riders taking reckless and stupid chances out on the road. On a recent ride on what is fast becoming 'the' death road between Lanseria and Haartbeespoort in Gauteng, the number of inconsiderate riders taking stupid chances in the traffic - some facing-down oncoming trucks and even overtaking on the left shoulder of the road, was staggering. And many of these riders had a pillion with them. I have even recently witnessed what can only be regarded as a moron screaming past me (breezing me) at some ungodly speed, wearing nothing more than a sleeveless T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops! He probably thought the addition of a helmet made all the difference, but what made this particular twat even more special, was that he did this with his equally attired pillion 'bike chick'. With 'riders' like these on the road, the death-toll will rise and good, responsible riders will become collateral damage in the process.
Forty three percent of all motorcycle accidents last year involved superbikes with the majority taking place on urban roads (63%), and this indicates a total lack of consideration for the conditions and environment in which they rode. We accept that in many cases, motorists just don't see bikes and accidents happen, but as the stats show, by far the majority of accidents happened because of the rider. I have to put my hand up here as well, because a few years ago I was involved in an accident that could have been avoided had I been less impatient and more observant. Accidents happen, but as a biking community, we need to take greater responsibility for our own behavior - and that of our riding partners and friends. How many times have you been on a ride when one of your fellow riders does something really dumb - with the potential for an accident, but you say nothing or brush-it-off as a joke..? I have started avoiding trips with guys whose company I enjoy because I consider their riding to be dangerous - and yes, this in no way reflects on their abilities as riders. As riders, we tend to learn 'on the job' so to speak, and newcomers often underestimate the skills of other riders as they attempt to emulate guys that borderline on dangerous riding, resulting in accidents and even deaths.
Perhaps part of the problem lies in the fact that youngsters (or even older guys) can get their licence on a 125 cc but they are not limited to the size of bike they can ride. There is a world of difference between the 125/250 cc bikes of our youth and the superbikes and pocket-rockets that many get to ride, but current legislation makes no allowance for this. Yes, there are 'natural' riders and some amazingly competent riders out there - truly a joy to watch, but by far the majority of riders are average, weekend warrior guys riding bikes that they can barely control. No wonder we have these unnecessary deaths.
So, when you go out this weekend or on your next ride, take a moment to think about how you ride; how observant you are and whether you can handle that beast you are sitting on. It could save your life.