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Simple theory of traffic accidents

Discussion in 'General Motorcycling Discussion' started by Bravus, Aug 27, 2007.

  1. Discussion of a few recent prangs and offs here had me thinking on the ride in today (after a nice officer had a chat with me (friendly and no ticket) about cutting up the left of a million cars stopped by roadworks, I then had plenty of time, sitting behind him, to think while popping forward a metre at a time). Here's my simple theory:

    traffic accident = bad conditions + bad luck + bad decisions on the part of one or more people

    Much as we like to over-simplify and find someone to blame, it's usually some combination of these elements in some proportion, so the blame could be 70/30 between the people involved, or 90/10...

    Now in terms of accident prevention, there are several levels:

    Level 0: Just do exactly what you want to do at all times - you can always blame bad luck if something happens

    Level 1: Modify your own decisions and make as many good decisions (and as few bad ones) as possible. That also includes making good decisions in relation to the conditions you know about - rain, crap on the road, poor light, sunglare, etc.

    Level 2: Modify your own decisions as above, but then go the step further to take into account (a) the conditions you don't know about - the cow on the road just around the corner and (b) others' bad decisions: the woman this morning who pulled out of the road on the left, got to the middle of my lane and *then* stopped to look for vehicles in the lane on-coming to me... so she ended up stationary blocking my entire lane.

    There's always bad luck, and there are always bad decisions on the part of others so catastrophic that they're unavoidable. But a bit of Level 2 accident prevention is always going to be good medicine.
  2. Bravus, sometimes accidents are caused by no decision at all... someone inattentive for whatever reason putting themselves in a situation that they don't have the skills to rectify.

    But I think you're onto something.
  3. +1 on this, i've always felt that accidents happen when there is an unfortunate combination of circumstances, ie two or more factors which, held individually, would lead to nothing, prehaps give someone a fright, but when combined, wham, accident!
    You see all kinds of foolish driving on the road, but not everyone crashes, everytime. Most of the time, when there is a tool on the road, they go along ok until they meet the silly git on a phone coming the other way...
  4. Yeah its good thinking, but unfortunately sometimes all the defensive driving in the world can't prevent an accident. That doesn't mean it's worth doing everything you can to reduce the risks, just that in this game there are a lot of things you can't control.
  5. Agreed, Rob, but I'll just get philosophical on yer arse: choosing to be inattentive while driving is itself a bad decision. ;)
  6. LOL @ Bravus.

    Can one choose to be innattentive??? Ever caught yourself day dreaming. Ever caught yourself choosing to day dream? :-k

    Anyway, the one accidental lecture of traffic engineering I wandered into once gave me a pearl that I've always remembered.

    The more decisions DESIGNED out of a road, the safer it is. Humans make mistakes... they might get most of the decisions right most of the time... but there'll one critical one made incorrectly and lives are changed forever.

    So you're definitely onto something Bravus.

  7. I can did that mid race this last weekend. How you can have your mind drift off while mid corner is beyond me, and on the road is a lot easier.
    I wouldn't say that's wrong, but have you ever noticed how useless people become the more they get babied. If there's a sharp corner with no advisory speed, most will still take it at 100km/hr and then brake mid corner having expected it to be fine to take at full speed. All these "trip hazard" signs around the place seem to have made people forget to look where they're walking to the extent they'd fall down a man-hole if it weren't barricaded off. To an extent, the more decisions that are made for people, the more complacent they get.

    Just an observation though.
  8. Bravus, everyone knows that all accidents are caused by speeding. Duh.
  9. bah - double post
  10. Nice! ;)

    BTW, bad luck and bad decisions tend to be more momentary. Conditions can be longer term. Some bad conditions - rain - are inevitable. Some bad conditions - crappy roads - are not. Make a good decision: vote and advocate hard for better roads.
  11. In terms of the definition of a safe road (what do you mean by 'better'?) as postulated by robsalv, we get into things like long straight roads with no intersections, no lights, no periodic overtaking lanes, divided traffic by direction and no parked vehicles. If this sounds like a major access road or a freeway, you'd be spot on. A road with very few incidents when compared to almost every city or suburban area we tend to commute through or visit. (And this is in relation to bikes as transport btw, not getting out in the hills to go silly).

    Now, hands up who wants lots of straight roads with no parking and no cross streets? I certainly do. It'd make commuting a lot safer if you stopped people parking on victoria road, paramatta road, st kilda road etc and blocked off all of the side streets. It's not going to happen, but I can dream.

    I also dream of the day when we have tunnels everywhere and all the cagers and trucks choke one another to use them. Meanwhile it is only legal for two wheelers (pedal and motor) to use the surface streets, with exceptions for heavy vehicle deliveries after 10pm. Wouldn't life be so much safer ;)
  12. There are some of those things, sure, but I was actually thinking more of road surface maintenance and care. Bikes suffer a lot more than cars from potholes mid-corner and a whole variety of other things, including things like the slipperiness of the white paint used. There are a heap of things that would reduce accidents without completely warping the fabric of what roads are used for...

    Definitely not saying that 100% of accidents are avoidable: human nature means peope will always do thoughtless, careless, and in some cases foolish, selfish and downright stupid things. And bad luck and random chance play a part - you can get hit by frozen poo falling off a plane, or be a meteorite. But if b*stards like the one who nearly took out our beloved Black Magic this morning with a wheelie bin falling off his truck were off the road, there'd be less prangs. More Netriders riding, less in hospital or at home impatiently waiting to be able to ride.
  13. When i was 15, and being taught how to drive by my dad, the first thing he told me was this. Everyone on the road is either drunk, blind or stupid, and they all want to kill you, so drive with this knowledge, and it may be enough to get you home alive. Scared me to death, but im still here, and i never been in an accident with another vehicle :wink: He never said anything about trees though :oops:
  14. The OP is on the right track for sure, and I am, all for minimising the risks encountered while we ride.

    Non riders always are saying how dangerous etc it is to ride, but all of the "near misses" I have had have been through an understanding of where to position correctly........................In other words, the first collision through poor positioning in traffic sometimes results in riders giving riding away claiming it is dangerous whereas I would rather (and do) have "hundreds" of near misses due to good positioning and awareness than THE one riding ending collision.

    So when I do have near misses in traffic, I examine the circumstances and seem to always come up with "I put myself in the safest spot I could" and give myself a pat on the back!!

    My 3 rules of riding on traffic are
    Ride like you are invisible
    NEVER ride beside a car
    Pass wide and fast

    Concertration is the key.

    Those yellow advisory signs are not meant to indicate a safe speed that the bend can be taken ('cause we all know you can go aroud them MUCH faster than posted) but is actually the speed required to go around that bend and have 5 seconds of vision. Try it next time on a bend and count through to a mark and it will suprise you, So, therefore when we travel around these bends faster than the posted advisory speed, we are accepting a reduced reaction time (and if you do go at those speeds, everyone behind you will call you a tool :LOL: )

    Concerntrate, anticipate and survive.

    Good topic!!

  15. I was talking about the average dolt/soccer-mum in a car and I'm sure you can see the point I'm making.

    But anyway thanks for your advice, though I gave up on the twisties having quickly found that riding at even 80% on public roads is simultaneously boring and dangerous. Now THAT made me feel like a tool, but each to their own. :LOL:
  16. In aviation it is well understood that many small factors lead up to large accidents.
    It is usually a small failed component, which may cause a distraction in the cockpit, which leads to a misunderstanding, some confusion etc. Combine it with a bad envoironment like weather and you can have a problem. Or you can get lucky.
    It is no surprise to me that accidents do happen, people allow all teh "tolerances" to stack up against them. Things like that slightly soft brake lever, or that tyre that should have been replaced, or maybe the soft, mushy old forks, or the consistent tailgaiting they usually get away with daily etc etc. The same is true (and probably more so) for car maintenence.
    In themselves no big deal at all.. But get used to them on your bike, ignore them till you could be bothered fixing them, and one day, you are tired from a bad night's sleep, it's drizzling or road sucks, drivers around you are all running late etc, and you find yourself out of luck, no matter what decision you make. Actually you made the wrong decision not getting it fixed in the first place.
    I firmly no accident SHOULD happen. Yes humans make mistakes, but if people drove more competently, allowed larger gaps, made allowances for traffic, then any small failure should not cause any problems at all, whether it be a mechanical or mental failure.
    Of course none of that will ever happen as long as licences cost less than $200 and an annual vehicle inspection consistes of lights work and a quick trip around the block.

    Regards, Andrew.
  17. I guess this analysis is only looking at accidents, and not all crashes? I was going to ask where 'getting deliberately hit' falls into the scheme of things. I'm still puzzling about what I should have done in that instance.
  18. Yeah, crime is something else. Still a decision, but in that instance I'd definitely be willing to concede that the blame split is 100/0. ;)
  19. Bravus, while I find your OP interesting and agree with most of your observations, I do take issue with "bad luck" contributing to acccidents between vehilces..
    Lack of attention is, IMHO, a main contibution to incidents, followed by poor decision making, (which is really a lack of a skill).

    I regularly ride on roads that are through National Parks and are populated by 'roos. I know they are there and still ride. They are more active at sunrise and sunset, and less likely to be on the road during daylight, than at night.
    To increase my chance of survival, I take the following actions. Don't ride at sun up or down, I slow down at night, and have fitted extra lighting to the bike. Now if a 'roo jumps out and I don't have time to avoid it then that would be bad luck. But if I keep rolling the dice..my numbers will come up.

    However, with any incident between vehicles/bikes, there has been usually a lack of attention, (ie didn't see) poor decision made (ie I assumed), possibly by both parties.
    A common thing see around here are black tyre marks on the roads. They start on the LHS and go across the road diagonally . What's happened is a driver has "suffered" a lack of attention moment (ie made poor decision to change the CD), hit the gravel on the side of the road, surprised, yanked the steering wheel, overcorrected, sending the vehicle into a slide across the road. The driver has made 2 mistakes, the first they would have been able to get away with, if they didn't over react. The second was poor decision making again. (I've actually seen a car spin out, coming towards me on a local highway.) There is no luck there.

    I recently clipped a car while overtaking in a car park. The vehicle was going to turn left to park, as it was on the RHS of the lane. I made a (poor) decision to overtake with cars park on the right. The vehicle then veered right. I sounded my horn (poor decision, should have braked.) while at the rear wheel. The vehicle still kept on veering right, I finally brushed the front of the car with a saddlebag. The bike lent into the car, then came free. Why the driver didn't swerve back after I sounded my horn I'll never know. All my poor decisions. And probably just a lack of attention by the other driver. No luck in that.

    Bad conditions..I'm a bit aprehensive about blaming conditions. I've ridden in rain, bucketing down that hard, with water 100mm deep and unable to see the guttering or roadmarkings in a town. Poor decision. I've ridden in fog, both day and night. Poor decision. If you slow down in fog to the speed that you can see safely, then, on a bike, you run the risk of being driven over, because someone else knows the road, thinking that can travel faster. No luck in that ..poor decision making.

    Gravel and potholes or sharp corners on the road? We should ride only as far as we can see. If we don't, it's a poor decision. A risk many of us take.

    Luck only comes after a risk (poor decision) is taken.

    My old sig: Defensive riding: Allowing for their mistakes, and yours!

    But hey a good topic...lots of good stuff in here!
  20. I agree in the absolute sense with that analysis. I guess 'bad luck' ends up being a kind of bag that we put a bunch of things in. But the person here who had a roo jump off an embankment on top of them... I guess you could call being there at that place and time when the probability is high a bad decision, but that one really looks to me like bad luck. Or the person here who slid under the armco at speed and missed the posts... that seems like good luck. You could say there was a bad decision on someone's part that led to the fact he was sliding in the first place, but once sliding, hitting a post is to a fair extent a matter of what we call luck - even if we could actually analyse it down to the finest detail with physics and maths. As I mentioned, there are meteorite strikes that kill people: rare, but it's pretty hard to think of that in any way other than as bad luck.