THE annual death toll of motorcyclists on the roads of North Yorkshire has reached its highest figure ever.

A man, believed to be in his 20s, became the 26th to die this year after a head-on collision with a car on Friday evening.

The statistic is the county's grimmest on record and is three times higher than the figure for all of last year.

The Suzuki motorcycle was travelling towards York on the A64, near Stockton-on-the-Forest, when it collided head-on with a German-registered Mercedes car at Towthorpe crossroads, at about 5.50pm.

The motorcyclist, thought to be from the York area, was taken by ambulance to York District Hospital but was pronounced dead a short time later.

The driver of the car was unhurt, but badly shaken.

A spokesman for the road policing group said: "The motorcycle is believed to have been travelling towards York when it collided with a Mercedes travelling in the opposite direction.

"It was a Friday evening at peak time and there was consistent traffic in all directions."

He added: "I despair. We have made every effort through enforcement and education to cut the number of accidents, and it still happens. Visiting the next of kin - that's the hardest part."

Police are appealing for the driver of a green-coloured Volkswagen car, possibly a Polo, to come forward, as he is thought to have witnessed the crash and might hold vital information.

The A64 was blocked in both directions for several hours. Diversions were set up, causing severe traffic tailbacks on the A64 and around York.