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Motorcycle accident statistics and road surfaces

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Whenever motorcycle accident statistics are mentioned, two reasons are given for the rise in accidents – speed and ‘born again bikers’. Yet there’s one reason that is rarely highlighted, as motorcyclist Rob Stevenson knows only too well…

“The accident I had on my bike was caused by a defective road surface,” explains Rob, who lost control of his bike after riding over a new patch of tar on the A95, one of the main roads in the north east of Scotland. Whenever my front tyre went onto the bitumen which sealed the new tar to the old tar, my bike instantly went over and I tumbled down the road, waiting for a car to hit me.”

Luckily, Rob had come off his bike when there wasn’t an on-coming vehicle and escaped with a broken ankle, wrist and collarbone. “When the police arrived, I explained to them how the bitumen had been the direct cause of the accident and assumed that would be the end of any police involvement.”

However, three months later, two police officers visited Rob at home and told him he was being charged with careless driving with excessive speed. “I told them exactly what I had told their colleague regarding the cause of my crash – and also told them that another local motorcyclist had crashed on the same corner in the same conditions and doing a similar - and legal - speed.”

Rob’s comments about the road surface were ignored and he was then quizzed on his riding ability. “I’ve been riding motorcycles for some time and, having also undertaken the Bike Safe course, I assured the police officers I’d been in the correct position on the road. Once again, I stressed that the accident was not my fault – and that someone was going to be killed at that spot - but neither of them appeared to be listening to me.”

Rob found his insurance company adopted a similar attitude when he asked for legal assistance to pursue a claim against the company which had applied the bitumen to the road. “Legal assistance was part of my insurance policy but my insurance company said I would never win my case and refused to provide me with legal representation.”

A few weeks later, there was another motorcycle accident at exactly the same corner – only this time, one of the attending police officers was a motorcyclist who described the area of bitumen as being ‘like ice’. “Soon after that, the charges against me were dropped,” says Rob.

“In the space of four months, there had been at least three accidents at the same spot which could potentially have had fatal consequences,” said Rob “And the motorcyclist who was involved in the second crash told me that the ditch at the side of the road was littered with broken bits of motorcycles – he described it as ‘a motorbike graveyard’.”

Determined to ensure no-one else would be a victim of this stretch of road, Rob decided to pursue his case against the road contractors. Despite being told again and again that he had no chance of winning, Rob finally found a legal company to take on his case.

After a lengthy legal battle, Rob won his case against the road contractor - who had applied the bitumen to the road without adding skid resistant stones – and was awarded compensation. However, he revealed that winning the case was more about ensuring the road was resurfaced than the money. “It took three crashes in a short space of time, an observant policeman who knew about riding a motorcycle, and a hard-fought court case before it was accepted that the problem at this spot wasn’t speed but a dodgy road surface.”

Brenda Mitchell and a keen motorcyclist herself, revealed that they are dealing with increasing numbers of accidents which are the result of defective road surfaces. “We’ve found that it’s not unusual for speed or lack of motorcycling skills to be blamed when the problem is actually a defective road surface,” said Mrs Mitchell. “With Mr Stevenson’s case, if action had been taken to replace this patch of bitumen as soon as possible after his accident, two further motorcycle accidents could, potentially, have been avoided.


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