Australian helmet cam study says motorists to blame in 88 per cent of accidents with cyclists

Most drivers in study didn't realise they had been driving in dangerous manner

by Tony Farrelly   November 22, 2010  

Australian flag.png

Nine out of 10 accidents involving cyclists and cars are the fault of motorists, in Australia at least. That's the conclusion of a new piece of research conducted by academics at the Monash University Accident Research Centre and the Amy Gillett Foundation. The three year study involved researchers fitting cameras to bikes and commuter cyclists in an attempt to establish the main causes of accidents between motorists and cyclists.

A total of 54 incidents were captured on camera and in 88 per cent of these researchers concluded that the cyclist was travelling in a save and legal way, 70 per cent of the incidents recorded were judged to have been caused by either a failure to look on the part of the driver or a failure to indicate when changing lanes. In most cases, according to details of the report given in the Sydney Morning Herald the motorists involved did not even realise they were driving in a dangerous or careless manner.

As well as the helmet cam footage, a survey of rider and driver was conducted to find out how they interacted on the road and to gauge levels of understanding of how to share the roads safely.

The research was conducted as a PhD study by Marlyn Johnson and was part funded by the Amy Gillett Foundation, the research is intended to help the foundation, which is dedicated to promoting safer interaction on the roads between cyclists and drivers to shape it's education and training programs. The Australian state of Victoria, in which both the university and the Amy Gillett Foundation are based has seen a rise in hospital admissions of cyclists with serious injuries over recent years.

Commenting on the study's findings Tracey Gaudry, chief executive officer at the Amy Gillett Foundation said:

""We believe there is a strong argument to introduce a road rule that prescribes a safe passing distance (at least one metre), as well as further educating drivers that they need to indicate at least five seconds before changing lanes."

Interestingly although the study is very different in approach and methodology and much smaller in scale its findings echo some of those from a 2009 study carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory in the UK, Collisions involving pedal cyclists on Britain's roads: establishing the causes,that looked at Department for Transport casualty and road use statistics and compared them with police and coroner reports and other academic studies in to driver and rider behaviour. The TRL study found that when all accidents involving all age groups of cyclist were taken in to account the police ascribed the main contributory factor for the accident to the motorist in around 50 per cent of cases, cyclists in 39 per cent, and to both parties for the remaininder.

However, when accidents involving children and cyclists between 16 - 24 were factored out, the number of serious and slight accidents attributed to motorist behaviour rose to around 75 per cent. A figure broadly in line with the Austrian study which looked at similar types of incidents. Motorist behaviour was also listed as the main contributory factor in fatal accidents involving cyclists although not to such a marked degree – this might be because the cyclist was not in a position to give their side of the story, thankfully there were no fatal accidents recorded as part of the Australian research.

Amy Gillett represented Australia at both cycling and rowing, she was was killed in 2005 while on a training ride in Germany with other members of Austrialian Institute of Sport's women's cycling team when a young woman driver crashed in to them killing Amy and seriously injurying five of her team mates, she was 29-years-old. 

7 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

As much as I agree with the statistic stated (I'd be willing to say that at least 95% of incidents being caused my motorists, anecdotally), does the research address the issue of the possibility for a change in behaviour of cyclists issued with a camera? I'd be willing to bet that if I was given a camera I would consciously or unconsciously (or both) change my behaviour a little and be on my best behaviour. I'd be willing to bet that motorists who were aware their car was fitted with a camera would make a similar behavioural change (which would be lovely for the rest of us).

These kinds of effects are important to take into account with road safety research, it causes problems when they are not taken into account and end up informing policy decisions. This is how cyclists ended up being burdened with helmet laws in Australia, risk compensation and other factors were not considered in the original decision to make helmets mandatory.

posted by mr_colostomy [29 posts]
22nd November 2010 - 16:29

like this
Like (5)

My behaviour doesn't change when I'm on my bike, but I must admit - when I drive my car and record my journeys on my iphone, my behaviour changes drastically. Thinking

jobysp's picture

posted by jobysp [145 posts]
22nd November 2010 - 16:34

like this
Like (4)

Very interesting - the UK DfT statistic is that 85% of accidents involving cyclists are not the fault of the cyclist - one to bear in mind.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2166 posts]
22nd November 2010 - 17:29

like this
Like (5)

Yes, I have seen some discussion as to whether issuing riders with cameras would alter their behaviour and make them ride more cautiously with regards to this study, although I wonder if that would only be at best a temporary effect and this study was carried out over three years.

If there was an effect the UK study would seem to suggest it is slight - given that in the DfT stats contributing factors in relation to driver and rider behaviour are dedided by the police.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4135 posts]
22nd November 2010 - 17:57

like this
Like (4)

Quote:
In most cases [...] the motorists involved did not even realise they were driving in a dangerous or careless manner.

That's the most important point. Even in the <12% of accidents where the cyclist is at fault, he or she would have to be catastrophically stupid or monumentally unlucky to endanger the person in the car. In contrast, all it takes is a moment's distraction for a car to easily become a lethal weapon. Many drivers are dangerous because they have no idea how large, heavy and possessed with so much kinetic energy their vehicles are.

posted by handlebarcam [527 posts]
22nd November 2010 - 19:57

like this
Like (4)

No surprise to me, although nice to see some stats to back up what I thought.
I would say that cycling with a camera has made me more careful (not that I was reckless before).
I think it would be a great improvement if motor vehicles were fitted with balc bos style recorders to be able to find out what the speed and direction were just before an accident. Again if people knew that they would be more careful. It would also reduce insurance costs as there would be less disputes about fault of an accident, and bad drivers would find it too expensive.

posted by thereverent [298 posts]
23rd November 2010 - 12:43

like this
Like (2)

Not really surprising the results but its based on a very low number just 56 incidents (although thats probably a good thing for injured parties ;-0)

Howl Like a Bianchi

HLaB's picture

posted by HLaB [54 posts]
23rd November 2010 - 19:45

like this
Like (5)