Numbers recently released say that there was a 16% reduction in road deaths in 2020. That’s across the board; cars, bikes, everything. It’s clearly not because everyone has all of a sudden got better at driving, though. It’s because most of us spent the majority of 2020 locked up in our houses, hiding from an invisible killer, and not driving (and crashing) our cars or bikes. But the 16% reduction in deaths doesn’t tell the full picture. Because from July-September 2020, there were almost as many bike crashes; just 7% down from the same period in 2019. And the scary thing is, there were actually more fatalities. So what’s going on? Who’s crashing during COVID? And more to the point, why?
Before anyone says anything, I know all three of us here at 44 Teeth have done a bit of crashing during COVID. But none of us have crashed on the road. Sue and Statham both crashed on the track, and I crashed in a car park, so I don’t think we count towards the statistics.
Anyway, talking of statistics, whilst I know it’s not wise to believe everything the government tells you, if the statistics are true, it’s slightly worrying. Because despite fewer of us crashing in 2020, more of us got killed. How can that be?
Well I’ve got a theory, and I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I’ll share it with you anyway. I think the lockdown caused it. As well as causing people to loose their jobs, go bankrupt and generally loose the will to live.
Because, for the most part, most of us followed the rules didn’t we? We worked from home wherever we possibly could. Most of us only made journeys when they were essential. We did our bit. But that meant months and months without driving our cars or riding our bikes. And I’m not saying we all forgot how to do those things, but if practice makes perfect, no practice makes the opposite; far from perfect.
Some people, after not driving a car for months are going to be a bit rusty. And rusty drivers are dangerous drivers. And you can say the same about motorcyclists. Particularly when you consider a lot of those motorcyclists might not have ridden since late-summer 2019. A bunch of out-of-practice road users all out at the same time is surely a recipe for disaster.
And that’s only half of my (probably ill-reasoned) argument. When you stop people doing what makes them happy (riding motorcycles in this instance) it doesn’t sit well. It’s like telling a child that they mustn’t help themselves to the Maltesers when mummy and daddy aren’t watching. We were all desperate to get out on our bikes during lockdown but we tried not to, unless we had a good reason to.
But that meant that when we were allowed to, we were all like coiled springs. I know I was. Because I just wanted to get out on a bike as much as I could. I wanted to go further than I’ve ever been before, faster than I’ve ever been before. I’m one of the lucky ones because although I did a bit of crashing, I didn’t kill myself during COVID. But unfortunately too many people did.
I don’t really know if it was because they were over excited about getting out on their bike after been grounded by Boris. And I don’t know if it had anything to do with the fact that all the other road users had forgotten how to keep each other safe after a driving sabbatical. But it can’t have helped, can it?
I’m hoping none of us ever have to live through another lockdown, whether it’s pandemic related or not. But if we do, make sure you take care of yourself when you get back out on the road. It’s a jungle out there.
Speaking as a member of the emergency services, we usually see a crop of accidents in the spring months as riders who don’t use their bikes during the winter months, get going and although mentally they feel that they’ve lost no skills, physically they’re very much out of practice. It’s worth either keeping a banger on the road for winter, getting out when it’s cold and dry or picking up a day with the old bill or Biker Down guys early season to remind yourself of what it’s all about. We’ve all got loved ones and people who want us to not die. Definitely worth thinking about.
I definitely saw a lot of completely reckless riding and driving on sunny days after the lockdown, I’m not preaching, far from it. But you’re right practice keeps up your skill.