Video: How a fatal crash happens

How does a fatal motorcycle crash happen? The video below shows a rider’s viewpoint of an accident that killed him, and it shows how quickly things can go wrong.

The video, released by police in the UK, shows 38-year-old David Holmes leaving the DirtQuake II event in June, 2013. He’s in high spirits, riding pretty quickly, when he’s cut off by a Renault. The crash kills him.

Holmes’s family approved the video’s release, co-operating with police in an attempt to prevent similar tragedies.

The car driver was prosecuted over the accident, according to the Wisbech Standard’s article on the video. According to Visordown, he admitted to guilt and was given a 12-month community sentence and an 18-month driving ban; he told police he hadn’t seen Holmes’s bike, or the car behind him.

There’s been a lot of Internet buzz about this video already. Some viewers are quick to blame the car, saying the driver shouldn’t have cut off Holmes. Others blame Holmes, saying he was going too fast. Motorcycle writer Mark Gardiner has a pretty good breakdown of the video on his site here, with some lessons that every rider needs to hear.


  1. I’m not sure how much of the blame the car’s driver should have received. Apparently he plead guilty and was thought responsible enough to receive a fairly strong penalty (by the standards of consequences for causing car accidents), so I’ll leave that be. I have said before in other places, and I’ll say it again here, if you’re going considerably above the speed limit or the speed that other road users expect, don’t be surprised if they pull out in front of you, or turn in front of you, or whatever. I know many drivers are blissfully unaware of their surroundings, or uncaring of consequences for their actions, but most are doing the best they can, but like all of us are imperfect, sometimes make mistakes (like not spotting the oncoming vehicle), and may have difficulty judging the speed of oncoming vehicles, especially motorcycles with their (typical) single headlights and small frontal area.

    I try to keep this question in mind when I’m riding: can I see far enough ahead down the road (or be seen by others) for the speed I’m doing to be able to react and avoid danger? If I’m honest with myself, often the answer is probably “No”. That I’ve avoided an accident like this so far is probably largely a matter of good luck more than anything else.

  2. There is a time and a place and this was neither. Everybody contributed to this collision. To call it an accident would suggest that this was just a happenstance and couldn’t be avoided but it wasn’t. Both rider and driver contributed to it. If either had changed their actions this wouldn’t have happened. Regardless of fault, my heart goes out to the family and am sorry for their loss. I prey that others will watch this and learn from it and hopefully live to ride for a very long time.

  3. I didn’t watch the video but read Mark Gardiners description. Obviously the car driver turned in but 97 mph. in a 60 zone without regard for oncoming traffic and approaching while approaching an intersection is irresponsible.

    We all suffer lapses in judgement and fortunately come away saying, “Jeez I was lucky, won’t do that again.” Sadly this fellow didn’t get that chance this time.

  4. This is very sad to see. From watching this video it appears he was going very quickly. I dont know what the speed limit is on this road but regardless there is no way this could have been avoided. The car pulled across in front of him within a split second.

    • “it appears he was going very quickly. there is no way this could have been avoided.”
      You are a tragedy for cleverness.
      Yes, he was fast. And? The car slammed him because the driver DID NOT LOOK at him. He didn’t CARE about him.
      Most of biker don’t died. They are killed !
      Would had he be fastless, he would have probably died or worse : becoming tetraplegic.
      So YES, it could have been avoided. Juste by taking care, just by looking, just by respecting. Just by cleverness.

    • “There is no way this could have been avoided” – Not by the time the rider clued in to the problem (about a second before impact) but as noted in the (very good) analysis article, it could likely have been prevented by the rider before impact, or at a minimum, considerably reduced in severity. The rider had plenty of clues to impending risk factors well before the impending impact but chose to ignore them: the sign indicating presence of an upcoming junction, the presence of other traffic at the junction. Never drive/ride faster than other drivers are expecting in a situation like that!

      Preventing a potential collision scenario from happening in the first place is far more productive from the risk-management point of view than taking evasive/avoidance action once the collision scenario presents itself. Personally, I would have slowed down and held back behind that white car until after the junction, stayed to the right behind that car approaching the junction so that I could see the oncoming car and that oncoming car could see me, then swung to the left behind the white car just before the junction to put more distance between me and the oncoming car in case the oncomer turned right, and THEN blown past the white car AFTER clearing the junction … If the oncomer turned right, the impact would have to get through that white car before it got to me …

      And I HAVE hit a car that turned across my path … but because I had slowed down to an appropriate speed in view of traffic conditions (60-ish km/h) and I was covering the brake lever to quicken reaction time, I scrubbed off most of that speed and got the impact speed down to probably 20 – 30 km/h and I came out of it with just a sore wrist.

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