Motorcycling – The Facts

Motorcyclists are 57 times more likely to be injured in serious or fatal crashes than car drivers.

The Department for Transport has published statistics on road casualties in accidents reported to the police in Great Britain in 2009, according to the arrangements approved by the UK Statistics Authority.

Key results

  • There were 472 motorcycle user fatalities in 2009, 4% lower than 2008. The number reported as seriously injured fell by 4% to 5,350. Total reported motorcycle user casualties fell by 4% to 20,703 in 2008. Motorcycle traffic rose by 2% over the same period. The all motorcycle user casualties figure for 2009 of 20,703 is 4% lower than in 2008.
  • There were 163,554 road accidents reported to the police involving personal injury in 2009, 4 per cent fewer than in 2008.  Of these, 21,997 accidents involved serious injuries, 5 percent fewer than in 2008 (23,121).

Injuries to motorcyclists are far out of proportion to their presence on our roads. Motorcyclists are just 1% of total road traffic, but account for 19% of all road user deaths. (Source: Reported Road Casualties Great Britain 2008).

Typically around three-quarters (75%) of motorcycle KSIs (killed or seriously injured) occur in collisions involving another vehicle (usually a car). In 2008, just over half (51%) occurred in collisions at junctions, with the remainder of KSIs occurring either in crashes with other vehicles away from junctions (24%) or in single vehicle incidents (25%) .

A report by the National Highway Traffic Administration states that between 1975 and 1999, motorcycle accidents claimed the lives of 38,000 motorcyclists. The Fatality Analysis Reporting System has analyzed possible reasons for the increasing accidents. Some causal factors include the following: rural roads, high percentage of alcohol content in blood, night driving (which accounts for 60% of fatalities), vision problems, and undivided roadways, among. Weather does not account for most accident cases.

Know Your Legal Rights – Helmets

Helmets are compulsory and must be marked BS 6658 1985 or UN/ECE 22-05. A sidecar driver and pillion passenger must wear a helmet but sidecar passengers do not require a helmet. Trike regulations are more complex. Trike riders or passengers may have to wear a helmet and some may even have to wear seat belts depending on vehicle licensing classification. Such variables such as weight and whether you sit astride or in a seat are factors that have to be considered. You should check with the DVLC to find the correct classification.


To be legal they must conform to BS 4110, which ensures a level of scratch resistance and permits up to 50% light transmittance. Any other visors are illegal but sunglasses, tear-offs and inner wrap-arounds are permitted.

Pillion Passengers

There is no age limit but must be able to place both feet on the pillion footrests.


Headlights must show a white light or yellow tint, any other colour is illegal. The headlight bulb must not be above 55 watts but there is no limit to the number of headlamps on bikes constructed or registered after 1984. Before 1985 there is no limit and there is no requirement for it to have an E-stamp marked on it.
Indicators are not a legal requirement but if fitted they must work.

Number Plates

Number plates must conform to BS AU 145a or from 1st September 2001, to BS AU 145d: They must have black characters on yellow background Only the authorised font, or something substantially similar is permitted.


Height: 64mm.

Width: 44mm.

Stroke width: 10mm.

Space between characters: 10mm.

Space between groups: 30mm.

Top, side and bottom margin: 11mm.

Symbols/Emblems: the Euro Stars with GB is the only permitted symbol on UK numberplates.

New plates from 1st September 2001 must carry the makers’ name/trademark or other means of ID of maker, plus name and postcode of supplying outlet. Black background plates with white or silver letters are only legal on pre 1st January 1973 machines.


Silencers All replacement silencers/exhausts must, for road use, be marked as follows: EU e mark or UNECE E mark e.g. e11 or E11 and an approval number e.g. 007 or BS AU 193/T2 or BS AU 193a:1990/T2 or BS AU 193a 1990/T3 or an international mark that is equivalent to BS or Pre 1985 MC Only. If marked NOT FOR ROAD USE it is not road-legal.


Speedometers must be marked in mph. A conversion sticker on the face of the speedometer for kph clocks is acceptable.

VED (Tax) Discs

It is not sufficient for your bike just to be taxed, the tax disc must also be displayed in front of the rider on the nearside.

VED (Tax) Exemption

All vehicles first registered on or before 1st January 1973 are exempt.


Must have tread depth of at least 1mm across three-quarters of the breadth of the tread and in a continuous band around the entire circumference.

Tyres are your only point of contact with the road surface. You cannot neglect the condition of your Tyres. If you do you could endanger not only yourself and your passengers, but also other road users. recommends that you check the condition of your Tyres regularly (at least weekly).

A Nationwide Survey (Tyre Industry Council, 2002) showed that almost 27% of vehicles had tyres with tread depths of less than 2mm. It is accepted that tyre performance and in particular braking in the wet, deteriorates dramatically below 2mm. Approximately 12% of vehicles actually had illegal tyres.

Why should you check your tyres?

Did you know that you are not insured when driving on illegal tyres? Worn tyres significantly impede the performance of your vehicle. Do not forget that a worn tyre reduces the effectiveness of braking, steering, and acceleration. What are a few minutes put aside now to check your tyres, when you compare it to your own safety?

What should you check?

The Tyre Industry Council have devised a five point tyre check:

  • Check overall condition of tyres, including inner and outer sidewalls.
  • Check tyre tread depth.
  • Check all tyre pressures.
  • Check signs of irregular wear, i.e. alignment.

Check and examine the spare tyre.

Know Your Legal Rights – Motorbike Accidents

If you are involved in a motorcycle accident whilst riding and someone is injured, damage occurs to another vehicle or property or an animal is injured or killed, you must;

– Stop and remain at the scene for a reasonable period;

– Give your vehicle and personal details ie registration number of vehicle, name and address and details of the vehicle owner, if different, to anyone who has reasonable grounds for requesting these details.

If you do not give your details at the time of accident, you should report the accident to the Police as soon as is reasonable and, in any case, within 24 hours

In cases of injury to another person, you must also produce your insurance certificate at the scene, if required to do so by anyone with reasonable grounds. If you do not, you must report the accident to the Police as soon as is possible and, in any case, within 24 hours, produce your insurance certificate to the Police within 7 days

You should also report any accident to your insurance company as soon as is reasonable to do so. All Police Forces tend to perform breathalyser tests after a serious road accident. Refusing a breathalyzer test is an offence that carries serious penalties. If you have been involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault, call the BMF Biker Legal Line on 08000 856 243.

Make sure you get the names and address of witnesses, details of vehicles and people involved, and report the accident to the police.

If you are in any doubt whatsoever in regard to a motorcycle accident then seek legal advice.

Motorcycle modifications: Check before you change anything

Many motorcyclists buy bikes with a view to making modifications, to extract the best ride, performance and look of their motorcycle.

Once a motorcycle has left the manufacturer, any changes to it are classed as modifications. These range from upgrading your exhaust, to a change in colour, to uprated suspension. No matter how small you consider the modification is, you could be invalidating your insurance policy, even fitting a top box!

Some insurance companies will not want to cover a modified motorbike, so owners would need to investigate specialist insurance policies and may have to pay a premium for the cover. However, many insurers will cover modifications. If in doubt, contact your insurer to discuss it. It’s really not worth the risk if you have an accident!

There’s a common misconception that modifications will always increase their insurance premium. This is not necessarily the case.

Insurers companies report that aftermarket exhausts cans are the most common modification made and if they are seen as performance enhancing, they could affect your insurance premium.

Changes that increase a motorcycle’s capacity by up to 5% are unlikely to increase an insurance premium, but anything over that could lead to an increase. Always check before your modify your bike.

Insurers strongly recommend motorcyclists notify them of any modifications so they can assess whether they’ll affect the premium.

The last thing a biker wants is to be involved in an accident or to have their bike stolen, only to find that because they failed to notify their insurer about a modification that their policy has been invalidated. Your insurer could even refuse to indemnify bikers against any claims made by other individuals!

If you fail to notify your insurer and you are involved in an accident or your motorcycle is stolen, on some occasions your modifications may not invalidate your policy, but it could mean your insurer will only replace the model of bike you were insured for, and wouldn’t include sums for modifications that had been carried out.

Some modifications can affect the legality of riding your motorcycle. No modification should include objects that protrude from the bike, which in an accident could injure the rider or another individual.

Some modifications could also affect your MOT, so it’s always best to check before you go ahead and change anything.

In addition, the DVLA must always be informed when you are making the following changes:

  • colour
  • engine size
  • cylinder capacity
  • replacement or modifications of chassis or body shell

frame number

Know Your Rights – Police Stop Checks

civil with the Police Officer. Don’t forget they have discretion in regards to offences you may be reported for or fined. If you conduct yourself in a civil manner, you may simply get a warning.

If you are not carrying your licence, insurance certificate or MOT, the Officer may issue you with a notice requiring you to produce these documents at a named Police Station within 7 days. You should be treated in a civil manner by the Officer.

If you have committed an offence, the Officer should explain this and then take one of the following courses of action:

  1. Report you for Summonsing
  2. Issue you a fixed penalty ticket
  3. Issue a vehicle rectification notice

The Officer has the right to seize your property as evidence of an offence, but not damage it. If your property is seized as evidence i.e. exhaust silencer or number plate, consider your position before proceeding in light of further offences being committed.

If you feel you have been unfairly treated, you should make a note of the Officer’s badge number and station then make a formal complaint by contacting (in person or by telephone) the relevant Police Station. Ask to speak to the Duty Inspector and advise them of the details of your complaint.

If you are in any doubt in regard to a prosecution involving a driving offence then seek independant legal advice.

Road casualties down

The Department Of Transport (DfT) have released statistics on road casualties in Great Britain which indicate a fall. The main findings of the stats compared 2009 with 2008 on all accidents that involve some form of personal injury and that are reported to the Police within 30 days.

The total number of casualties, 222,146, was 4% lower than 2008.

Breakdown by injury:

» 2,222 people were killed, 12 per cent down comapred to 2008
» 24,690 were seriously injured (5% cent lower)
» 195,234 were slightly injured (4% cent lower)

Failing to look was the largest factor that lead to a collision, whilst in fatal accidents statistics, loss of control was the most frequent reported factor. 58% of pedestrian casualties failed to look. Car drivers were most likely to suffer neck injuries whilst almost 50% of pedestrian and motorcyclist injuries involved injury to their hip or legs.

Know Your Rights – Prosecution by fixed or mobile safety (speed) cameras

In circumstances where an oral notice of prosecution is not given at the time of the offence then a summons or written Notice Of Prosecution (NIP) must be served within 14 days.

The Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 states that a failure to comply with the 14 day requirement is no bar to conviction if a court is satisfied that the name and address of the accused or of the vehicles registered keeper could not be ascertained in time to serve a summons or NIP.

If you are in any doubt in regard to a prosecution involving a safety camera offence then seek independant legal advice.

Speeding Advice

The rules the local constabulary must follow when nicking you for speeding are complex and thorough. Our guide will equip assist you in making the most of your rights should that summons arrive.

To get an accurate speed check, your bike must be the only vehicle in the line of view:

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has its own manual on speeding. It states “Radar speed meters are designed to measure the speed of one vehicle at a time. Should there be more than one vehicle present in the radar field of view, it is possible for the device to detect two different signals and alternately display different speeds, in which case the check must be aborted.”

That means that if there’s another vehicle around, the speed on the radar may be the speed of that vehicle and not your bike, and the evidence should be scrapped even if the vehicle was a long way behind you.

“It is quite possible for the signal from a large vehicle some distance behind a smaller vehicle to override the signal from the nearer vehicle,” says the manual.

The guidelines warn that “An operator must not measure and make detections for prosecution when more than one vehicle is within the radar detection range.”

The same rules apply to unmanned speed cameras, including GATSOS. With reference to the photographic evidence these devices rely on, the guide says: “Where there is a suggestion in the negative that two or more vehicles are or may be in the measurement field, the reading should be disregarded.”

The speed check must be done in line with your bike’s path:

This applies to both handheld radars and lasers. It means that the speed check must be done from a position directly in front of your bike, on a straight stretch of road. If it’s not, the reading will be inaccurate and should be scrapped.

There must be no large road signs, hoardings, pillar boxes, bus stops or other large stationary objects in the area:

According to the manual, objects such as these can reflect and scatter the signal from a handheld radar, making accurate speed measurement impossible. “It is therefore an important requirement to check a site before starting measurements,” it says. “The operator should always select a site with a clear view of the oncoming traffic which is free of any large objects such as bus shelters, large road signs and metal fences or crash barriers which are close to the radar. To avoid multiple reflections, the radar must not be operated under or through bridges or railway arches,” it continues.

It goes on to say: “Police radio transmitters, whether handheld or car mounted, must not be used at the moment a vehicle speed is being measured.” The site must also be away from high voltage overhead lines, transmitting masts or towers, airports or harbours, or places where high power radio transmitters may be expected.

Handheld radars must be aimed at your vehicle for a minimum of 3 seconds for a valid check, within a distance of 200 metres:

Once a reading has appeared on the display, the radar device should be held steady, pointing along the road for a duration of not less than 3 seconds. During this period a steady reading must be obtained which equates to the observations of the operator.

Officers using handheld devices should be clearly visible and should stand at the roadside, not on the central reservation:

This applies to both laser and radar equipment. “Handheld radar speedometers should only be operated by an officer on foot,” says the manual, before later stating that “operators of devices should normally do so from positions where they will be clearly visible to the public.

Stats revealed by Government reveal 472 biker deaths in 2009

The number reported as seriously injured also fell 4% to 5,350; whilst the total reported biker casualties for 2009 is 20,703 – again 4% down on 2008. This is despite motorbike traffic rising by 2% over the same period.

The Motorcycle Industry Association said police Bike Safety initiatives, intelligent enforcement, engineering improvement standards, and commitment from trainers to improve standards has contributed to a safer motorbiking environment.

MCIA CEO Steve Kenwood said: “Although there is still a strong concern about the number of biker casualties, year after year motorcycling continues to get safer in terms of the chances of having an accident.

“The report that the decline in motorcycle fatalities during 2009 is welcome, but we cannot be complacent about this – there are still too many people dying in accidents – we still have much work to do.

“The MCIA and the motorcycling community will strive to work hard to improve safety and ensure they get full government support for a more rounded approach to road user safety.

Reports confirmed that in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight in 2008, 252 bikers were killed or seriously injured, and 849 suffered an injury in road traffic accidents. 65% of all injuries resulted from impacts involving a motorcycle or scooter at junctions and 35% of those incidents, the other motorist failed to see the motorcycle.

Lancashire County Council (in partnership with Lancashire Police) have launched a campaign to give motorists advice and training encouraging them to think more about motorcyclists; while in Norfolk, the THINK campaign run by the council, the three emergency service and the Highways Agency offers motorcyclists the chance to enhance their riding through additional training.

The number of bikers killed or seriously injured on Norfolk’s roads fell from 102 in 2008 to 93 in 2009, an 8.8% fall.

Top Ten Motorcycle Accident Avoidance Tips


Give yourself the best chance of staying upright by regularly servicing and maintaining your motorcycle.

As you learned on your training course, carry out routine daily checks to ensure everything’s working; wouldn’t you feel a prat if someone rear-ended you at night because your tail light bulb had blown!

Tyres in good condition with a decent amount of tread depth, inflated to the correct pressure will give the rider much better feedback.

Remember, your tyres will need time to warm up to operating temperature for optimum grip. This fluctuates according to ambient and road temperature and riding style. If in doubt, read the owner’s manual or consult your local dealer for advice.


You’ve had a blazing row with your partner, the credit card bill’s just arrived, the cat’s deposited in your new Shoei lid – time to go for a spin to let off steam? Probably not!

Even the world’s best motorcycle racers don’t perform well if their mind is not focused on the job, so launching out for a spirited ride to quell your anger probably isn’t a wise move for anyone. The same is to be said for being tired, hung over or under the weather.

Stay inside, calm down/get better and then enjoy your ride.


Riding too close to the vehicle in front reduces your available braking distance, reduces visibility and reduces the chances of other motorists seeing you.

Keep at least a two-second gap between your machine and the vehicle in front (two chevrons). Allow four seconds or more if the road is wet, poor visibility, or you’re following a high-sided vehicle.

Pick a fixed point in the road, start counting when the vehicle in front passes it. If you’ve reached it before you’ve counted ONE THOUSAND, TWO THOUSAND then you’re too close!


The speed at which a motorcycle is travelling at can be deceptive. Brisk acceleration, coupled with a liberal smattering of new rider excitement can result in a novice substantially topping the speed limit without even realising it.

Any increase in speed above the speed limit also boosts the chances of an accident and getting nicked. Aim to stay within the speed limit at all times by regularly checking your clocks.


The right motorcycle gear will help save your flesh in an accdent but good quality kit can also help reduce the chances of an accident before it’s started.

Research has proved that riders who wear brightly coloured helmets and protective clothing substantially reduce the chances of being involved in an accident involving another motorist.

Also, quality kit that keeps the rider warm and dry also helps them stay alert in wet and cold weather, giving better reaction times than a bike who’s wet through and cold. Look for Goretex, or similar breathable membranes when investing in new kit.

We also recommend fitting an anti-mist shield in your helmet. These reduce ‘misting-up’, maximising your visibility.


Making your way through a busy car park or town centre in slow moving traffic is a fine art and requires good clutch control, so keep your bike skills sharp by practising them as often as you can.

Ideally, find a disused road, airfield or car park to polish up your emergency braking and clutch control skills. It’s also great way to familiarise yourself with a new bike.

Run through the braking sequences you were taught by your instructor to keep it smooth and steady. A good emergency stop should never look too dramatic.

Try placing a couple of objects on the floor to practice figure of 8s, focusing on what you’re riding around while balancing throttle, clutch and back brake. On a disused road try doing a u-turn without putting your foot down, practice makes perfect and it will improve your clutch control.

After a while the skills will become second nature, which means you are less likely to grab a handful of front brake when if you need to stop quickly. It’ll also mean you can look cool when riding, feet-up, into your local bike meet.


Rideouts with the right bunch of people can be a wonderful experience. But if you’re unlucky enough to be thrown in the deep end, with a bunch of ‘Sunday power rangers’ looking for a race on a sunny afternoon, then we suggest going it alone!

It’s difficult enough learning to get comfortable on public roads without some idiot chopping your nose off at every turn and pulling unexpected manoeuvres in an attempt to show off to the newbie.

Pick a sensible mate from which to learn; someone who you respect for the right reasons. Enjoy developing your skills at your own pace, not theirs.


Taking to the road when the gritters are out is a sure-fire way of knackering your bike and probably yourself.

Black ice, cold tyres, poor visibility and a lack of grip most of the time means a hard-hitting faceplant is not so much ‘if’ but ‘when’. Now add a healthy dose of clueless car drivers attempting the same feat and we think you get the picture. Same rules apply for torrential rain and high winds.


Lack of attention to the changing road surface is one of the most common reasons many new riders fall from their motorcycle.

A diesel spill, gravel strewn across the road, or a patch of wet leaves under a tree will usually cause no problem for a car driver, but can prove the undoing of any biker. Balancing on just two wheels, rather than four, motorcycle tyres rely heavily on good road surfaces for grip when accelerating, braking and cornering.

Survey the road ahead for changes in road surface, looking out for; draining covers, slippery tarmac, gravel or wet leaves.

All dodgy road conditions should be treated with caution. Avoid heavy braking, sharp acceleration or fast cornering. Judicious use of the back brake is far better than grabbing a handful of front. A day or two at an off-road school will really help develop your skills to tackle this.


Despite their reputation for being tedious and run by a bunch of old farts on BMWs, advanced riding courses are a great way of furthering your riding skills. A number of good motorcycle training companies offer advanced and pass plus courses, the latter of which are specifically tailored for new riders.

As we have already mentioned, defensive riding is the name of the game and what better way to learn than on a advanced skills course?