Concern over motorbike accident increase

THE number of motorcyclists injured on Suffolk's roads increased last year and the blame has been put on rising fuel prices which forced people to leave their cars at home and switch to two wheels.

Graham Dines

RISING fuel prices has been blamed for an increase in the number of motorcyclists killed on Suffolk roads.

Nearly a quarter of road deaths in the county last year involved motorcyclists - a rise of 1% on the previous year.

Suffolk County Council believe more people were forced to leave their cars at home and switch to two wheels in a bid to save money on petrol.

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Overall 31 people were killed in accidents in the county, including seven bikers. This is the lowest fatality figure recorded in Suffolk for ten years.

There was however a 26% increase in serious injuries from 265 to 333.

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Guy McGregor, county council portfolio holder for roads and transport and chairman of the Suffolk Roadsafe Partnership Board, said there appeared to be “a significant increase in motorcycle casualties.”

Mr McGregor added: “This may be due to the surge in fuel prices late last year. It is reported that novice riders have been buying small cheap motorcycles in large numbers and using them for commuting trips.

“We will need to continue our motorcycle safety campaigns, training and enforcement.”

Inspector Trevor Sharman from Suffolk police, who is in charge of the serious collision investigation team, said whilst bikers only make up one to three per cent of UK road users, they account for 20 per cent of all fatalities.

He added: “In partnership with Suffolk County Council through initiatives such as Bike Safe and Suffolk Ride, Suffolk police is proactively working to reduce the number of motorcyclists killed and seriously injured on the county's roads through a programme of education and enforcement.”

Since 2003, when 60 motorists were killed in the county, there has been a concerted effort to encourage drivers to reduce their speed, with more fixed point and mobile cameras in operation as part of a “save a life” campaign.

The Highways Agency has used its portable message signs on its trunk roads, and the county's fire and rescue service organised training courses aimed at young driving offenders.

Jacqui Cheer, Suffolk's deputy chief constable and vice-chairman of Suffolk Roadsafe, said: “The police and fire and rescue service are usually the first people attending a road accident and we know how traumatic these can be both for the victims and the emergency crews.

“Time after time we see the results of careless driving and ask what more can be done to get the message across.

“We will work with our partners to publicise and enforce four key messages - keep within speed limits, don't drink and drive, always wear a seat belt and switch off mobile phones while driving.”

A spokesperson for The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) said nationally more people were opting to use their motorbikes.

RoSPA's Jo Stagg said: “It has been suggested that more people are turning to motorcycles rather than cars because of the cost of fuel.

“For the majority of these it is people returning to motorcycles, rather than new users. Perhaps they are older riders who are choosing to take out their bikes, rather than young users.

“We would say that motorcyclists are amongst the most vulnerable road users in the UK. Obviously they rely on skills and experience because they have no airbags. We do encourage bikers to enrol on refresher training.”

Accident statistics in Suffolk since 2003:-

Year Fatals Serious Slight

2003 60 382 2729

2004 42 374 2567

2005 36 344 2669

2006 47 312 2542

2007 39 265 2539

2008 provisional 31 333 2294

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