New Study Finds Motorists at Fault in Majority of Incidents

Bike Lane

A naturalistic cycling study published by the Monash University Accident Research Centre in Melbourne, Australia, found that motorists were at fault in 87% of collisions, near-collisions, and “incidents” involving bicyclists over the duration of the study. From the abstract:

The study aim was to identify risk factors for collisions/near-collisions involving on-road commuter cyclists and drivers. A naturalistic cycling study was conducted in Melbourne, Australia, with cyclists wearing helmet-mounted video cameras. Video recordings captured cyclists’ perspective of the road and traffic behaviours including head checks, reactions and manoeuvres. The 100-car naturalistic driving study analysis technique was adapted for data analysis and events were classified by severity: collision, near-collision and incident. Participants were adult cyclists and each filmed 12 hours of commuter cycling trips over a 4-week period. In total, 127 hours and 38 minutes were analysed for 13 participants, 54 events were identified: 2 collisions, 6 near-collisions and 46 incidents. Prior to events, 88.9% of cyclists travelled in a safe/legal manner. Sideswipe was the most frequent event type (40.7%). Most events occurred at an intersection/intersection-related location (70.3%). The vehicle driver was judged at fault in the majority of events (87.0%) and no post-event driver reaction was observed (83.3%). Cross tabulations revealed significant associations between event severity and: cyclist reaction, cyclist post-event manoeuvre, pre-event driver behaviour, other vehicle involved, driver reaction, visual obstruction, cyclist head check (left), event type and vehicle location (p<0.05). Frequent head checks suggest cyclists had high situational awareness and their reactive behaviour to driver actions led to successful avoidance of collisions/near-collisions. Strategies to improve driver awareness of on-road cyclists and to indicate early before turning/changing lanes when sharing the roadway with cyclists are discussed. Findings will contribute to the development of effective countermeasures to reduce cyclist trauma.

9 Responses to “New Study Finds Motorists at Fault in Majority of Incidents”

  • Andy says:

    Sad backwards calculations: Expect a collision every 64 hours of riding, a near miss every 21 hours, and an incident every 3 hours. By those numbers, I should get hit 3 times a year – great!

  • Fergie348 says:

    Holy crap! I’m never riding a bike in Australia.. If these numbers are representative, I’d be on the deck every 8 weeks!

  • ‘You better be pimpin’ with that helmet on tight’ (Roundup) | Commute by Bike says:

    […] In an Australian study, involving bike commuters with helmet-mounted cameras, the cyclists tended to travel in a safe and legal manner, and when there was a collision, near-collision or incident, motorists were judged to be at fault 87% of the time. AKPC_IDS += "6770,";   […]

  • MU says:

    I haven’t read the study, but from this brief, it sounds like there a pretty big sampling bias here. You take only “bicycle commuters” (who probably tend to be the most experienced, cautious, law-abiding types), put cameras on them (they now know they’re going to be evaluated on their behavior) and then “release them into the wild”.

    I’m pretty confident that cars are usually at primary fault in most car/bike incidents. But I wouldn’t take this study to prove much of anything. But again, I haven’t read anything but this summary so I don’t know what they’re claiming.

  • Warren says:

    As a commuter in Sydney Australia it’s a scary thing to do. Sydney motorists have a distaste for cyclists that stems from the fact they’re frustrated to be stuck in traffic while the cyclist is not.
    The government also doesn’t seem interested in educating motorists to be cyclist aware. They build cycle lanes but don’t educate soothe motorists get niffed at the loss of road lanes which compounds to the problem.

  • Donald Bybee says:

    Interesting statistics but we have to remember that accidents with motor vehicles are one of the smaller percentages of over all cycling accidents. The League of American bicyclists teaches that this percentage is about 18-20, with the highest percentage of cycling accidents being single riders crashing, falling off bikes, etc. I do not know of the statistics behind this and am now interested in finding what they based their information on since I teach this class. This may suggest that as important as driver education is, we should also be teaching basic riding skills and what I will describe below as urban cycling skills.

    Another factor in the likelyhood of “close calls” is the training we call “vehicular cycling” in the Urban Cycling Skills class. I have been a bicycle commuter/tourist for over twenty years. In the last two years I took the Urban Skills class series and eventually became a trainer. Using these skills such as lane positioning, driver communication, taking the lane when needed, etc. I feel there has been a reduction of close calls and conflicts with motor vehicle drivers. Things can be done by the cyclist to reduce the probability of an incident. Each time an incident occurs, even if it is the motor vehicle operators fault, I think how could I have riden differently to reduce the probability of this occurring. In many cases my conclusion is that there are things I could have done that may have helped.

    Sacramento, California

    (off to the Sacramento Bike Kitchen to volunteer this morning. If in Sacramento come on by, it is a great shop)

  • Andy says:

    While I agree that cyclists can learn and do a lot to avoid those close calls (like dooring and right hooks), that doesn’t mean that the fault has changed. Over a few years of commuting, I’ve figured these things out and avoided several potential close calls and collisions. However, drivers still need more education on how to cooperate with cyclists on the roads. We shouldn’t need to result in evasive maneuvers to avoid these incidents.

    Education for all is helpful, but drivers especially, since they are in control of a 3500-6000 lb vehicle.

  • Opus the Poet says:

    This study jibes with the Canadian study that looked at fatal bike accidents just looking at the forensic evidence, and concluded the physical evidence pointed to the motor vehicle driver being at fault 80% of the time. I wish I had a link to that study, but the Treehugger article that linked to it isn’t there any more.

  • A NorCal cyclist dies, and CHP blames the victim « BikingInLA says:

    […] cyclists, concluding that cyclists are at fault in 60% of all bike-involved collisions — despite numerous studies from other areas showing just the opposite. Or are California cyclists just that much more […]

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