It’s a common misconception. Ask the average Joe to name the most dangerous roads in Britain and the odds are he’ll guess, motorways. It stands to reason – with three lanes of traffic hurtling at high velocity, just a few feet apart, nose to tail, and so many flouting the speed limit, it takes one slight misjudgement to trigger a motorway pile-up.
For motorbikes, the dangers hardly need spelling out. Any rider who comes off their bike at high speed in those conditions is in the gravest peril.
True, but not the whole truth. In fact the accident stats show that motorways are the safest roads in the country. Surprisingly, the top 10 most dangerous roads in Britain are typically scenic routes through idyllic countryside that lead to coastal resorts or national parks.
It’s the A-roads that spell danger
Findings by the Road Safety Foundation (RSF) noted that riders are six times more likely to crash on an A-road than on a motorway. The danger comes from factors you won’t find on any motorway. Single-carriage overtaking, unprotected embankments and deceptive bends are responsible for many accidents. Slow-moving vehicles joining fast-moving traffic is common cause of crashes. Limited visibility is also an issue on many A-roads, while many accident hot spots occur at the junction with minor roads. If you suffer an accident on one of Scotland’s roads you are entitled to claim compensation for an injury.
Psychology, harder to quantify, also plays a part. Motorbike riders taking a spin along an open empty road in beautiful surroundings simply feel safer than they would on a motorway and concentration levels can drop. Dangers are less apparent when there is no other vehicle in sight.
Scotland has more than its fair share of beautiful countryside, and more than its fair share of A-roads – they account for 62% of the road network. The road geography in Scotland is the most challenging in Britain – around a quarter of all Britain’s motorways and A-roads are in Scotland, although it accounts for just 10% of all travel.
The uncomfortable truth is that:
- Around 20% of all accidents on Scotland’s non-built up roads involve motorbikes.
- Approximately 60% of all motorcycle fatalities in Scotland occur on these carriageways.
- Last year in Scotland there were 827 motorcycle accidents in total, 34 of them fatal.
It would be natural to assume that icy or flooded roads would be a significant cause of motorbike accidents. But it would be wrong. Not a single accident in Scotland last year was caused by either.
The biggest single cause of motorbike accidents, in Scotland and across the country, is oil and diesel spillage. In Scotland that accounted for an incredible 82% of all accidents.
While the total number of motorbike accidents is decreasing, riders are still 40 times more likely to be killed than any other road user. To find out more on bike safety read our blog on motorbike helmets.
So what is the most dangerous road for motorbikes in Scotland?
It’s actually a 10 mile stretch of the A809 between Milngavie and Croftamie, according to a recent report from the European Road Assessment Programme. It claimed the lives of six riders over a 10 year period, and between 2006 and 2010 accounted for 24 fatal or serious crashes.
That statistic surprised some as Scotland’s longest road, the A9, was widely assumed to be the most dangerous – so much so, it has long been nicknamed ‘The Killer’. Over the years its mix of single and dual carriageway has been a recurring cause of many accidents caused by motorbikes accelerating to overtake slow-moving vehicles before the carriageway narrows to a single track. Heavy Goods Vehicles restricted to driving at 40mph have been an indirect cause of accidents both there and on many other Scottish A Roads, frustrating riders and causing them to overtake when they shouldn’t.
Is speed a significant factor?
- According to the Scottish Government, around 50% of motorbike accidents in Scotland happen at 30mph or less, whereas 41% take place at 60mph or more.
- The contrast with London stats could hardly be greater: of the 5,157 accidents in the capital, just 11 of them involved drivers travelling at 60mph or more.
So next time you’re riding across Scotland’s country lanes, twisting and turning through fields of green, flicking through gears and accelerating out of corner, remember; these roads can be perilous for bikers.