Bikers fight back with road safety campaign that claims car drivers are usually at fault

Australia’s motorcycling community has produced a road safety awareness campaign that argues that most accidents between car drivers and motorcyclists are the fault of the driver.

The campaign is part of an ongoing tussle between the biking community and Victoria’s Transport Accident Commission, which bikers say demonises riders as dangerous, taking the side of car drivers.

A TAC motorcycle safety campaign earlier this year drew many complaints from bikers, and an angry debate ensued in the comment thread on Mumbrella. A post by a bike-riding ad executive in 2009 argued that the TAC treated riders as drinkers and drug users.

The copy in the ad reads: “In 84% of rider fatalities, where drivers turned into, or across, the path of the motorcycle — the driver was at fault. Not the motorcyclist. Before you turn. Take a longer look.”

The group is backed by Motorcycling Australia and law firm Maurice Blackburn, which is running the campaign on its Facebook page and the website

The campaign is called Stop SMIDSY, which stands for Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You, a term the group says is commonly used by drivers after an accident.


  1. Ross
    20 Nov 12
    9:58 am

  2. I love the fact that the stats are drawn from TAC’s own data. It’s amazing to see the two completely different “safety messages” that have been drawn from the same source.

  3. John K
    20 Nov 12
    10:09 am

  4. Great to see mUmBRELLA post an article on this. It was produced with a massive amount of motorcycle rider input, which is a lot more than can be said for TAC who refuse to work with any motorcycle riders who volunteer there time to make a contribution. The message here is quite simple and aimed at all road users. No bood, guts or gore here – just the plain truth.

  5. Andrew
    20 Nov 12
    11:47 am

  6. Agreed – this is an important message, and everyone has a role to play in road safety. The fact that the data comes from the TAC themselves definitely highlights the different approaches taken however.

  7. Richard Moss
    20 Nov 12
    11:49 am

  8. Mmmm. Is it a longer look that is needed or a better one.

    I have heard and seen some of the dumbest things regarding drivers and motorcyclists.
    I have been behind the wheel for 47 years and I was also astride a motorcycle for 15 of those.

    Motorcycles are hard to see, they are also highly manoeuvrable, which means that they will not always be exactly where you are looking, yet will, in all probability, be there in a second or two. Motorcycles are also very nippy, (no that is not an old persons reference to the Japanese) which means that they cover ground very much quicker than a car.

    It has been the policy of those who make the rules, to insist upon a crash helmet for motorcyclist, and no doubt these have saved many lives, yet the more important items, such as goggles, leathers and visibility jackets (sea rescue orange and reflective strips) have not been compulsory.

    Goggles make sure that wind, sand, stones, and insects are not obscuring the vision. Leathers save skin and elbow and knee joints when a rider is involuntarily dismounted for any reason, and high visibility vests make the rider more visible to all.

    Councils and road works companies also need to be aware that the practice of covering new seal with shovel loads of tiny stones is a very bad idea for motorcyclists.

  9. BrentH
    20 Nov 12
    12:04 pm

  10. A worthy comm but crying out for stronger creative, e.g. we’re in the roadside presence of the driver who caused the accident, as – blue lights flashing, out of focus, they load the stretcher into the ambo – we hear his aching lament: “Sorry mate, I just didn’t see you.”

  11. Sam
    20 Nov 12
    12:19 pm

  12. Hey BrentH – anyone tell you that you should be in advertising?

  13. Sam
    20 Nov 12
    12:20 pm

  14. BTW: I like the message. Nothing says “learn to be a considerate driver” quite like a statistic…

  15. ShamusH
    20 Nov 12
    12:31 pm

  16. Agreed on the stronger creative. I can definitely say that ideas, as per post #05, were looked at, and scripted – however after some serious consideration, factoring in a 7 day turn around, no real budget, and many stakeholders to keep happy, the resulting piece seemed to hit the mark with most of the aims of the brief – simply, clearly and effectively.

  17. Richard Moss
    20 Nov 12
    12:50 pm

  18. @ BrentH

    I cannot agree. The call is just right as it is. Flashing car indicator, disembodied voice of fact and reason, and everybody’s daughter, true love, sister making a plea from the distance. Very nice creative work in my opinion.

  19. Alison_F
    20 Nov 12
    1:23 pm

  20. @BrentH… we don’t like free pitches around these parts!

  21. Ben-san
    20 Nov 12
    2:03 pm

  22. Note the statistic says, “In 84% of rider fatalities where drivers turned into, or across, the path of the motorcycle…” not 84% of total rider fatalities. This cleverly leaves out what total percentage of incidents are actually due to a driver turning into or across a motorcyclist, and also what total percentage of fatalities are the fault of a driver at all. The overall statistics (those used to back other campaigns aimed at riders) probably paint a very different picture, and to include them here would likely have distracted people from the message by highlighting riders’ failings too. That said, I agree it’s a worthy communication — although it won’t help riders like the two who went around my car, and every other vehicle in sight, at more than 150 kmph in an 80 zone on the freeway last night… by the time I turned to see what the noise was, they’d almost disappeared. I expect they’ll be adding to the overall statistics quite soon.

  23. Adam
    20 Nov 12
    3:12 pm

  24. Hi Ben-San,
    If I recall the 84% refers to approx 38 out of 45 motorcyclists killed at intersections in vic were hit by at fault drivers..over a set period of time, I think it was 4-5 years. I’m sure someone has better access to the facts than I do.

  25. Kris-H
    20 Nov 12
    3:59 pm

  26. Ben-san that would be because not all fatalities happen in the same manner, or even involve other road users. Your comment highlights the problem here. People look at the minority doing the wrong thing and that is the image they take with them of an entire group. This kind of generality is what causes the ‘rider is always at fault’ mentality. As a rider I haven’t seen the behaviour you describe by other motorcyclists, but have certainly witnessed it from drivers. I don’t assume they represent all drivers.

    Also while dramatisation helps grab attention I think it is rare to have any impact. The group targeted by the ad feels victimised and dismisses the ad, while the supporters who don’t need the reminder are the most effected.

    The problem is the perspective of us and them, as represented by Ben-san. There is always an excuse or someone else at fault. We aren’t asking for people to somehow cover for everyones irresponsibility we are asking them to just observe the basics of road safety and awareness.

    Sure a good road user has the skills to ensure in many cases that other road users mistakes do not become an incident, accident or tragedy, but since training is so basic in Australia and remains the black sheep of road safety you can’t and shouldn’t expect the additional room for error this provides.

    As a riding trainer once told me, “driving is all about learning to take calculated risks, riding is about taking none.”

  27. Gershwin
    20 Nov 12
    4:33 pm

  28. I’m with Richard Moss, Motorcyclists should be forced to wear High-Vis, but i don’t think it should stop there.
    I’ve also seen drivers hit trams, and run into kerbs, posts and other stationary objects. I assume these drivers were looking, so it logically follows that each of these trams and static objects came (silently) out of nowhere, as they are wont to do.

    Trams, traffic islands and lamp posts represent a hazard on our roads and should be painted in High-Vis, a measure we should probably extend to pedestrians too.

    The fact remains that until drivers look, all the DayGlo and reflective fabric in the world won’t protect riders from inattentive drivers.

  29. Rob
    20 Nov 12
    6:22 pm

  30. Ben, MUARC’s own research and it’s cousin organisation VISU have research that shows that between half to two thirds of all motorcycle crashes involve a second vehicle, with the second vehicle at fault in the majority of cases. This is repeated by research all over the globe, but notably Hurt and MAIDS.

    The stat in the ad is not cleverly hiding anything. It’s highlighting that of a certain subset of fatalities, drivers are unambiguously at fault. The ad proposes a solution, take a longer look. If they take a longer look in response to the ad and are actually looking for a bike, research shows that this expectation will help drivers see a bike.

    It would take a mini documentary to cover all the reasons WHY drivers fail to see motorcycles, bicycles, pedestrians, and even plain as day trams, light and siren Fire engines and other ESV’s… but as far as a 30 second ad goes, the message is simple and isn’t gratuitously blaming drivers… it just asks them to do one little thing as part of sharing the road. Not a big ask.

    Big +1 Kris. I had the day off today and was out on the motorbike. I saw atrocious displays of driving, which I had to manage as a rider, but I did not tar every driver with the same brush. If only the likes of Ben could do the same.

  31. Susan
    20 Nov 12
    8:30 pm

  32. Ben-San, the issue is that riders know full well that the TAC misuses stats for its own anti rider agenda. The figures could be ‘84% of male riders wear suspenders under their leathers’ – but the message from the TAC is going to be skewed in such a way that it becomes irrelevant to its target audience (and then somehow suspenders cause death and mayhem when really they just help keep your stockings up). Riders haven’t listened to the TAC for years, their messages are lost on us.
    And by the way, those two riders that roared past you. How many riders have you seen in the past week that did the right thing? Oh you can’t remember? No, cos it’s easier to remember bad behaviour of some than the good behaviour of the rest of us who are just minding our business trying to stay alive…

  33. Bill Posters
    21 Nov 12
    7:39 am

  34. Lots of great “I drive a car, get everything else off the road” entitlement going in this thread. Keep up the good work guys.

  35. Cougs
    21 Nov 12
    11:27 am

  36. Yep, its up to all of us to get out of the way of the all important car driver on their way to the all important lunch meeting….

    For the record, I drive a car daily for work, also ride a motorbike and drive a fire truck under emergency conditions regularly – and I’ve had car drivers pull out in front of all 3.

    If drivers can’t see a 13 tonne red truck with flashing lights, siren and air horn then perhaps the intent of this campaign (ie….take a longer look) might just be a good thing….

    Even if bikers did have to come up with it and fund it themselves – yep, thanks TAC

  37. TheCoggsMachine
    21 Nov 12
    11:44 am

  38. A couple of weeks ago I was involved in an accident where I was turning right at a roundabout, and a driver pulled out in front of me. The driver then saw me and stopped in front of my bike, leaving me nowhere to go.
    I was doing about 30km\h, but with the lean angle of turning, and the lack of room, I hit the road and slid into the side of the car. I was not speeding, I had my indicator on, my bike was bright red, and my gear is black and red. I even had a silver backpack on. But the driver ‘didnt see me’ before pulling out.
    Since getting my bike licence I have learned that I never saw motorbikes in the way that I need to. Most drivers look for where there is no car in a line of traffic, ignoring the fact a cyclist, scooter, motorcycle etc may be in the gap.

    Taking a longer look or taking a more considered and careful look is all that this ad asks. Mobile Phone laws are also a good start, but until drivers and riders in Australia (myself included) get adequate and continued training, all that is being asked is for road users to be considerate of other road users.

    Even if you hate motorcyclists, do you really want to see one dead on the bonnet of your car?

  39. John Sharples
    21 Nov 12
    12:34 pm

  40. @Richard Moss – couldn’t agree more.
    I’ve been driving cars for 30 years and took my bike license after I’d been driving for 10 years. What an eye opener!! I know that I became a much better driver of both car and bike but, more importantly, better aware of bike users on the road. I don’t manoeuvre, change lane, turn a corner, etc in my car until I’ve looked over my right shoulder, left shoulder, checked the mirrors and done it all again. Oh…. and I indicate well in advance of doing any of that where required (unlike some of my fellow road users who seem to think it’s either unnecessary or just required for stating the bleeding obvious AFTER they’ve turned, changed lane, etc)!!
    And, 25 of these years have been driving round the heady streets of Londinium Toon during the days of mad bicycle and motorbike messengers “filtering” through gaps I could barely see and red lights they obviously didn’t (more the bicycle lot).
    When I took my bike license our instructor recommended a minimum of a Sam Brown reflective belt with the comment “You’ll look more stupid dead” and it’s stuck with me since. I wear hi-viz jackets on my bike, but particularly my bicycle here in Sydney…. and still people don’t quite “see” me.
    The thing that astounds me most after 8 years here in Ozstraya is the continued belief that wearing thongs, singlet and shorts are appropriate wear on a sports bike or any motorbike for that matter! And that’s the rider, let alone their passenger.
    Which part of “bare flesh meeting tarmac road at speed will be an extreme gravel rash/skin graft” don’t they get???
    So, I applaud the ad – and I’ve watched the various comments whenever motorbike safety ads come up – and know how contentious this issue is.
    How about EVERYONE has to have a bike license so they’re fully aware of the dangers inherrent in it and the vagaries of our fellow motorised travellers??
    I’ve always thought that would be a good solution to the problem…. but that’s just me. Cheers.

  41. Paully C
    21 Nov 12
    12:55 pm

  42. One thing that might help – make all drivers ride motorbikes for 3 months.

    That’ll sharpen up their awareness, give them some insight & maybe, just maybe, make them a little more considerate.

  43. Brett Fenton
    21 Nov 12
    2:54 pm

  44. I had a car which was illegally stopped in the cycle lane suddenly pull out across my lane without even indicating, and obviously not even looking as there was about 10 cars immediately behind me. I wasn’t able to stop in time, and collided into the side rear panel of her car. The lady has admitted fault, and I have just emailed her the Quote for repairs to my bike. Lucky for me, the only injury I sustained was a deep bruising to my calf where the bike landed onto it, and an ear bashing from my mother how she has always felt motorbikes are unsafe! I quickly replied I would have been worse off if I was on my push bike like I normally would. The lady who caused the accident said these all to famous words “I didn’t see you”. Even if she didn’t see me, with my head lights on, the 10 or so cars immediately behind me should have been a dead givaway it wasn’t safe for her to pull across. I called into the cop station on my way home, and because the lady and I exchanged details, they didn’t want to know about it. I went to the TAC web site as a fellow biker said to report it to them, but there wasn’t a form that allowed me to simply make a report, unless I was making a finacial claim. Lucky for me, I got the contact details of the driver immediately behind me, and hopefully everything will get sorted out soon. It’s very frustrating that there has been no authority that I have been able to simply make a report or statement to, so the TAC won’t have any record of this accident what was caused by a driver, who’s excuse was “She didn’t see me”.

  45. Jeremy
    21 Nov 12
    6:45 pm

  46. Wouldn’t painting everything hi-vis just desensitise people to that particular colour?

  47. peter mitchell
    21 Nov 12
    9:48 pm

  48. Stay cool riders. We are a growing force. Sensible riding and lots of respectful emails to all levels of government will slowly gain better conditions AND better awareness campaigns.

  49. John Motorcycle Rider
    25 Nov 12
    7:24 am

  50. Had an interesting conversation at the Motorcycle Expo. This is the ad which TAC gave explicit advice that the producers should not make. In fact they told the producers that they didn’t have enough time to make and an ad, edit it and get it out before the Moto GP. It made the Top 10 Viral Youtube videos list : ) How about that? And its playing on Foxtel. TAC could learn a lot from this little group : ) Maybe time to change ad agency maybe?

  51. Brett Fenton
    25 Nov 12
    5:05 pm

  52. Yep, was at the Motorcycle Expo this morning, and if you want to see how having everything brightly coloured and “Hi-Vis”, just go there. You really have to look hard to separate one thing from another. People who don’t look, won’t see you no matter what colours, or how bright they are.

  53. Lawyers at work
    26 Nov 12
    9:01 am

  54. Is this an ambulance chasing exercise by Maurice Blackburn?

    There’s no serious road safety component to it; just a campaign to whip up outrage among a class of litigants and change the laws to make it easier to sue drivers.

    On everything there is the strong branding of Maurice Blackburn. Tee shirts, photos and PR are all branded with this firm.

    This campaign will not save anyone’s life. It will probably kill several motorcyclists, by convincing them they’re not responsible for their own safety. Many of the anecdotes in this and the other threads suggest unsafe speed by the motorcyclists, and crash statistics point to the same problem.

  55. John Motorcycle Rider
    26 Nov 12
    9:35 am

  56. Lawyers at Work – no, it was motorcycle riders who approached Maurice Blackburn and gave them the ideas. Working with MB is like a breathe of fresh air : ) Are you upset because your firm didn’t think of doing this first? Maurice Blackburn are assisting riders to express themselves and get the right message out – not the confused mess being undertaken by TAC.

  57. Rob
    27 Nov 12
    12:34 am

  58. Lawyers at work, your ignorance is showing on multiple levels.

    Your post is flawed from start to finish – but rather than open a dialogue where you can weave some kind of semantic or sophistic back pedalling, let’s just focus on a key undeniable flaw – research the world over, and even HERE IN OZ (MUARC, VISU, CARRS-Q, others), states that up to two thirds of motorcycle crashes involves another vehicle, with the other vehicle at fault in the majority of cases. That’s reality. That’s nothing like your perception of statistics.

  59. Lawyers at Work
    27 Nov 12
    12:03 pm

  60. Rob, statistics from road researchers shows that about 70 percent of motorcycle crashes are caused by the riders themselves. About 50 percent of crashes are single vehicle crashes where the rider loses control, often due to speed.

    In many other crashes, even where the car driver is judged to be at fault, speed seems to be a contributing factor. Motorcycle riders have significant control over their safety on the road.

    John, I appreciate your and others interests is in making the roads safer, and I applaud it. But getting a firm of lawyers to pretend to be road safety experts is not going to help you. Put a date in your diary for 2014 and review just how your campaign has gone.

  61. John Motorcycle Rider
    27 Nov 12
    12:23 pm

  62. Lawyers at Work, those lawyers are at least people who we riders are able to speak with, and who are willing to help us communicate that which we know to be important about motorcycle safety to the general public.

    Now, if you are a lawyer, then you would understand that every accident is different as is the cause of every accident is different (albeit quite minor). Why are riders at fault in accidents which involve them? Could it be because the safetycrats are focussed on the wrong thing? Could it be that their approach is faulty? Statistics tell us only a very small part of the story. My gut feeling is that the real cause lies deeper and that is why TAC non-rider experts need/must establish a better line of communication with riders. Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, to their credit, have made an effort to do just that. The outcome may be some additional business – but the added bonus is the value they add to the task of getting the right answers.

    Maurice Blackburn don’t pretend to be experts and they would be offended by anyone placing that label on them. The difference here is that they have corralled the experts, and sought their input, and synthesised the best solution. They have the motorcycle communities’ support and appreciation.

  63. Rob
    27 Nov 12
    10:12 pm

  64. Lawyers, that looked awfully like an own goal. Those stats sounds like a cut and paste from the TAC and their preferred research – a flawed 2002 MCIG “in depth” motorcycle crash study.

    VicPol are fond of ticking the speed box on their crash reports. Their assessment of speed as a causal factor boils down to an unscientific guess, this is by VicPol’s own word. If MCIU aren’t involved, then ticking the box can’t be anything but an (educated?) guess.

    Since you enjoy throwing about apparently self evident stats and inferring meaning, I suggest you look up the proportion of single vehicle/car fatalities – It just happens to be a higher proportion than what you quoted for PTW’s. Using your logic, that would suggest car drivers are a serious issue no?

  65. Rob
    27 Nov 12
    10:15 pm

  66. P.S. What proportion of car drivers are at fault in their collisions?

  67. Jesse
    11 Dec 12
    7:27 am

  68. Big thanks to MB for this, AND their submission to the parliamentary inquiry, which i’m guessing our anonymous guest “lawyers at work” hasn’t read. It’s a simple, fact-based (and conservative) campaign that would benefit ALL road users, and was necessitated by the fact that whilst “speed” is a factor of many accidents, speed over the seed limit isn’t, and the TAC’s efforts to attribute blame solely to speed is taking focus away from perhaps the most important factor in road safety…paying attention to what you’re doing and watching were you’re going. I don’t see why asking everyone on the road to pay attention is a bad thing?

    They could have gone down the path of relentlessly hammering statistics and emotive graphic accident scenes or trying to make everyone look like a criminal… like the TAC… but we hate how they do that and generally ignore it these days. We dont want to make car drivers feel guilty or defensive… we just want them to look out for us. we can control our speed, we can’t control people pulling out in front of us.