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Crash speed ‘not linked to rider injury’

Crash speed ‘not linked to rider injury’ saviour

Speed is not necessarily linked to the severity of injuries in a motorcycle crash, according to the first global rider report on motorcycle crashes.

The worldwide study makes a mockery of anti-speed campaigns such as “Every K over is a killer” and the overly simplistic “Speed kills”.

Some 127 riders from Australia last year were among 1578 from 30 countries who participated in the research, rather than academics simply studying data.

The authors of The Dynamics Of Motorcycle Crashes : A Global Survey of 1578 Motorcyclists — all of whom are motorcyclists — say their findings show that “orthodox motorcycle accident analysis” appears to be “looking the wrong way”.

“Typically, motorcycle accident studies have identified human error as the major cause of collisions,” they say in their synopsis.

“Other reasons considered are the lack of training, sports bike riders taking unnecessary risks and riding at high speeds which has been used as a measure for severe injuries.”

Speed not linked

But one of the most important findings is that the speed of a motorcycle involved in a crash is only randomly linked to the seriousness of injuries.

“The speed of the motorcycle when it crashes with another vehicle, road infrastructure or an object or animal does not necessarily determine the severity of the injuries of the motorcyclist,” they say.

“This finding is important because it allows analysts and researchers to focus their attention on what the evidence in this study provides, which is the mechanism of the crash (the trajectory of the rider post-crash and what he/she hits) has far more importance than speed in terms of the type and the severity of injuries.

“In fact, the post-crash motion “topside” occurred in 63% of those cases where the rider collided with a car.”

(By “topside”, they mean when the rider is separated from the bike and goes over the front.)

“In terms of injuries, this type of trajectory dominates both the range of type of injuries and the severity.  

“This is an area of research that needs further attention, indeed, the report recommends further research that has been drawn out from the conclusions.”

We hope the authorities pay some attention to this report, rather than making knee-jerk legislation responses to the latest crash statistics.

Riders surveyed

stupidity a factor in motorcycle crashes
Elaine Hardy

We published a plea in May 2019 from authors Elaine Hardy, Dimitri Margaritis, James Ouellet and Martin Winkelbauer for riders to take part in the comprehensive survey.

The authors say they received a good response from 126 Australia riders.

They say riders who replied came from a varied age range, motorcycling experience, as well as depth of skills and training.

“The new research presented in the report, most importantly involved riders bringing their personal experience and their expertise beyond that of simple academia,” the authors say.

“Riders understand motorcycling in way quite different than that of academia, where statistical analyses of large databases such as police reports and hospital records has displaced research that requires in depth crash scene investigative knowledge.

“The riders’ crash details which were provided through the responses to the questions as well as the comments they offered, brought those stories of personal experiences which included treatment of their injuries, pillion riders and the dynamics of their crash, that in their own words allowed a deeper insight into the dynamics of crashes and the circumstances.

“These could not have been captured in a usual ‘tick box’ survey.”

Authors are riders

The authors say the fact that they are all motorcyclists s important as they are “aware of the dynamics of riding a motorcycle with the potential risks riders face”.

They say this helped them to analyse the responses better as they understood the issues riders face in traffic and out on the road.

“Particular focus most relevant to motorcycles included the use of protective equipment and assistance systems, in particular Advanced (anti-lock) Braking Systems (ABS),” they say.

It follows a 2016 study by UK motorcycle road safety researcher Dr Elaine Hardy into ABS-equipped bike crashes called “Effects of ABS in motorcycle crashes”.

Her study found that simple stupidity, irresponsibility and bad luck were often overlooked as causes of a motorcycle crash.

More segments of this latest report will be published and analysed by Motorbike Writer over the next few days so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, here is an infographic that outlines the survey respondents.

Crash speed ‘not linked to rider injury’


  • Elaine Hardy, Motorcycle Research Analyst, UK; 
  • Dimitri Margaritis, Research Associate, CERTH/HIT, Greece;
  • James Ouellet, Hurt Report co-author, USA; and
  • Martin Winkelbauer, Senior Researcher, KFV, Austria.
  1. “The speed of the motorcycle when it crashes with another vehicle, road infrastructure or an object or animal does not necessarily determine the severity of the injuries of the motorcyclist…”

    Sure, but if you’re going slower you may well not have crashed in the first place(!)

    1. And certainly not crash at all if you leave it parked in the shed, If you want really low risk take up bowls

        1. Or if they clean up the infrastructure and objects that you are in danger of hitting might be the other way of looking at it. Hardware seems to be rapidly gathering at roadside edges, likewise roadside edges seam to be unmaintained.

  2. I can relate, I was hit by a big eastern grey one night at 100kph he slammed into the left side of my bike and knocked myself and my bike flying. If it were not for the fact that one of his hind legs came over the tank and his tow nail slashed my right knee open I would have had no injuries at all. (note my bike was not as lucky 6.500 dollars damage).

  3. It seems that these people are trying to rewrite physics. If you DOUBLE your speed there is FOUR times more kinetic energy to dissipate. Not a bendable rule. If you hit something at surprisingly low speed and that thing you hit doesn’t move you are very likely to die. A paramedic told me 20km/h. Police trainer told me 30. Either way not huge speeds.

      1. Hey John, the formula that Tony is pointing out is “If you DOUBLE your speed there is FOUR times more kinetic energy to dissipate.” You don’t have to hit something to dissipate it, as you can dissipate the kinetic energy by braking (putting more heat and wear into your braking system, or simply by backing off. If you could measure it properly, scrubbing off speed to say 25kmph from 100kmph would generally take 4 times as long as backing off from 50kmph, but relative gearing would need to be the same. Having said that, Tony is simply stating physics, these are simply natural laws that don’t change.

        A top motorcycle racer many years ago was quoted as saying the following, or words to the effect:
        If you travel through an intersection at 50kmph, you might be within the confines of the intersection for say 5 seconds (ok its a big wide intersection). The longer you are in an intersection, the more chance you have of being hit, so in order to lessen the chance of some bonehead in a car running a red or ignoring stop signs, you could simply lessen the time you are in the intersection. One way you could do this is travel through the intersection at 250kmph. At that speed, you would be within the intersection for 1 second, thereby reducing the chance of you being hit by 80%. So to be safer in intersections, we all should hit them at a much greater speed. My formula is null and void if you hit a car, or course, but what are the chances?

        1. “If you hit something at surprisingly low speed and that thing you hit doesn’t move you are very likely to die.”

          That’s what he said and that’s what I responded to, and if you do not hit an immovable then the kinetics he refers to will not apply in that situation.

          1. Yep, don’t hit anything is the best option by far, which is usually what happens when professional riders come adrift and hit nothing. They usually walk away, but sometimes, even on racetracks with no imoveable objects, they don’t get up and walk away.

            There are always going to be amazing stories of riders having a huge crash and walking away from it with few if any injuries; I’ve had a few myself, but you can’t always choose where you are going to be hit, fall off, or just hit something, and the whole point is that almost regardless of the situation, the lower the speed, the lower the liklihood of more serious injuries or death.

            I’m not saying we should lower the speed limits or anything, but simply that if I were going to hit something, I’d rather do it at a lower speed, not that we ever have that option unless we just go slower, and sometimes, I do that when the risks are greater and the chances of hitting something is more likely.

            Whilst road safety could be improved by not having as many things to hit on the sides of the road, the reality is that we ride in urban and rural environments, and they are not like motorcycle specific racetracks. We share the roads with vehicles that have roadside engineering to make driving safer, but at the same time, make it more dangerous for motorcycles. Wire rope barriers and concrete dividing walls spring to mind, and even though I don’t like either, there are times when they may actually reduce injuries to motorcyclist. Conversely, there are probably more times when they do the opposite and guarantee a worse injury or death.

            Losing the front end on an oil patch on a left hand bend with a dividing wall looming is going to hurt and possibly kill, but with no dividing wall, might result in a situation where there is no oncoming traffic, with the end result being a loss of skin (which can be bad, or not too bad as well). In the same scenario, hitting a wire rope barrier most likly would result in a bad injury, unless the rider is really lucky. Citing situations where luck is involved in minor injuries doesn’t really prove anything except the rider had good luck.

            Bottom line is that we can’t move everything off the edges of roads to make it safer for motorcyclist, when some of those things are put there to lessen injuries to car drivers. All we can really do is reduce the liklihood of it happening, and in the event that we can’t avoid it, hope that if it happens, it is when you are going slower.

            I’ll shut TF up after this last one….. I’d love to be able to ride at whatever speed I wanted to, but it scares the shit out of me thinking about the average car driver being legally allowed to travel at say 140kmph. Most drivers can barely handle 100kmph, and there are lots around that shouldn’t be on the roads at all, so how do the authorites handle that? Have graded drivers licences for drivers that are more competant at higher speeds, and restrict those that can barely get the car out of the garage without hitting something? I wish, but again, pretty scarey when Joe Average pulls out on a road 50m in front of a car doing 140kmph! I usually prefer to be going slightly quicker that the surrounding vehicles, but again, it is very much a situational awareness that dictates this.

            No easy answer, but kinetic energy is still a big issue in most road accidents, and politicians and plod see it as a simply reason to want to slow everything down, and thats when reason flies out the window!

        2. Indeed, I’m with Tony here. I’m all in favour of higher speed limits, because the less speed disparity there is between drivers, the safer it is for me. But that doesn’t change the fact that velocity is definitely the biggest factor for damage in a collision. For the most extreme example of that, consider a bullet: Thing only weighs a few grams, but due to its velocity, if it hits you, that’s game over.

          I still think overall higher limits will result in less crashes, but to pretend like the biker is unaffected by velocity is completely asinine.

          1. Yet the only injury I sustained was a gash caused by the roo, hitting the road and sliding down it until I came to a stop did no damage even though I came to rest in the gravel at the side of the road.

            Professional riders come adrift and much higher speeds then get up and walk away.

  4. The classic study by Fox and Joubert analysed the trajectories of leaving the road and the probabilities of hitting something solid– critical for motorcyclists as we slide off more than stay with the bike. These excellent and well recognised and established analyses are undermined of course by the ominous wire rope barriers which explicitly stop us sliding off safely”

    As is now usual, the safety people have NOT kept a copy on line(I note that all my reports to and for vicroads are no longer findable on their website-yet are downloaded frequently every week from my academia and researchgate pages…

    When WILL the safety establishment get real?

    This is the NLA Trove entry at

    [Matching item] Collisions with utility poles : summary report / J.C. Fox, M.C. Good [and] P.N. Joubert.
    [Melbourne] : Office of Road Safety, Commonwealth Dept. of Transport, – Report (Australia. Office of Road Safety) ; no. CR 2
    34 pages 1979 English Article; Report; Government publication 12 & Not available online
    [Matching item] Collisions with utility poles : summary report / J. C. Fox, M. C. Good, P. N. Joubert.
    Parkville, Vic. : Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Melbourne,
    34 pages 1979 English Book; Illustrated 1 & Not available online

    The only place a copy is available (again see TROVE) is RMIT library in melbourne see Trove entry at

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