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  • Writer's pictureACBT London

Motorcycle road traffic collision

Updated: Jun 9

So you had a road traffic motorcycle collision? What should you do?


We love riding motorcycles. We’re seduced by them, love the thrill, the excitement, the freedom. We are aware of the risks but we don’t dwell on that side of things, it tends to spoil the fun…the coitus interruptus of the motorcycling universe. Motorcycle training courses don’t generally cover this subject in great detail due to time constraints so we at ACBT London Motorcycle Training asked Joe, our chief instructor, to create an article with practical advice and information so you know what to do if you are involved in a road traffic collision whilst riding your motorbike.

Road traffic collision involving a motorcycle and a car
Road traffic collision involving a motorcycle

The fact is a road traffic collision (rtc) is a real possibility. I don’t call it an accident. That sort of event is never accidental, there is always a reason, human error, mechanical error, road and/or weather conditions. It may occur due to our own actions or may involve a third party. Whatever the cause, there is usually a reason for the collision. Chances are, if you ride long enough, you will have one at some point and it is really important for you to know what to do next.


Prevention is better than cure.


We have previously published another article about the most common form of collision, commonly known as “SMIDSY” (Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You).  During training with our school we also give you information on where most collisions occur and the most common reasons for them. Our thinking is that if you are aware of the most dangerous parts of the road and the most common reasons for riders’ collisions you are prepared in advance and will, hopefully, be less likely to commit yourself to the unpleasant statistics associated with them. Knowledge is power, forewarned is forearmed…you get the picture.


Failing to plan is planning to fail.


My old governor in a previous life had this slogan on his office wall. It was one of his mantras and it very much applies to all things relating to motorcycling. If you have been on my motorcycle training courses you will have heard me say this. I mainly refer to planning whilst riding but, in the context of our discussion it is just as relevant. How prepared are you for the consequences of a road traffic collision?


You never know when your incident will occur. During training we discuss practical ways of reducing risk but we also explain we can never eliminate that risk. The more training you undergo the better you become at reducing and managing risk. Regardless of your level of skill or experience, however, we are all just as vulnerable as each other. Your collision could occur near home or you could be miles from anywhere. In terms of effective planning then, consider the following:


  • Do you have a recovery service?

    • If so, are you covered for recovery in the event of a collision?

    • What about the remainder of the journey?

    • Do you have cover for you, not just your bike?

    • Are you carrying a pillion? If so, what about them?

  • How vulnerable are you?

    • I.C.E.

    • Mobile phone.

  • Do you know the law?

  • Information for the insurance company.

  • Are you able to explain your exact location?

  • Does anyone know where you are?

  • What about legal cover?

  • Emotion


Quality ain’t cheap, cheap ain’t quality.


Let’s be honest, most of the time, when it comes to insurance, the first thing we look at is the price but the level of cover is so important. And, guess what? The only time you find out if your insurance company is any good is when something untoward happens. Every rider will have positive and negative stories about insurance companies and what works for one may not necessarily work for another but if you are covered by a reputable company with a track record in motorcycle insurance you are less likely to be left floundering at a time when you are most in need of assistance.


Unfortunately, adding cover bolt-ons to your policy will also affect the premium. Sometimes we just have to bite the bullet and pay a bit more for greater peace of mind. Let’s explore some of the items above in a little more detail.


Recovery Service: If you are riding then it is reasonable to assume that you will be a given distance from home at the time of the rtc. It may only be a few miles or you could be in a different country altogether. How are you going to deal with an unrideable motorcycle? Bear in mind that some policies only offer motorcycle recovery for very specific terms and an rtc may not be covered. It is also good to check if your policy makes provision for your recovery from the scene too, this is not always the case. And what about the remainder of your journey? Do not assume that just because you have recovery in the UK you will have it for travel abroad. Ask your policy provider to explain.


Personal cover/pillion cover: Don’t forget that today, many policies do not cover the pillion as a matter of course. You need to specify this at the time of taking out the policy. If you are travelling, as opposed to just giving someone a lift to work for example, the pillion will need the same level of protection and services as the rider. Check with your policy provider.


Vulnerability: One of the vulnerability issues we have as motorcyclists is that often we are on our own. That means we don’t often have a secondary witness acting in our favour unless passers by or other drivers are willing to come forward. This can affect our success in the event of a claim against a third party. If we are injured we are in no position to obtain evidence of liability so we would be approaching a subsequent claim from a weaker legal position. What if we are not conscious? Do we have adequate ID with us so we are easily identifiable in the worst case scenario? What about allergies? Blood group? Essential medical needs such as diabetes etc? How can this information about us be easily obtained if we are incapacitated?


I.C.E (In Case of Emergency): A good tip is to have ICE identifiers with you. These could be in your wallet, on your phone, or even displayed on your motorcycle in case you are incapacitated during the rtc. They should carry your full name, next of kin name and contact number and details of blood group and/or any allergies. We produce I.C.E. discs. If you would like one get in touch.


Mobile phone: I have dealt with lots of rtc incidents in my time and one thing you never want to hear is “I’m running out of charge”. Your mobile can be a lifesaver. Make sure it is sully charged before your journey.

The law: You should have an understanding of road traffic law. A good knowledge of the Highway Code is essential for any driver but many don’t take the time to understand the legal requirements to do with an rtc. Who you must contact or what you must do is not the same as who you should contact and what you should do.

Police car at the scene of an rtc
Police car at an rtc

The Police: May or may not need to be notified in the event of the rtc. If the incident is a damage only rtc they do not need to attend. You must, however, comply with Section 170 of the Road Traffic Act. To do this, in the event of a collision you must stop at the scene. You must exchange details with the other party. Having done so you have complied with road traffic law and you may leave the scene.


The Police must be notified in the event of injury caused by the rtc and/or if there is a resultant blockage to the road and/or if a criminal act is taking place at the time and/or if there is a suspicion of illegal substances or alcohol as being a contributing factor for the rtc and/or if the third party makes off from the scene or attempts to. The emergency number 999 should be used for this.


The emergency services will notify each other of the need to attend but it is better to provide as much information as possible during the 999 call. Police/Fire/Ambulance call takers are trained to identify if other emergency services are required and will notify them directly if the call meets the relevant criteria. The Police is the primary and default emergency service. If lubricants are spilled on the road the Fire service will also be notified. Any damage to roadside furniture should be reported to the local authority.


If riding abroad make sure you are aware of the requirements for each country you are travelling through as different countries have different regulations. In some countries, for example, the Police must be notified of any road traffic incident regardless of injury or not.


Your insurance company: Will need to know the exact location, the circumstances of the rtc, the details of the third party and an initial guess as to the extent of the damage to your vehicle. Do obtain the details of as many other witnesses as you can who will be able to verify your account in support of your claim. Do not admit liability to the third party.  Do take as many photos of the scene and the rtc as you can as soon as possible before the scene begins to break down as vehicles get moved about and it is cleared. Mobile phones are excellent for this. Tip: Make sure the images have the geo location metadata activated as this can help to identify the location. In the event of injury or worse, the scene should be left undisturbed as much as possible until Police arrive on scene.

GPS navigation on a mobilephone
GPS navigation on a mobile phone

Your location: Accuracy of the location of the incident is essential in terms of safety, speed of response, recovery, and even for the resolution of the claim. Previous experience of dealing with RTCs has shown me that most drivers are not very good at providing location information.


Tip: make sure the geolocation tags are activated on your mobile phone camera. If you are unsure of your location take a photo of where you are. View the info tab of the photo and it will show the location of the image on a map. Some phones also provide the GPS co-ordinates.

The image can then be shared with emergency services or other interested parties and they can use that data to locate you. Make sure you activate the “include location” function.


Mapping services such as Google Maps or Bing Maps as well as others also allow you to share your location information based on your GPS data. Many GPS systems such as Tom Tom, Garmin etc also have emergency information settings that can highlight your location in situations such as this.


In an urban area this is obviously easier. There are street names and/or effective identifying landmarks that can be used for reference such as shops, buildings etc. In a rural or remote location the above tip is a useful way of accurately finding your location.


Emergency services have advanced mapping data to find locations by other means as they have access to local authority information, transport and infrastructure, and even utilities information. For example, railway bridges have unique identifier numbers. Telegraph poles have specific asset numbers to enable engineers to locate repair locations. Electricity substations and junction boxes have unique identifier numbers or codes. The location of telephone kiosks can be identified by the telephone number even if the kiosk is out of order.


Major transport routes and trunk roads  also have location information and many drivers are not aware of how this effective system works. SOS phones provide your exact location as soon as it is used. Even if not used or out of order the number of the SOS box will pinpoint your location.

UK road side marker post
UK road side marker post

Road side marker posts show in which direction the nearest SOS phone is. They also show the number of kms from the start of that trunk road or motorway and how far along that kilometre you are. These marker posts are placed at 100m intervals of the edge of the carriageway. For example if the post displays 85 with a 2 below it is indication that you are 85.2 kms along that road. One km has 1000m so the sign shows your location as 85 kms and 200m from the start of that road.


There are also small signs road side that indicate which road you are on and on which carriageway as well as how far along that particular road you are. For example in the image the sign showing M2 B 55.7 means you are travelling on the M2 road in carriageway B. You are 55.7 Kms from the start of that particular road. Roads that radiate from London are assigned A carriageway if heading Away from London and B carriageway if heading Back to London.  This is crucial information on roads with a central reservation as the emergency or response services need to know from which direction to approach you.

UK road and carriageway location sign
UK road and carriageway location sign

Does anyone know where you are?: Let’s face it, one of the appealing things of riding a motorcycle is that we can disappear from monotony of every day routine for a little while. This is one of the great things about touring by motorcycle but in terms of safety and as a precaution is it wise to let family and/or friends know our intended destination? Even if not the exact details of the route. This can be useful with local or domestic riding bit also if riding abroad. Especially if going off the beaten track!


Do you have legal cover?: Claims arising from an RTC are incredibly expensive and the cost goes far beyond vehicle damage. If a courtesy vehicle is provided there will be an associated cost with this. Recovery costs and/or onward journey costs. The cost of interim accommodation that may be required. Any damage repairs carried out. If injury results from the RTC there may well be medical costs to consider, especially if riding abroad. In extreme cases there may even be repatriation costs to consider. Then there are legal costs. What if liability for the RTC is aimed at you? The cost of seeking redress for liability or fighting a legal claim can be extremely high. We live in a litigious society these days so legal protection may be an important part of your system of protection.


Our school is a corporate member of MAG (Motorcycle Action Group). As such we have benefits and access to services that can be extremely helpful in situations such as an rtc especially if you need to mitigate liability. Ask us how this can be of help to you.


Emotion: Being involved in an rtc can be a shocking and terrifying experience. It is important to try to remain as calm as possible, not lose your temper and keep the following in mind:


1: Safety: Am I in a place of safety after the rtc? Make vehicles safe by switching off the ignitions if possible. What about other traffic?

2: Is anyone injured? If so, call 999. Keep the line open until such time as the emergency services ask you to terminate the call. Call 999 if the rtc has the potential for further danger.

3: The Law: If a damage only rtc. Have you complied with Section 170 of the Road Traffic Act?

4: Witnesses, evidence, location. Gather as much information as you can in the event of a damage only rtc.

5: Insurance company: Do not admit liability to a third party. Contact your insurance company as soon as possible.


The above is not an exhaustive list as every rtc has its own unique circumstances however we hope this article proves useful in focusing your mind on how complex they can be on the one hand but how straight forward it can be to do the right thing. If you think this article is useful or you can think of something we have omitted please let us know in the comments section below. Here’s hoping you are never involved in an rtc, ride safe!

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