While the number of road deaths in Northern Ireland during 2018 was yesterday confirmed to be the joint second-lowest on record, a more detailed reading of the figures shows just how deadly the roads can be for motorcyclists in particular.
Figures for 2018 show that, out of the 55 people who died as a result of road tragedies during the year, seven were motorcylists – about 13%. One fatality was a cyclist.
These figures appear to be wildly out of kilter with the tiny number of journeys undertaken by motorbike or by bike.
According to a Department for Infrastructure travel survey — published in 2017 and conducted by way of a survey of around 1,000 households over a three year period — car journeys account for 82% of travel in Northern Ireland, journeys made by bike account for 1%, while motorbikes account for only 0.25%.
Chair of Road Safe NI Pat Martin said: “The number of motorcyclists killed is disproportionately high to the number of car drivers. I’m pleased there’s only been one cyclist killed.
“Like motorcylists they are a very vulnerable road user.
“They have very little protection in an accident. We all know a car gives more protection. That’s why I believe the figures are disproportionate for these road users (motorcyclists and cyclists). It’s my opinion that some motorcyclists do possibly take more risks and that is also a factor.”
The number of motorcycle deaths is in fact a decline from nine the previous year – amounting to 14% of that 2017 total of 63 road deaths. That year, two cyclists died.
Brian McNeill, Director of Operations with NI Ambulance Service said: “NIAS crews attend just less than 5,000 RTCs per year.
“Many of these do not result in serious injury however, when a cyclist or motorcyclist is involved, the injuries tend to be more severe. They are an extremely vulnerable category of road user.”
However, the overall historic trend has been towards fewer and fewer fatal accidents of all kinds, including for motorcyclists.
While the reduction in motorcycle deaths is shown right, a selection of records provided by the department and stretching back to 1931 indicate deaths peaked some time in the ‘70s.
The 55 deaths of 2018 was confirmed as the final year total yesterday by police, and shares the title of joint second-lowest with the year 2010. In 1972, there were 372 deaths, but this fell over the decades and in 2012 hit 31, a historic low since records began in 1931.
Ms Martin said: “We are working with the DfI, pledging the road to zero. That is our aim, whether we will ever get there or not I do not know.”
In 2017 the figure was nine, while in 2016 and 2015 four motorcyclists were killed on the roads each year.
Motorcycle road deaths:
• 2018 - 7
• 2017 - 9
• 2016 - 4
• 2015 - 4
• 2014 -13
• 2013 - 10
• 2012 - 4
• 2011 - 6
• 2010 - 8
• 2009 - 16
• 2008 - 15
The PSNI’s figures show that overall in 2018 there were 55 deaths on roads in Northern Ireland as a result of road traffic collisions.
This compares to 63 in 2017 and 68 in 2016.
Road deaths by category:
• Pedestrian - 16
• Driver - 23
• Passenger - 8
• Pedal Cyclist - 1
• Motorcyclist - 7
There were three child (under 16) fatalities recorded in 2018, one less than in 2017 and 2016.
A total of 14,966 people have died on NI roads since records began in 1931.