Stay safe on the road: What motorcyclists should consider

Whether you're on a long ride enjoying the scenery and sunshine, or you're filtering through bumper to bumper traffic to get to work in the morning, you deserve to be kept safe on our roads. Motorcyclists shouldn't have to worry that a driver won't see them – but they do.

When a car did a U-turn into the path of his motorbike, Ben* swerved immediately. Unfortunately, he collided with another car and suffered injuries to his spine, pelvis, leg, ribs and hand.

The 31-year-old tradesman brought a fault-based claim against the driver responsible for his motorbike accident, seeking damages for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment in life and loss of earning capacity. His medical expenses and lost wages were also covered by Victoria's road injuries insurer, the Transport Accident Commission (TAC).

Ben's case highlights how vulnerable motorbike riders are to the actions of other drivers. And it's just one of many cases we see. 

There are some common, yet dangerous, mistakes happening on the roads that are hazardous to motorcyclists. While drivers are, of course, responsible for their own movements – and there are a few things riders want drivers to know – there are some actions you can take to keep yourself safe.

1. Assume car drivers cant see you

Sorry mate, I didn’t see you (SMIDSY) – it’s a saying that has become an acronym because it’s said so often. And it's not okay.

We’re advocating for better driver awareness of motorcycles and their place on the road. Drivers need to make a conscious effort to look for motorcycles, which are smaller than cars, and get out of that mindset of only looking for cars.

However, the reality is that, as a motorbike rider, you should always assume drivers don’t see you.

2. Watch out for road works

Keep an eye out for road works or recently completed road works. Road authorities and their contractors often leave roads in a state that’s safe for most vehicles, but inherently unsafe for motorcycle riders. For example, large areas of loose gravel over the road can wreak havoc for motorcyclists.

If you have an accident caused by a road in disrepair, or because of the condition the road is left in after road works, you may be able to make a claim against the road authority and the contractor. There can be requirements to put road authorities on notice at an early stage of the intention to bring a claim in these circumstances. It is best to seek legal advice.

3. Get as many car details as you can

In Ben's situation, the car that caused the motorcycle accident stopped at the scene. But it’s not uncommon for a driver to disappear before being identified.

If an incident occurs, make a mental note if you can of any details. Photos of accident scenes taken from phone cameras can be importance evidence down the track. You may be able to claim for injury compensation against the insurer of an unidentified driver.

4. Know your rights and responsibilities

As road rules are regularly reviewed and updated, it's your responsibility to be aware of any changes that concern you as a motorcyclist.

For example, lane filtering laws are currently under review in parts of the country, as are regulations concerning Bluetooth and camera devices fitted to helmets.

These rules can vary in each state, so check the road rules in a state you intend to drive in.

5. Had a motorbike accident? Seek legal advice

If you’re injured, it’s important to make an immediate claim with your state’s road accident compensation scheme (the State Insurance Regulation Authority (SIRA) in New South Wales, TAC in Victoria, Queensland’s Motor Accident Insurance Commission (MAIC), for example).

The mechanics of how these claims work vary from state to state, but you need to notify your state's road injuries insurer and register a claim without any delay.

It’s also important to seek legal advice for your claim – the sooner, the better. At the very least, it’s worthwhile picking up the phone for some initial information and advice about how to protect yourself in the long term if your recovery doesn’t go as you'd hoped. There are steps you can take in those early stages to ensure your rights aren't impacted down the track.

Knowledge is power, so arm yourself with information about your rights and responsibilities as a motorcyclist.

* Real name has been changed.

[Sources]

Interview with Malcolm Cumming. https://bitre.gov.au/publications/2016/files/BITRE_yearbook_2016_statistics_full_report.pdf (p. 139)

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Malcolm Cumming

Maurice Blackburn Melbourne
Malcolm Cumming has worked as a litigation lawyer since 1997, joining Maurice Blackburn in 1999 and being appointed to Principal in 2010. He is a Business Development Lawyer based in Melbourne, working closely with the allied health and community sector. In addition to his law ...

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