Is there a safe speed for a motorcycle overtaking a stationary traffic queue?

Traffic queues likely and motorcyle overtaking

If a motorcyclist is overtaking a line of traffic and hits a vehicle which pulls out of that line a claim for compensation will be defended. The argument is the motorcycle was being ridden too fast, or filtering was not safe.

Well I have a refreshing case to tell you about which might make the insurers think twice before arguing about speed and filtering.

A recent High Court decision went fully in the motorcyclist’s favour in a classic queuing traffic accident.

A line of traffic was queuing, and moving a few yards at a time, and a car driver decided he was going nowhere fast. He knew the road and turned right towards a track on the opposite side of the road. His plan was to turn around and go back in the opposite direction. As he turned across the opposite carriageway his car was hit by a motorcycle which had been travelling in the same direction.

This was a two lane road, with a broken white line, and a 60 miles per hour speed limit. Weather was clear, road dry, and a good line of sight either side of the accident point.

There were a few witnesses which was vital, as the rider had no memory of what happened. Road accident experts were also called to help the Judge with the collision speed, and the likely speed of the motorcycle before the accident.

The likely speed of the overtaking motorcycle was between 40 and 50 miles per hour. The driver indicated briefly then pulled across the road quickly. The motorcycle headlight was on and the driver had not looked carefully enough. The distance between the motorcycle and the car when it started to move was short.  The speed of the motorcycle was at the top end of a safe speed in the circumstances. The distance available to the motorcyclist to avoid the collision was vital.

The Judge’s finding was that even had the motorcycle’s speed been lower, the accident would still have happened, and the injuries would have been serious.

So the law works like this:

  1. The driver did not look properly before pulling out so he was negligent, and he caused the accident.
  2. Did the motorcyclist contribute to his injuries, not to the cause of the accident?
  3. The answer was no as even had his speed been lower the accident would still have happened and serious injury caused.

So the argument was not about who caused the accident, it was the driver’s fault. The question was whether the motorcyclist had contributed to his injuries by travelling too fast. There was no contributory negligence on the riders part so no reduction in the compensation.

So the answer to the question I posed is there is no safe or unsafe speed, as each case is different and depends on its own facts.

The decision is short and very readable and is available at

The case was between Marcel Beasley v Paul Alexander [2012] EWHC 2197 (QB)

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