The 2015 National Statistics on road collisions were published recently. Interesting reading.
Speed does not kill. It is only a ‘contributory factor’ in 16% of fatal accidents.
Regarding just fatalities, these are the top causes as reported by the police:-
Loss of Control 32%
Failed to look properly 27%
Careless reckless or in a hurry 20%
Exceeding the speed limit 16%
Failed to judge others path or speed 14%
Poor turn or manoeuvre 14%
Driving too fast (but within limits) 12%
(DoT – RAS50007 2015)
These don’t add up to 100% as there can be more than 1 contributory factor, but clearly in 84% of fatal accidents, speeding was not a factor.
Regarding published trends for all collisions over the past 5 years, ‘loss of control’ has improved slightly probably due to vehicle developments, but ‘failing to look properly’, being ‘careless reckless or in a hurry’, or ‘making a poor turn or manoeuvre’ have all steadily increased. ‘Driving too fast for the conditions’ is stable at 7%, so no change there, and ‘speeding’ for all collisions isn’t even in the top 10. (Table RAS50002).
We are simply not tackling the primary root causes of fatalities.
In response to an inappropriate focus on ‘speed’, many speed limits have been reduced, speed cameras installed costing £ millions all over the country, ‘safety camera’ partnerships abound.
‘Speed Awareness Courses’ arrived.
I was told at the recent Road Safety (AIRSO) Conference that more than half the drivers in the country have now done a Speed Awareness course for minor speed infractions. That’s circa 23 million courses at £90 a go, plus no doubt a healthy profit for the AA who deliver them. Drivers and riders have lost time off work and been fleeced collectively for an estimated £2 billion.
The focus has succeeded in reducing speed I think (as has it appears high fuel prices). Vehicles are noticeably driven in general more slowly than they were, but this seems to had had little to no effect, as it was never the main problem.
Strangely, those who are convicted of driving or riding significantly over the speed limit don’t have the option of a speed awareness course – which is just plain ‘nuts’, as these people clearly are likely to be the major continuing risk. Maybe this is the problem? My course was dominated by confused pensioners (my peer group) many of whom misunderstood how fast they could legally go, so they’ll probably go faster as a result. And we all no doubt spent the next few months looking for speed signs and cameras, as opposed to where we were going.
This is the 5 year rolling average change of KSI (fatalities and serious injuries) to smooth out peaks and troughs from the latest DoT report:-
Serious casualties have been decreasing significantly during the last 35 years, but are now static (marginal %age improvement), with improvement tailing off over the last 5 years. Look at just the fatalities (excluding serious life changing injuries):-
So in the last 5 years fatalities are about the same – very little improvement. The main explanation for any improvement is probably that cars are getting safer with airbags and ever stiffer crash test requirements. This seems to be confirmed as motorcycle fatalities are actually up 8% in 2015. Mile for mile you are now 57 times more likely to be killed on a motorcycle than in a car.
It could be argued that reduction in speeds has also improved the outcomes, and no doubt that is what the ‘speed lobby’ will claim, but there is no evidence that I have seen to support this. And it’s I believe likely to be far more effective tackling the primary causes of fatal collisions, rather than accepting the worsening situation and trying to minimise the impact (no pun intended).
You can’t argue that speed awareness is reducing the impact speed and severity of collisions, as the number of SKI’s is now static.
The blind focus on speeding to tackle fatalities has failed. Speeding related fatalities hit a low of 194 and 12% in 2012, but show an increasing trend, up to 244 and 16% in 2015. The situation is now significantly worse.
We are all very lucky to have world class emergency services who seem to have been steadily improving survival rates, which again may be a significant factor in reducing deaths.
There are also separate figures included this year from the NHS (not the police) and they show deaths and serious injury admissions from road collisions (MAIS3+) have remained largely unchanged for many years.
As the ‘Speed Awareness’ program has clearly failed, there is talk now of ‘zero tolerance’ for speeders, which is very unlikely to help either. The huge damage already done to the relationship with the police will suffer further. Before speed cameras the police applied common sense to speeders, usually only prosecuting when the speeding was dangerous, and lecturing drivers instead. I believe it worked.
12% of fatalities were actually caused by vehicles within the speed limit but still travelling too fast for the conditions. And this is even after the reduction in speed limits on very many ‘high casualty’ routes, which I suspect has caught many if not most of the speed awareness attendees. There is no consistency in the application of speed limits which look almost random at times. We have some 30 mph dual carriageways and a 60 mph limit on most single track roads. Ridiculous.
22 million drivers and riders have been lectured on the evils of speeding, misled into believing that keeping within the speed limit is the single most important thing to do, and will help to keep them and others safe. What a misleading wasted opportunity of biblical proportions.
40% of fatalities – two and a half times more than the 16% who were speeding – were caused by a failure to look properly or the miss-judgement of another’s path or speed. Twice as many fatalities as speeding (32%) were caused by the driver/rider losing control. 20% were careless, reckless or in a hurry, 14% were making a poor manoeuver, and 13% were either drunk or drugged (Table RAS50007).
(NB The combination of both speed and losing control contribute to less than 1% of collisions).
The opportunity is there on ‘Speed Awareness Courses’ to present a truthful picture of what actually causes collisions and how to avoid them. Primarily we all need to take more care and pay far more attention, avoid distractions, concentrate. The fact that you end up on a speed awareness course is because you weren’t paying proper attention!
The key factor of ‘reaction times’ is not stressed. TRL research shows reaction times at least double if you’re not paying attention, increasing stopping distances by 30 foot at 30mph, 60 feet at 60mph, and worse case can be 6 times longer if you can’t recognise a hazard for what it is. Drivers and riders also need to be taught properly how to control their vehicles as ‘loss of control’ is the primary cause of twice as many collisions as speeding, despite all the features on modern vehicles.
Standards of driving are noticeably poor. 55% of drivers fail their tests which is appalling (30% of motorcyclists fail) – so many poor drivers inevitably get through by chance eventually, which may also be a major factor. Training in general needs totally revamping to make it more effective. Vehicle control needs to be taught properly as does such skills as overtaking and driving on a motorway which amazingly are not covered.
There are doubtless often early warnings via minor collisions by which the insurance industry could identify those who need further training, before probably an inevitable ‘big one’.
We need to abandon the very misleading ‘Speed Kills’ strap line, focus on the need to pay attention, train road users properly and significantly increase the levels of traffic policing as RoSPA have recently proposed. Back to ‘Think’?
A new course is needed on ‘Collision Avoidance’ based on data and solid theory, not hysteria, on the cause of collisions, the dangers of losing control and how that can be avoided, and the importance of always paying attention stressed. This could be applied primarily to drivers and riders who have collisions and serious offenders, not marginal speeders who present at best a very low risk.
We have collectively allowed ourselves to be hijacked by the anti-speed lobby and misleading populist newspaper stories, and the Government taking an ineffective soft self-funded option rather than dealing properly with the root causes of road fatalities.
We’ve had this discussion many times, and the answer as always seems to be ‘it depends’.
This blog was in response to Bruce Wilson (Ex-National Superstocks) from Motorcycle Sport and Leisure stating he couldn’t stop the ABS interfering last week on our track training day.
It was coming on just as he was about to turn and we wondered why, but with a bit of thought decided it must be a ’tilt’ parameter on the latest Suzuki GSXR1000. We know KTM have a tilt, pitch and lean sensor on their ‘cornering ABS’, which has had rave reviews.
For what is involved have a look at the Bosch website.
Normal ABS may well not work in a corner as the predominate force is radial, and a bit of braking can just exceed the available grip (Mohr’s Circle discussed before) and the tyre could slide sideways whilst still rotating and down you go.
Up to this point we had always said if the ABS comes on you’re not doing it right.
It is proven to work in a straight line to prevent wheels locking, but do you stop quicker? The answer is probably no looking at the bumf from Honda and Suzuki, who both state it does not mean you stop in a shorter distance. The question is why?
We think that simply grabbing the front brake brings the ABS on immediately and probably delays the weight transfer to the front wheel, which lengthens the stopping distance. And we now also appear to have the situation where rear wheel lift will set it off, when you can without it still be braking hard (for a bit longer).
So is it a good idea on a motorcycle? The answer is overall yes, particularly for less experienced riders, but it may lengthen you stopping distances for the skilled – and cornering ABS looks from the reviews simply amazing where a huge amount of skill and experience is needed braking whilst banked.
British Superbike School
Firstly many thanks for Alan Bussell for allowing us to share this with you.
Allan is a very experienced biker and has done as much advanced training as he could pack in from the usual suspects on the roads and track, and was booked to come on one of our track training days for road riders on 30th June, after winning a competition in Motorcycle Monthly.
Sadly he’s just had an off and very luckily escaped with just a few bruises, but the bike is probably a write off. Could have been far worse – note a lack of trees and lamp posts. We’ve known that ‘loss of control’ is a major factor for some time in big bike injuries (>500cc) from the accident statistics.
The problem with modern bikes is even tourers have very powerful engines and very light flywheels, so when the rear wheel loses traction, if the throttle has been opened wider than it needs to be, then the revs rise almost instantly. If the tyre does then find a grippy piece of tarmac it’s a complete lottery what happens next, depends on how far sideways you have got and in which direction, before some grip is found.
This is the classic ‘high-side’ if you are banked, but even a seemingly flat straight road can have enough camber to force the bike sideways. White lines are better than they were but can still be treacherous, and a badly maintained road where all the aggregate has worn off just leaving the tar can be like ice, particularly when wet.
It is worse in a higher gear as you get so little response from opening the throttle wider, so may not realise how far it is open, which is why you should always consider which gear to be in (and change down before taking).
Traction control should have kept Alan upright, but the advice is not only to open the throttle slowly and smoothly, but also never get it further open than you need, rolling it open steadily as the revs increase, ‘dragging’ if you like, the tacho needle around the dial.
Modern injection systems are ‘ride by wire’ with no direct connection between the twist grip and the throttle butterflies (which restrict the flow of incoming air and fuel – or a second set of butterflies controlled by the computer on older bikes). No matter how far you twist the throttle, at lower revs the butterflies won’t open much as the engine can’t digest any more fuel efficiently – until the revs rise and the engine management system then opens them more and more as the revs build until it reaches a point set by the twist grip, when the butterflies stay partially open dependent on how far you’ve turned the throttle.
So if the throttle is fully open at lower revs, if the rear wheel loses grip the engine will instantly hit the rev limiter – peak revs and peak power produced as the tyre tries to grip again. When the rider instinctively reacts and shuts the throttle the bike will likely be sideways when the tyre grips again, which often then throws the rider off.
So the advice is to use your gearbox and consider changing down before overtaking which means the bike is more responsive, twist the throttle gradually as the revs increase, so if you do lose traction then the engine revs will only rise so far, giving you a good chance of saving it.
One piece leathers probably give riders the best protection, although good quality textile clothing should be good enough. Two piece suits, whether textile or leather, are better if either the top and bottom can be zipped together, or if the jacket has a robust crotch strap.
We don’t accept kevlar jeans, as we don’t know how good they will be.
Both textile and leather suits should have CE armour in elbows and knees as a minimum. Shoulders, back and hip protection should also be better. There are also chest protectors available. Check your jacket has a CE marked back protector and not a piece of thin foam. Consider fitting a CE protector in the pocket, or using a separate back protector.
The European standard is EN1621-2 (Level 1 for regular use and Level 2 for sport/track).
Some leather suits are made from very thin leather, could be sheepskin. The quality of the stitching is also vital. Leather is not automatically better.
Here is some interesting general information and advice from Byson Leathers http://www.bysonleather.co.uk/BYSON%20LEATHER%20AboutLeathers.htm
We’ve had some response regarding brake pads and discs, and whether these effect braking distances in any way, so here is a quick review of braking components.
‘Softer’ pads with higher coefficients of friction require less lever effort for the same braking effect, but wear out quicker and can fade. Different construction of and materials used in pads can also effect the ‘feel’ during braking which is vital particularly on a track, and being able to sit the bike in it’s nose with one finger is great.
Make sure you buy a well known brand from a reputable source. I bought some ‘Armstrong Racing’ pads from Newark Auto Jumble some years ago, then went straight at the Esses at Donnington on a trackday. Very lucky to find the problem there, as I was off to the IOM on bike the following week. They were probably OK for normal road use, and of course may be OK now, but had I found the problem going down to the Creg on Mad Sunday…….
Braided hoses, if not already fitted, can make a big difference as they don’t expand as much when pressurised, which makes the brakes feel sharper and uses marginally less lever movement. These do need to be properly made as they operate under high pressure. Most modern hoses are made to measure and swaged rather than you having to assemble your own fittings. Buying a bike fitted already with after market bolted hoses is always a risk that they have been assembled and torqued up properly. If in doubt change them. Again buy a major brand from a recognised supplier, and make sure they are certified correctly. See for example:-
Master cylinders and calipers
The first bike we had which could stop with one finger, was an Aprilia Mille ‘Sound of Thunder’ bike, with the early Brembo racing radial calipers and master cylinder, which are now commonplace on top spec OE bikes. Absolutely amazing at the time. You can retrofit better master cylinders relatively easy (changing calipers usually mean changing forks, or some complicated bracketry for older bikes), but you need to be very careful to use the correct bore and displacement master cylinder, and adjust it correctly.
From experience, everything seems great tested statically, but if the master cylinder piston is not returning far enough, then the fluid cannot return to the reservoir , heats up and locks the front brake. Had this happen to a rider on a race bike with us a couple of years ago , as well as personally on an old TZ350 trying out a smaller bore master cylinder.
Also be very careful where you buy these safety critical parts. Here is a CB500 disc off a race bike where it has cracked and failed at Mallory – the rider was badly hurt.
The same problem was found on a second bike the same day. These are non-floating cast iron, not the modern steel discs. However, steel discs can warp pushing the pads back, which you suddenly discover when it takes two pumps to get the brake to work. The old thin fixed steel disc are very prone to this, so you need to make sure that pads are equally spaced and that the disc is not being bent when the brake is applied (another old TZ problem), which is why ‘floating discs’ were invented.
Some floating discs seem to wear the ‘spools’ very quickly, one side went recently on my GXR1000K7. You can here them ‘tinkling’ when you wheel the bike (some Italian bikes used to do this from new), but we cannot find what the service limits should be. You also sometimes get a ‘clonk’ initially when braking. If in doubt change them.
Modern sintered pads can wear out the discs quite quickly, so always check for bad scoring and minimum thickness (usually stamped on the disc).
Again buy OE or recognised brands from a reputable source.
Needs to be changed every two years on road bikes, more often for race bikes. Dot 4 is usually recommended, and there is a Dot 4 Racing with a higher boiling point for track bikes. The problem is you don’t know you have a problem until the fluid overheats and boils, as it absorbs water over time, and the brakes simply fail. There is also a new DOT 5.1 which has a longer life, not to be confused with DOT 5 which is silicone based and must not be mixed with any other brake fluid. DOT 5 doesn’t absorb water so has a long life, has a high boiling point, doesn’t act as a paint stripper, is better at very low temperatures, but is supposed to be more compressible making brakes spongy, and is not suitable for anti-lock systems.
Apparently some Harleys have DOT 5 fluid.
Always refer to your bikes handbook, only buy small bottles of fluid to top up and keep the caps on. For racing brake fluid, refer to the manufacturers advice for usage and frequency of changes.
What finally limits braking distances on a bike, is that braking forces much over 1 g have the back wheel in air, as the centre of gravity is so high, so braking harder flips the bike. This usually happens quite slowly, so riders have time to simply ease off the brakes.
We came across this piece of research from the Transport Research Laboratory which appears to have gone under the radar, which we present on our road training courses. Our previous paper on braking a motorcycle (or car) from high speed used the TRL 0.7 second standard reaction time to hazards, but this research shows how much this can vary on circumstance.
There are two factors as to whether you can avoid a collision or minimise the impact speed:-
a. How quickly you can react
b. How quickly you can stop (which we covered in the earlier post) or swerve.
These figures (see below) were reaction times using a simulator in different scenarios.
1. Cars and pedestrians emerging.
Average reaction time at 0.85 is actually a bit greater than that currently used in Highway Code stopping distances.
2. A vehicle braking ahead.
This at an average 1.3 seconds is nearly twice the figure used in Highway Code stopping distances, and the ‘two second rule’ leaves you with a 0.7 second gap in which to brake (or 70 feet at 70 mph). It is also clear that most driver and riders amazingly don’t expect the vehicle ahead to brake suddenly, as from observation they ride/drive far too close and would often simply hit the vehicle in front without even beginning to brake.
3. A vehicle ahead veering off the road and knocking down an overhead motorway gantry.
This I think we can all agree is ‘unexpected’, but reaction time is surprisingly only slightly longer than a vehicle braking in front.
4. A stationary vehicle in front the centre of the lane
This is the real concern as clearly riders/drivers see a vehicle ahead and don’t realise for some while that it is stationary, taking on average nearly 4 seconds to brake or 5 seconds to swerve. A massive 400-500 feet to react at 70 mph. This can also apply in any situation where you do not immediately recognise a hazardous situation, which is why ‘hazard perception’ is such an issue and part of any licencing test, as is planning ahead.
This is known by the emergency services which is why you will see emergency vehicles now always parked across the road or diagonally, to indicate they are stationary.
Also included is the effects of fatigue on reaction times, which is very noticeable, adding more than a second in all circumstances. So if you’re tired a 2 seconds separation distance from a vehicle ahead is nowhere near enough.
So what are the conclusions?
1. Always leave a good gap ahead – 2 seconds is clearly not enough – particularly at high speed.
2. Pay attention!
3. Don’t drive when tired. Stop and get a coffee – a large cup from Costa (other providers are available) not only kept me wide awake riding home the other day, but for half the night.
Again most braking actually occurs in the last few feet, so the earlier you react has a disproportionate effect on the lowering the speed of any impact or avoiding one (which is better).
Mike Abbott, British Superbike School 25.11.15
This article is in response to an interesting question on Twitter from BikeSafe Glos, to an earlier blog on tyre grip, as to whether the extra tyre grip from the weight of a pillion would reduce stopping distances?
The short simple theoretical answer is it makes no difference. The physics is as follows:-
The kinetic energy of bike and rider(s) = m times v squared / divided by 2, where m = Mass (Weight) and v = Speed.
The braking force = umgd, where u = coefficient of friction between tyre and road, m = Mass, g = gravity, and d = distance.
When braking, the two equations are equal, so ‘Mass’ cancels out as it’s a multiplier for both sides. So (in theory) weight on its own makes no difference to stopping distances.
The additional grip via the passenger’s weight is balanced out by the increased momentum of the additional rider. This does however seem counter intuitive from experience, so there may be other factors.
The rider often has to cope with the extra weight of the pillion passenger pressing on him or her, which has to be held back via the rider’s arms, legs and crutch against the tank (usually) which can be ‘eye watering’ – for blokes anyway.
What limits stopping distances is also the position of the centre of gravity of bike and rider(s), as modern bikes can flip over forwards like a pedal cycle. This limits braking to about 1 g – where cars can do much better (Formula One cars can stop at >5 g with downforce) with a far lower centre of gravity.
However, having a pillion shifts the centre of gravity backwards potentially allowing a faster rate of de-acceleration without flipping. Sportsbike pillions sit higher, so the effect is less than with other types of motorcycle.
Illustrations from Motorcycle Dynamics by Vittorre Cossalter .
I’ve taken out the effects of wind drag on braking (and no we’re not on commission).
The red line shows the effect of the shift in the centre of gravity rearwards and slightly upwards, as the included angle decreases, meaning that de-acceleration can be greater without flipping. When the angle is 45 degrees the maximum de-acceleration would be 1 g, whereas tyre grip can result in up to >1.3 g, so the location of the centre of gravity is key.
So in theory having a pillion would reduce stopping distances, everything else being equal, but is the theory actually achievable? Front suspension can bottom out with the extra weight transferred forward, the bike becomes less stable as trail reduces further, so it is advisable to change the suspension settings as recommended by the manufacturer for a pillion and luggage if necessary. Some bikes are too likely sprung, like the early AprIlia RSV’S, even for solo riding, so aftermarket suspension mods might help, but always go to a reputable company.
As an aside, is also probably worth pointing out that accident first responders will go looking for a pillion if they find a crashed bike had its rear footrests down, particularly sportsbike crashes in rural locations.
There are a few myths surrounding bike tyres and grip, and for sure the tyre companies are not going to give anything away.
The first is that the bigger the contact patch area then the higher the grip. Area surprisingly has nothing in theory to do with grip!
Why – because grip is simply weight x coefficient of friction.
The formula for friction (grip) is Fr = μN
The inevitable question is then why do we have such wide tyres? The answer is threefold we believe – to have a carcass that can take the torque from the engine, braking or cornering forces ; to dissipate heat; to reduce wear so softer grippier compounds can be made to last.
Rear tyres are wider as they have to cope with a higher sustained loads than a front tyre. You accelerate hard as you can all the way down the straight, but only brake usually for the last couple of hundred metres when almost all the load will be on the front. The maximum load is limited, as bikes can flip when braking and loop when accelerating (unlike cars). However cornering speed is mainly dependent on tyre grip, which is the obvious payback for having grippier tyres, and hence the development of dual compound tyres with softer shoulders. Hope this makes sense.
Old bikes with far lower power had similar sized tyres front and back, and really skinny ones if anyone has ever seen a 50cc Kreidler close up.
Mohr’s Circle in it’s simplest form shows the theory of tyre grip. You use grip up on cornering, and also when braking or accelerating at the same time, but as long as the combined forces stay inside the circle you have grip, outside the circle you don’t. Clearly in this example the red arrow showing the effect of a high lean angle where the cornering force is nearly at the edge, so any serious braking or accelerating and the tyre will slide. With good modern tyres, the grip ends between 50 and 60 degrees of lean (assuming you have the ground clearance and more with race slicks), but Mohr’s theory does indicate that you can accelerate and brake quite hard at medium lean angles, but this ability reduces quickly as you get towards the limit.
A second myth is that you get more grip at 45 degrees than you do upright. You don’t, as above grip is coefficient of friction x weight, and weight is a constant (bike and rider). It might feel as if you have more grip, but that is just the horizontal forces compressing the suspension at high lean angles (which some riders also confuse with tyre slip).
The third myth is ‘standing it up onto the fat part of the tyre’ when coming out of corners, it’s just that the more upright you can get the more grip is available to accelerate rather than corner. This technique requires an initial slower exit as a trade off with getting on the gas a bit harder and earlier.
Tyres are designed to slip (drift not slide) before they let go, which is where rider feel comes in. Slip angles are typically up to about 6 degrees in ‘normal’ riding, and either tyre or both can drift sideways in the same way a car oversteers or understeers. You need a lot of experience and confidence to get this far, and it would be only sensible on a track. Watch closely how Josh Brooks often rides when he is really on it.
Tyres also distort significantly under load, looking kidney shaped at high lean angles, or ‘s’ shaped when cornering and braking or accelerating, with a steep temperature gradient from front to back of contact patch, which can also move forwards and backwards as the tyres distort, slowing the steering marginally, and ‘shortening’ the effective wheelbase.
There is more information in Motorcycle Dynamics by Vittore Cossalter ISBN-13: 978-1430308614, which you can get on Amazon and elsewhere. Chapter 2 is on tyres. Great book – but heavy on the maths.
It is usually safer to just use the rear brake if you need to slow on corners, as this stabilises the bike and is recoverable if you lock the rear wheel. In theory the front brake would be more effective, but it can sit the bike up and make you run wide, and if you lock it when leant over you’ll very likely drop it, so needs a higher degree of skill and practise, which is risky on the road.