Police figures reveal dangers to motorcycle riders

Motorbike riders engage in risky behaviours such as speeding, tailgating, jumping red lights, swerving between lanes, and not wearing helmets.
Delivery motorcycles in Dubai. All drivers are warned to watch out for motorbikes because they can be difficult to see on the road. Pawan Singh / The National
Delivery motorcycles in Dubai. All drivers are warned to watch out for motorbikes because they can be difficult to see on the road. Pawan Singh / The National

ABU DHABI // Motorbike riders have been warned of the dangers of ignoring traffic laws after statistics revealed 16 bikers were killed in accidents last year.

There were 210 accidents involving motorbikes across the country in 2013 in which, apart from fatalities, 236 people suffered moderate to serious injuries.

These were caused by motorists’ errors and failure to follow police instructions, said Brig Gen Ghaith Al Zaabi, director general of traffic coordination at the Ministry of Interior.

In January, the ministry launched a three-month campaign called “Beware of Motorbike Dangers” to urge all motorbike riders and other road users to adhere to traffic laws.

Safety experts were quick to back the campaign.

“The primary advice is ‘see and be seen’,” said Robert Hodges, the chief operating officer at Emirates Driving Institute in Dubai. “Always ensure other motorists can see you and always keep moving your head and eyes to make good observations of what is going on.”

Bikers should remember that most motorists are not automatically expecting to see them, what is known as “psychological blindness”, he said.

“Motorcycles can also be hidden by a car’s windscreen pillars, so a biker should always expect that a car driver has not seen him,” Mr Hodges said. “Bikers should ride defensively, not swerve between lanes and give a clear indicator signal before changing lanes or turning corners and at junctions.”

“Motorcyclists often ‘lane split’,” said Dino Kalivas, training and road safety adviser at Emirates Driving Company. “This means they move between lanes of traffic, ride on the shoulder and move into spaces that other drivers may not be observing, especially during peak travel times, placing themselves and other road users at risk.”

Mr Hodges said: “[Motorbike delivery drivers] are swerving in lanes, creeping unexpectedly alongside cars at too close a distance and wobbling at low speeds searching for a residence for a delivery.”

Thomas Edelmann, founder of the Road Safety UAE website, said he was tailgated this week by a sushi delivery motorbike, and then overtaken by the driver who illegally used the hard shoulder.

“They are often taking shortcuts over yellow marked areas between merging lanes on motorways, making U-turns between barriers, and sneaking through waiting vehicles at traffic lights,” he said.

Since June last year, motorbike riders in Abu Dhabi have been banned from overtaking other vehicles while waiting at traffic lights and junctions.

An offender faces a week-long impoundment of the motorbike, a fine of Dh200 and three black points on his or her licence.

“Everyone is always in a hurry,” said Ishwar Chandar, 30, who has worked as a delivery man for Southern Fried Chicken for 18 months. “But if we follow the traffic rules, we can avoid accidents.”

No driver or rider should be forced into rushing, particularly by their employer, Mr Hodges said.

“Just because they can cut past cars or an accident site, it doesn’t mean they should,” he said. “It’s actually breaking the law.”

Kotishwar Pantham, 26, a courier for Skycom, said he and his colleagues were aware of the rules, but other bikers took risks.

“I maintain a safe distance, focus on the road and refrain from zigzagging between vehicles,” he said. “Some overtake stationary vehicles at traffic lights, and don’t wear a helmet.”

Any biker who does not wear a helmet risks a Dh200 fine and four black points on his or her licence.

But drivers of light and heavy vehicles should also show respect for motorbike riders because they all share the road, said Vipin Kumar Kovumal, 28, an office administrator in Abu Dhabi.

“Too often, car and lorry drivers fail to notice motorbike drivers and do not provide sufficient space for them,” he said. “They actively engage in high-risk manoeuvres near the riders.”

Salaheddine Bendak, an assistant professor at Sharjah University, said some drivers of motor vehicles consider motorcyclists as “parasites on the road who cause headaches and accidents”.

Mr Hodges said: “Just as with pedestrians crossing the road, bikers are vulnerable road users and should be given more space and time for their safety.”

Drivers of large SUVs constantly sound their horns when travelling behind motorbike riders, said Mr Chandar. “Of course we feel bad but what can we do?” he said. “We just need to ignore them and make sure we arrive on time to deliver the takeaway orders.”


Published: May 22, 2014 04:00 AM


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