Why are so many motorcyclists dying on our roads?

In the first four months of this year, a total of 28 motorcyclists have died on Victoria’s roads. That’s only two less than the total number of motorcyclist fatalities for the entire year in 2014 and 2015.

The overall road toll to date has risen by 10% over last year and is back at a level similar to 5 years ago.

So why has the motorcyclist road toll increased so much this year? And what can we do about it?

What is the data telling us?

All 28 motorcyclists killed on the road this year were male, with 60% aged between 26 and 49 and 25% in the 50+ age group, according to the TAC website.

Royal Auto’s ‘Make it safe’ article quotes that 75% of the 28 motorcyclists were engaged in high risk behaviours, including speeding, the use of illicit drugs, being unlicensed or not wearing a helmet.

The majority of crashes occurred in daylight hours and were evenly spread across the week.

The motorcycle crashes were also fairly evenly split between crashes where the motorcycle ran off the road, collided with vehicles travelling in the same direction or collided with vehicles travelling in another direction.

Any subsequent Coroner’s investigation will determine whether the riders behaviours or other factors contributed to the crash, or the severity of the injuries the riders sustained. That includes the role of other road users and the road environment itself.

What can drivers do to help keep motorcyclists safe?

Drivers can find motorcycles harder to see cars, but it is essential that they are always scanning for motorcyclists, as well as other vulnerable road users like bicycle riders and pedestrians.

Here are some tips to help keep motorcyclists safe on our roads:

  • Watch out for motorcycles
  • Always indicate well before making a turn
  • Motorcyclists often move around in their lane because of road conditions. Allow them space to do so.
  • Check before changing lanes, and check again while changing. That includes making a ‘head-check’, not just using your mirrors as there are ‘blindspots’.
  • Don’t follow motorcycles too closely
  • Take extra care at intersections. Give motorcycles extra consideration in bad weather.
  • If overtaking a motorcycle, allow at least the same space you would for a car.

There are also many things motorcyclists can do to ride safely on the roads. VicRoads provides safety information for motorcyclists, including safety tips, protective clothing and safety for older riders, both new and those returning to riding after some time.

Safer road infrastructure

There is no doubt that there are improvements that can be made to Victoria’s roads that improve safety for motorcyclists and other road users. Many are relatively low cost measures, such as:

  • good maintenance to prevent potholes, and to reduce slippery or rough surfaces
  • shoulder sealing to keep debris off the road and to allow more space for drivers and riders to correct for mistakes
  • linemarking to clearly show the road centreline and edges
  • removing roadside hazards wherever possible
  • where a hazard cannot be removed, crash barriers (with features to reduce the severity of a riders impact with supports), and
  • safe places to overtake.
The Australian Road Assessment Program (AusRAP) assess the standard of major highways in Victoria

The Australian Road Assessment Program (AusRAP) objectively assesses the standard of major highways in Victoria and rates them from 1 to 5-stars.

RACV and AusRAP have estimated that an investment of $580 million across Victoria’s major highways would eliminate 1 and 2-star sections of those roads. Importantly, this investment could save 2,800 people from serious injury or death over a twenty year period.

With winter approaching, and therefore wet roads and poor conditions, we all need to be more careful to ensure everyone gets home safely.

images iStock.com/Nina Hilitukha

Written by Lindsay Layzell, Senior Engineer
May 06, 2016