Three-quarters of motorcyclists have not had lessons

Almost three-quarters of motorcyclists have never had formal driving lessons - even though they are more likely to be killed on the roads than anyone else.

And motorbike riders are also two to three times more likely to die on Irish roads than in any other European country, according to research.

The shocking figures prompted the garda traffic corps and the Road Safety Authority (RSA) to bring in the BikeSafe programme at Dublin Castle to improve biking skills and reduce fatalities.

“A lot of the time it’s considered fun or a hobby to drive around on a motorcycle,” Sgt Liam Geraghty said.

“It should be enjoyable but motorcyclists don’t recognise you are a vulnerable road user and far more vulnerable than a pedestrian.

“The fact that 70% of motorcyclists have never had a formal lesson is very, very worrying.”

One in 10 road deaths are motorcyclists – despite bikes accounting for just over 1.5% of all vehicles.

Some 64% of motorcyclist deaths between 1997 and 2006 were young men between 17 and 24, with more than half occurring on summer weekends.

While the figures have gradually fallen this year, gardai believe the atrocious summer weather may inadvertently have played a part.

“We’ve had a bad summer this year which has probably helped to keep fatalities down but we’ll have to see if our recent good weather will have any impact,” Sgt Geraghty said.

RSA figures from 2005 revealed motorcyclists are 13 times more likely to be killed than a car user and three times more than a pedal cyclist.

In that year, Ireland had the highest number of motorcycle deaths in Europe.

“We saw there was a spike in 2005 when motorcycle collisions accounted for nearly a quarter of accidents in Dublin,” Sgt Geraghty said.

“The majority of crashes happen at the weekends – that would not be people commuting to work, they think it’s a good buzz.

“There’s a group of lads out together, maybe pushing each other on.”

The BikeSafe programme is an assessment programme, as opposed to a teaching course, targeting 26 to 35-year-olds with advanced garda drivers judging road skills.

Candidates spend an hour at the traffic corps offices in Dublin Castle learning about statistics and driving skills before being monitored on the open road.

The garda then decides if the person has passed or failed and gives them advice on what improvements they can make.

“Gardaí were seen as the killjoys for a long time but what we want to show people is that it can be fun and safe,” Sgt Geraghty said.

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