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First ever 'naturalistic' study to monitor motorbike drivers

The EU-funded '2BESAFE' project will carry out a groundbreaking study of motorbike and scooter driver behaviour, known to be a major contributing factor in two-wheeler crashes.

EU officials and bikers at 2BESAFE workshop in Brussels © Peter Gutierrez
Meeting of minds at 2BESAFE workshop
© Peter Gutierrez

Statistics show that powered two-wheeler users, such as motorbike and scooter drivers, are increasingly 'over-represented' in fatal crashes. According to the OECD/ECMT International Road Accident Database, in 2002, they comprised 11.3% of all road fatalities in European countries. By 2005, that figure had increased to 13.4%.

The main cause of accidents with powered two-wheelers is the failure of other drivers to perceive them, but their own errors are also a contributing factor in many crashes. To learn more about why accidents happen, the 2BESAFE project will observe rider behaviour on powered two-wheelers fitted with special equipment and sensors, in the UK, France, Italy and Greece.

Specially fitted motorbikes

Speaking at a recent 2BESAFE workshop in Brussels, Alistair Weare of the UK's Transportation Research Laboratory ( TRLexternal link) explained, "We are using typical two-wheelers, depending on the partner country. So, for example, in Italy the test vehicle will be a scooter, while in the UK, France and Greece we are using typical 1000cc sports bikes."

The 2BESAFE workshop © Peter Gutierrez
2BESAFE in Brussels
© Peter Gutierrez

Miniature sensors will record throttle and accelerometer position, handlebar rotation, actioning of hand and foot brake levers, foot peg pressure and turn signal operation. In addition, a gyroscope and GPS equipment will record position and orientation, and a video camera will record the visual context.

All instruments will be installed discretely, said Weare. "The 'hiding' of our sensors has been a priority, to ensure that other road users behave normally when they see the bike. Nor should the rider himself be aware of the sensors as he drives. We want to maintain normal handling and safety. The riders will be observed for six weeks, during which we hope they will forget that they're being watched."

A groundbreaking study

Stéphane Espié © Peter Gutierrez
2BESFAE coordinator Stéphane Espié
© Peter Gutierrez

The project's scientific coordinator, Stéphane Espié, of the French National Institute for Transport and Safety Research ( INRETSexternal link), said, "This is a first-time-ever observational study and we have faced some big challenges in getting it underway, including many ethical and legal issues. We do not expect to solve all of the problems around motorcycle safety. We will not carry out every possible analysis of the data, but we do expect to learn and to learn a lot."

George Yannis of the National Technical University of Athens, one of the Greek 2BESAFE partners, is quick to add, "This study is going to generate a huge amount of raw data. This will remain with us. It will be a unique and extremely valuable database that we and others can continue to exploit for many years to come."