Sorry I Didn't Hear You

Two wheeler accident statistics are increasing by leaps and bumps. They have reversed the overall drop in road accidents and we should expect a lot of effort from local authorities and government departments to attack the problem at root.

One popular target for misleading discussion and probable restrictive legislation is rider conspicuity. As motorcyclists we are familiar with these arguments and counter attack by questioning the ability and willingness of the motorist, who usually causes the accident, to look what he is about. Maybe we should widen our arguments before they become as repetitive as the opposition. We should also get a fresh look at who the opposition is.

Fact 1 Recently there have been a lot of pedestrians killed by motorcycles. They fall almost exclusively into the over 60 age group as per rule 39 of your Highway Code. Cars have accounted for a similar number of deaths so it is not the visibility of the vehicle exclusively at fault.

Fact 2. In the forties and fifties when motorcycling was at a peak of popularity, the proportion of motorcycle accidents to car accidents did not predict the situation today. What was different about those legendary days? No speed limits. Poor roads. Bad lighting. Minimal rider education. Few bypasses. No Traffic islands. Camouflage khaki greatcoats. Lousy brakes and rubbishy tyres. No capacity limits for learners. No crash helmets. No breathalysers.

In those days the only thing bikes had going for them as far as Road Safety is concerned was that everyone knew when one was in the neighbourhood. By the noise.

Noise has been a prime target for antimotorcyclists the adjective noisy always preceded the noun motorcycle even more than the adjective dirty. And the motorcycle fraternity have tried very hard to improve their image. Efficient silencers, the demise of the big single fourstoke, multicylinders, air filters, cam and piston design have led to the flying sewing machines of today. With the result that road users can no longer cock an ear and tell the velocity trajectory and size of the approaching machine. Especially if the roaduser is old and hard of hearing or in a rolling box with stereophonic hard rock or even in a full face brain muff.

We know the importance of sight. If a car is fitted with TV it is illegal for the driver to be able to see the screen. We are told not to wear tinted visors at night. Washers and wipers are compulsory for cars, A lot more could be done to improve visibility. Car window stickers should be illegal. Tinted screens only allowed out in the daylight. Misted windows an offence. Scratched visors banned.

But why only sight? What about hearing?

Every motorcycle should be fitted, by law, with a sophisticated electromechanical special purpose device to audibly warn other road users of approach. To save the device from using a lot of energy and becoming just a noisy background it could be simply operated by a handlebar mounted push button at the discretion of the rider This brilliant invention I would call a Hand Operated Rude Noise. But would anyone use it after the novelty wore off?