Incident, Accident, or Crash

In Motorcycle Terms, what’s the difference?

Incident: An unplanned, undesired event that hinders the safe operation of a motorcycle, and may cause injury or damage, or some combination of both in varying degrees from minor to catastrophic. Unplanned and undesired do not mean unable to prevent.

Accident: Often similar to an incident, but supports the mindset that it could not have been prevented. An accident is the opposite of the fundamental intentions of operating a motorcycle safely, which is to identify riding hazards, avoiding those hazards, and preventing incidents. When we accept that accidents have no cause, we assume that they will happen again.

Crash: A crash is an accident in which a moving motorcycle hits something and is damaged or destroyed.

If a drunk rider runs his motorcycle into oncoming traffic, that is an accident (he did not intend to do so; it was caused by alcohol). It could also be described as an incident (“The incident occurred on the N2 at around 2:30 AM”).

If another road user was arrested after pushing a motorcycle rider off the road, that is an incident (but not an accident – because this was not by chance; he intended/made a decision to push the rider off the road). But when the rider loses control, hitting something, resulting in damage or injury it then becomes an accident or incident based on the nature of the crash.

All accidents can ALSO be described as incidents – but NOT all incidents are accidents.

Hein Jonker

Founder of the Motorcycle Safety Institute of South Africa Editor in Chief of Bike Talk South Africa Chief Instructor of Bike Talk Motorcycle Rider Academy Motorcycle Safety & Skills Expert for Arrive Alive South Africa

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