104 people killed on county's roads

By Ted JeoryPOLICE have launched a fresh assault on "menace" motorcyclists after figures showed the number of bike riders killed in Essex last year rose by 20%.

By Ted Jeory

POLICE have launched a fresh assault on "menace" motorcyclists after figures showed the number of bike riders killed in Essex last year rose by 20%.

Essex Police revealed that of the 104 people killed in crashes on the county's roads last year, more than one in four were motorcyclists.

While the overall number of people killed fell slightly from a peak of 116 in 2003, the 29 motorcycle deaths represented an increase of more than 20% on the previous year when 24 bikers were killed.

Police said while they were pleased with the overall fall in the number of fatalities, there was still a growing concern that so many motorists were endangering other people's lives, despite concerted road safety campaigns.

Of the 104 Essex deaths last year, 41 were drivers, 17 were passengers, 12 were pedestrians and five were pedal cyclists.

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But it was the 29 biker deaths – with many caused by rider error – that are particularly worrying road traffic officers.

There are now more motorcyclists than ever on the road and many owners have been labelled "born-again bikers" because of a desire to recreate the thrills of their youth.

Essex Police scrapped their 30 high-powered patrol bikes in 1999 as part of a £7million package of cuts.

But a force spokeswoman said even if officers still had them, they would not be used to catch speed-mad motorcyclists as the onus was on educating them through road safety campaigns.

But one biker, who did not want to be named, said: "It's motorists who need educating, not bikers. "There was a famous advert about 20 years ago when a man warned car drivers turning at a junction to 'Look left, look right, look bike' and that really hit home – but that's never been updated."

He blamed many accidents on motorists, adding: "There are far more 4x4s and other high-sided vehicles with blacked out windows which blocks our vision. That makes overtaking that much more dangerous."

However, Inspector Steve Brewer, of Stanway traffic police, said: "There are still far too many people who think that driving or riding is a way of getting a thrill.

"But it's a sad fact that these motorists and motorcyclists are a menace to other road users and we will continue to take positive action against them.

"There were 104 people killed on our roads this year. If there had been that many murders, then there would be an outcry."

Essex Police's casualty reduction manager Brian Ladd added: "Last year was an awful period for us and many families, with too many people dying on the county's roads.

"At first glance, the overall figures are encouraging and hopefully our road safety messages are hitting home.

"However, the rise in people being prosecuted for, what is in effect, road manslaughter is disturbing for everyone all round – ourselves, other road users and victims families."

The total number of injury-related collisions in 2004 was 5,909, with 973 classed as serious – down 4% on 2003.

ted.jeory@eadt.co.uk

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