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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...

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. 

Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.

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