Opinion: Motorcycle accidents - the uncomfortable truth


This is an unpleasant topic that we motorcyclists are absolute experts at sweeping deep under the carpet. But a recent incident got me thinking about sharing my mantra of safety on a motorcycle - it’s always your fault, even when it’s not. 

Life on a motorcycle is beautiful for endless reasons, but the danger is also very real, especially in a country where traffic discipline is a seemingly voluntary responsibility that only a few bother to exercise. 

I had a harsh reminder of this reality a few weeks ago when I was on the lovely new Aprilia RS 457. Registering that there were a precious few seconds left on the signal ahead of me, I knew that the bike I was on had enough power to comfortably make it before the green light turned amber. And this was where I made the bad decision.

In that moment, I let my usual safety margin slip and ignored the fact that anything less than five seconds left on a red light is as good as a green light for the average Indian motorist. And thus came a nastily close moment where a sharp countersteer input, lots of ABS intervention and even more luck prevented me from being T-boned at the intersection.

I got home angry with myself and have been so since; perhaps that’s why I felt compelled to write this column. It was a stupid move and I should have known better than to simply trust in the rules to keep myself safe. The truth is that you cannot trust anything or anyone on our roads. Only you can keep yourself safe, and your every action needs to be considered, calculated and executed with a generous safety buffer. 

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whose fault a crash is. While someone else may have been the cause, it is you and your loved ones who have to go through the physical pain, mental suffering and monetary challenges that often accompany a motorcycle accident. Yes, freak, unavoidable incidents can happen, but in an overwhelmingly vast majority of cases, there’s always something you could have done differently to escape that situation. 

For starters, I always ride with the assumption that the other person is a dangerous idiot trying to take me out. My apologies to everyone out there who actually isn’t, but preparing for the worst often helps you avoid it in the first place.

Next, it makes a massive difference to train yourself to be a better rider. Riding schools will change your motorcycling life, especially if you’ve bought yourself a powerful machine. Knowing how to use lines and improve your vision is hugely beneficial on the road as well. 

However, while being confidently in control in any situation is invaluable, it’s also a double-edged sword. Overconfidence can throw you into a bad place on the street (like it perhaps did for me) and with knowledge must come wisdom.

One bad decision can cancel out decades of good ones. Being a safe motorcyclist is a constant work in progress where you can never afford to let your guard down. I know all this must sound depressingly serious, but taking the extra step will increase the odds of you getting home safe. That will increase the odds of you looking forward to getting back out on your bike—and that’s how you build a long and happy motorcycling career.

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