More and more people are turning to two wheels to keep travel costs down, avoid congestion and to have fun on our roads, but this means that an increasing proportion of road casualties in New South Wales are motorcyclists. While cars have become radically safer over the last 20 years, motorbike equipment (helmets and protective clothing), and motorbikes themselves have not kept up the same pace.
The last in-depth study was done in 1997 and since then a number of changes to improve motorbike training have taken place (e.g. graduated licensing, and numerous education and awareness campaigns). This 2015 study looks at serious injury crashes:
- What are the causal relationships between human, vehicle, road and other environmental factors and the motorcyclist’s involvement in these accidents
- What is the influence of the rider, vehicles and crash site on the injuries sustained by the rider.
Data was collected between August 2012 and July 2014 for the greater Sydney, Hunter and Illawara regions to cover both urban and rural crashes in an efficient way using Australian In-dept Crash Study (ANCIS) protocols. 10% of the sample involved fatal crashes.
A panel of experts was assembled to consider the factors that contributed to each crash, how it affected the injury outcome and whether anything could be done to mitigate them. The panel included:
- Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) researchers and engineers
- a leading trauma forensic pathologist
- road engineering and motorcycling experts from the NSW Centre for Road Safety
- motorcycle safety research and crash investigation experts
- behavioural scientists
The final sample included 102 riders (92 serious injury and 10 fatal injury crashes).
- Riders using sports motorbikes have greater odds of being involved in serious injury crashes than riders of other types of motorbikes.
- Older riders of sports bikes were even more likely to crash.
- Riding an unfamiliar bike increases crash likelihood.
- Crashes were caused by both familiarity and unfamiliarity: riders that rode through the crash location daily were seven times more likely to have an injury crash, but also a riders’ unfamiliarity with the road was a contributing factor in some crashes.
- Older riders tended to have less accidents (except when they rode sports bikes), but tended to have much longer stays in hospital compared to young riders.
- Riders who wore protective clothing were less at risk of being seriously injured, and much less likely to have lacerations and deep cuts; this could be because the clothing protected the rider as well as that riders that would wear this type of clothing were more aware of their vulnerability and adjusted their riding accordingly. Impact protectors seemed to not provide that much extra benefit
- Minor injuries predominantly involved the extremities; moderate-to-severe injuries mainly involved the pelvis, abdomen and thorax. Head injuries were less frequent because almost all riders were wearing helmets, but only full face helmets provided adequate protection, and riders with open face helmets suffered facial injuries.
- The fuel tank can cause significant pelvic injury.
- The most common injury sources were the roadway, another vehicle, and contact with their own motorcycle.
Main concepts for reducing motorcycle accidents
Riders need to be seen – accidents were caused by poor bike visibility (e.g. dark clothing, riding in blind spots), other drivers inability to judge speed/distance, and riders choosing poor lane positions
Riders need to stop in time – following too close, entering a corner too fast, or failure to see an obstacle. Anti-lock brakes can help in some of these situations, but not all
Riders need to maintain control – problems with road surfaces played a large part here, such as gravel and pot holes, but also the approach speed into corners
Riders need to improve their experience – riders underestimate the difficulty of some routes.
You can download the full study from this link.