The clocks went back one hour to Greenwich Mean Time last Sunday 27th October, which means the evening commute will once again increasingly be cloaked in darkness. The days are shortening at this time of year so mornings will eventually become darker too.
Aware that they are more vulnerable than ever during this period, motorbike riders and cyclists will need to make themselves as visible as they possibly can. Wearing hi-vis clothes and reflective strips attached to the upper back and arms help being seen at any time but especially during reduced daylight and winter weather conditions.
During the winter months, the dangers faced by motorbike riders and motorbike accident claims can increase. The average risk of a motorbike rider being involved in an accident is already higher, by 35 per cent, than an average motorist. But during the winter period, the number of motorcycle casualties also rises by nearly 30 per cent, according to the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM).
Oil and diesel on the road
Apart from the increased dangers of accidents with other vehicles a key factor can be severe winter rain and sleet, which mixes with oil and diesel spillages on road surfaces not cleared from the drier summer months.
Accidents caused by oils spills are now as frequent on rural roads as they are on urban carriageways. As main road traffic congestion increases, commercial vehicles try to use alternative routes through narrow country lanes where oil/diesel spills are a particular hazard on sharp bends in the road.
Difficult to spot in advance, oil or diesel can also remain almost indefinitely on the road and actually float on the surface following rainfall. According to the Department of Transport, oil or diesel in the roads doubles the number of motorcyclists involved in a fatal or serious accident. Wet roads always mean less tyre grip and can create a lethal combination with the extended reduction in daylight hours during winter.
Another dangerous hazard, which only occurs in the cold winter months, is black ice, so called because it is distinct from frost or frozen puddles and almost impossible to see. Motorcyclists should be more aware of the dangers from black ice because two-wheeled transport is inherently more unstable than four-wheeled and reaction times need to be quicker to avoid potential disaster.
Clocks forward rather than back?
When the clocks go back each year, the debate reignites over the relative safety value of reduced daylight hours, and there have been forceful calls to remain permanently one hour forward on BST. The IAM have previously proposed a radical plan to actually move the clocks forward rather than back so that road users will in fact gain an extra hour of daylight during the journey home from work during the winter months.
The IAM claim that their scheme, which they urge the government to consider on a three-year trial, could prevent up to 200 serious injuries recorded each year and reduce the number of fatalities by around 80.
According to the IAM, “ An extra hour of daylight would help to make the commute home much safer for all road users, children, cyclists and motorcyclists would benefit most."