Motorcyclist safety

Motorcycling is an increasingly popular form of transport in Australia for both commuting and recreational reasons. However, the risk of being killed or seriously injured is higher for motorcyclists in comparison to occupants of other vehicles, due to the extra vulnerability of riders. Fatalities have declined over the last decade in a number of road user groups, but since 2014 there have been steady increases in motorcyclist fatalities. In Australia in 2016 there were 251 motorcyclist fatalities (243 riders and 8 pillion passengers), up more than 20% on 2015 figures and representing around one in five of all road crash deaths. Exposure has increased substantially over the last ten years, with motorcycle registrations increasing by approximately 5% per year and estimated kilometres travelled by 4% per year.

Fatalities for those motorcyclists under 40 years of age are more likely to occur in urban areas (higher levels of daily commuting) while more of the motorcycle fatality crashes involving those over the age of 40 occur in non-urban locations (higher levels of leisure/recreation). This indicates that the issue is likely to have multiple causes, and may require a variety of strategies aimed at differing contributing factors.

In attempting to improve motorcycle safety in Australia a number of initiatives have been implemented, including increased understanding about the use of appropriate protective clothing and other protective gear; recognition of the importance of infrastructure design and maintenance; targeted safety campaigns and information sharing; improved vehicle safety, including through technology such as anti-lock braking systems (ABS); and enhanced motorcycle training and education.

An example that has demonstrated positive results is the Victorian motorcycle blackspot program, which was instigated in 2003. This included assessment of higher volume motorcycle routes, and identification of infrastructure improvements (such as improvements to roadside barrier systems) to improve safety outcomes. Program evaluation results indicate substantial safety benefits for riders, with around a 30% reduction in fatal and serious injury. Recognising the importance of this issue, Austroads has produced a recent report on infrastructure improvements to assist in providing safer conditions for motorcyclists, and another on graduated licensing systems (GLS) for motorcycle riders.

Given that motorcyclists are over-represented in trauma statistics, further areas of improvement are required to enhance motorcycle safety. This Action Plan contains a number of specific actions, as well as some broader ones, that will bring benefits for this group of vulnerable road users. Specific actions include introduction of a rating scheme for motorcycle protective clothing and strengthening of GLS for motorcycle riders. Broader benefits to riders will occur through other actions such as the development of network-wide safety plans (Action A); infrastructure and speed reduction measures to reduce trauma at urban intersections (Action 3) further road design and Safe System approaches to support better outcomes for specific road users; and implementation of safer speeds and improved enforcement.