SAFERWHEELS Study on powered two-wheeler and bicycle accidents in the EU

Final Report


Morris, A.P.; Brown, L.A.; Thomas, P.; Davidse, R.J.; Phan, V.; Margaritis, D.; Usami, D.; Robibaro, M.; Krupińska, A.; Sicińska, K.; Ziakopoulos, A.; Theofilatos, A.; Yannis, G.



Road Safety remains a major societal issue within the European Union. In 2014, some 26,000 people died and more than 203,500 were seriously injured on the roads of Europe, i.e. the equivalent of a medium town. However, although there are variations between Member States, road fatalities have been falling throughout the EU. Over the last 20 years, most Member States have achieved an overall reduction, some in excess of over 50%. During this period, research on road safety and accident prevention has predominantly focused on protecting car occupants, with significant results. However, at the same time the number of fatalities and injuries among other categories of road users has not fallen to the same extent, indeed, in some cases, they have risen. The “Vulnerable Road Users” (VRUs) in particular are a priority and represent a real challenge for researchers working on road safety and accident prevention. Accidents involving VRUs comprised approximately 48% of all fatalities in the EU during 2014, with Powered Two-Wheelers (PTWs) comprising 18% and cyclists comprising 8% of the total numbers of fatalities.

The Commission adopted in July 2010 its Policy Orientations on Road Safety for 2010-2020. One of the strategic objectifies identified by the Commission is to improve the safety of Vulnerable Road Users. With this category of road users, motorcycle and moped users require specific attention given the trend in the number of accidents involving them and their important share of fatalities and serious injuries.

The SaferWheels study was therefore conducted to investigate accident causation for traffic accidents involving powered two-wheelers and bicycles in the European Union.

The objective of the study was to gather PTW and bicycle accident data from in-depth crash investigations, obtain accident causation and medical data for those crashes, and to store the information according to an appropriate and efficient protocol enabling a causation oriented analysis. The expected outcomes were:

  • Collection of accident data for at least 500 accidents of which between 80% and 85% involved Powered Two–Wheelers and the remainder bicycles. Equal numbers of cases were to be gathered in six countries, France, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and the UK.
  • In-depth investigation and reporting for each of the accidents on the basis of the data collected.
  • Description of the main accident typologies and accident factors.
  • Proposal of most cost-effective measures to prevent PTW and bicycle accidents.

Several results of this study confirm the results of previous studies on PTW accidents. In the current study, speed was a factor in 25% of the PTW accidents and 22% of all PTW riders were judged to travel at a speed too high for prevailing traffic and environmental conditions. In the MAIDS study, a difference in speed compared to the surrounding traffic was identified as a contributing factor for PTWs in 18% of all cases and a contributing factor for the OV (other vehicle) in 4.8% of all cases.

Alcohol played a role in the occurrence of only 2% of the investigated PTW accidents. This is even lower than the number found in the MAIDS project (4%). This decrease is in line with the general reduction in alcohol related accidents over the last decade [ETSC, in press].”

Vehicle defects were less prevalent than was found in the MAIDS study. According to that study, PTW defects were present in 6% of all accidents (contributory in 0.4%). In 3.7% of all PTW accidents in MAIDS the vehicle failure related to the tyre or wheel (tyre blowout or a tyre failure), and in 1.2% it related to of brake problems. In the current in-depth study, vehicle equipment failure was found in only 4% of cases. The most common identified defects were also tyres and brakes. Both types of defects were identified in 2% of the PTW cases.

Comparability of MAIDS and SaferWheels depends on several factors, including the countries in which accidents have been collected and the distribution of vehicle types (e.g., share of motorcycles). In both SaferWheels and MAIDS, accidents have been collected in France, Italy and the Netherlands. In addition, SaferWheels accidents have been collected in UK, Poland and Greece. In MAIDS, however, additional data were collected in Germany and Spain. Different country characteristics may lead to other distributions in vehicle types. In MAIDS, 52% of PTW accidents involved a motorcycle, 45% a moped, and 3% a light moped. In SaferWheels, the share of motorcycles in the total number of PTW accidents was much larger: 77%. Moreover, distributions may have changed over time. An example is the distribution of mopeds and light mopeds in the Netherlands. Whereas light mopeds had a share of 43% in all mopeds in 2006, they had a share of 57% in 2015. Light mopeds became more popular and their number doubled in 10 years’ time, whereas the number of mopeds is currently decreasing.

The three most common accident scenarios for fatally and seriously injured PTW riders were (1) scenarios where the opponent vehicle is turning left and the PTW is going straight and is coming from the opposite direction; (2) crossing scenario where the PTW was perpendicularly coming from the right side of the opponent vehicle; and (3) single vehicle accidents – of these, 64% lost control of their motorbike on a curve/bend. 25% of fatally and seriously injured PTW riders were involved in single-vehicle accidents.

Overall the results suggest that some interventions might be indicated, particularly in terms of reducing speed as a contributory/causal factor in PTW accidents. However, from a technology perspective, it is difficult to imagine what might work effectively. More tangible benefits might be derived through rider education, campaigns and more aggressive enforcement of speed limits. For non-speed related PTW accidents, particularly junction accidents (which is the most common accident scenario), technology might be more effective – particularly Intelligent Transport System-related functions which can inform vehicle drivers of the presence of the PTW.

Print this page



Gepubliceerd door

European Commission, Brussels