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Older sportsbike riders most likely to crash

Austroads Motorcycle In-depth Crash StudyAustroads Motorcycle In-depth Crash Study

Sportsbike riders, in particular older riders, have greater odds of being involved in serious injury crashes than riders of other types of bike, according to an Austroads study released today. (November 3, 2015)

The Motorcycle In-depth Crash Study found that bikes need better technologies (ABS, traction control, etc), riders need to be more aware and roads should be optimised for motorcycles.

The leading transport and traffic authority in Australia and New Zealand commissioned the study from Neuroscience Research Australia.

The study also found that riding an unfamiliar motorcycle significantly increased the odds of a crash, riders who rode through a crash location daily had seven times more likelihood of being in a crash, yet route unfamiliarity was also a contributing factor.

Apart from older sportsbike riders, the study found that the older the rider, the lower the odds they were in a crash. However older riders who crashed had significantly longer stays in hospital, a fact that has not been previously reported.

The last Australian in-depth study was conducted in 1997.

Lead researcher Julie Brown says the new study was needed because a number of significant motorcycle interventions have been implemented since the late ‘90s, such as graduated licence schemes, and numerous education and awareness campaigns.

Nueroscence collected crash data from August 2012 to July 2014 across the greater Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra regions with 336 control riders and 102 crashed riders, of which 10 were fatals.Austroads Motorcycle In-depth Crash Study


The study found riders who wore more protective clothing had lower odds of being in a crash.

Julie says this suggests that the risk attitudes of riders who wore protective clothing was lower.

“Consistent with previous studies, riders who wore clothing specifically designed for motorcycle use were provided with effective protection against abrasions and lacerations,” the study says.

“However, some motorcycle specific clothing failed to prevent even minor injury. Furthermore, there was little additional benefit provided from impact protectors.

“There is significant scope to improve the quality of motorcycle protective clothing available to Australian riders.”

Most injuries sustained by the crashed riders in the study were minor, and involved the arms and legs. Head injury was uncommon as most riders wore helmets.

The most common causes of injury were hitting the roadway, another vehicle and their own bike.

First Aid for Motorcyclists course crash


Julie stresses that the study only presented data and did not provide any suggested solutions, only four areas of motorcycle safety that require further examination:

  • Improved rider visibility (although hi-vis vests are not mention in the report, this is one of the solutions touted by some road safety pundits);
  • More effective motorcycle brakes (Austroads is currently also overseeing the National Road Safety Action Plan which proposes to mandate ABS for new motorcycles);
  • Maintaining better bike control (electronic rider aids, education, hi-tech road warnings?); and
  • Rider experience which found a link between the rider’s experience/skill level and the level of difficulty of the route being ridden.

Austroads stands for the Association of Australian and New Zealand Road Transport and Traffic Authorities. It provides governments at all levels with information for formulating policy direction.

  1. As a rider who used to wear hi-vis everyday (we had to wear hi-vis on site and it was easier to wear the vest to work) I can say that it makes no noticeable difference at all. About the only difference hi-vis makes is it makes you feel safer, which is a trap. People still pulled out in front of me or changed lanes on top of me, whether I had the vest on or not. It’s just a convenient, and highly visible, way of somebody pointing out what they’ve done “for safety”. The fact that it does nothing won’t be apparent for years. In the meantime it’s backslaps all round.

    1. Well spotted Geoff. Your experience goes against almost everybody’s intuitive notion of the benefits of hi viz. They see posties, road gangs and warehouses utilising hi viz and assume that the hi viz is the primary reason the wearer is “safer”. They then apply that intuitive notion to a bike rider.

      Victoria did EXACTLY this as part of the new learner graduated licensing scheme. It’s a fallacy that Hi Viz will make the rider safer. Even the research Vicroads pointed to to justify the then Liberal Road Minister’s position very clearly indicated that when a driver expects to see a bike they see the bike sooner – irrespective of the bike’s conspicuity.

      There might be some benefit at night with night rated hi viz, but since the vast majority of KSI’s are in daylight hours, Hi Viz has limited benefit – especially IF the reason bikes aren’t seen is more to do with issues around driver cognitive issues and expectation.

      1. I don’t advocate making hi-vis mandatory because if you are wearing something that is light and varied in colour then that is enough.

        I look upon “brightly coloured clothing” (including hi-vis) as something that gives you an increased chance of being seen – it isn’t a light switch that either works or does not work, it just improves the chance of being seen.

        I’ve seen riders wearing black helmets, black jackets on a black bike riding in front of dark backgrounds and black 4wds and they just fade into the background unless you are really really looking for them. Confession time – I wear an orange Icon hi-vis vest over my black leather jacket on my black bike (black wasn’t my preference for a bike – I bought second hand). If you are wearing nothing but black, black and black then you can improve your visibility to inattentive car drivers by adding something bright.

        The problem with all the anecdotes of times that hi-vis didn’t work is that it is impossible to measure or even know how many times it did help that car driver notice you because the problem never arose in the first place. My belief (and that’s all it is) is that there have been times it has helped – cars have started to pull out of a side street and then stopped. Granted, there have been many times that it obviously didn’t help, but if it only saves me once in my life from being cleaned up in a SMIDSY then it was worth buying the vest.

        And this is before we talk about the value of the reflective stripes at night and the value of having a wife who is much happier if I wear the vest as well.

        1. Nigel, I know it’s important to you in your early days of riding to grab onto intuitive concepts that make sense, and you’re not alone in that, but seriously, black on black on black is probably the best combination for conspicuity if riding out in the country on a bright day – and an alert rider can do more about their conspicuity by how they position themselves when riding, than by what they are wearing. Got a headlight, use it. Know the background behind you might camouflage you as you approach that car waiting to exit the driveway, move around in the lane. etc.

          I have video footage of me on my bike taken on an overcast day where I tested a variety of hi viz vests. The actual results are a little sketchy from memory but goes something like this:

          My bike was visible as an object on the road for up to a kilometre due to the head light.

          Visible as an object on the road from 500ishm + away (seen from behind)

          A recognisable visible shape from 300 – 400 ish metres away.

          A distinguishable recognisable object, I.,e a motorbike, from less the 300m away…

          These results held with our without hi viz. Hi viz made NO difference.

          The vest colour started to be noticeable as part of the object’s colouring from about 170m.

          Under 100m, it clearly was a bike with a rider, with or without hi viz. The closer it got the more the vest was discernible as a vest.

          If a driver is NOT cognitively aware of or expecting a motorcycle and are cognitively engaged doing something else, say like, driving, small changes to their fields of vision are screened out by the brain since the visual data isn’t important. Hi viz won’t snag the eye of cognitive blindness.

          Now if a driver DOES see you, and a fair portion will, they then need to interpret what they are seeing and so they fall foul of more cognitive issues since they are judging distance by the size of and the rate of perspective change of the shape – they are not scanning their eye along the road to gauge the distance. A bike will seem slower and further away than it is – this is “time to arrival illusion”. The answer actually isn’t better conspicuity, but better awareness.

          Vicroads referenced some research that showed that the study participants noticed brighter bike from further away. They also noticed the not so bright bikes too, just not as far away. When looking for bikes, they noticed them, all of them. When they weren’t many bikes were missed. What does that tell you?

          Bottom line, ride like you are invisible. Assume you haven’t been seen. Always allow for vehicles that could cross your path.

  2. Here we go again with the Teletubbies
    Some people will drive right in front of a fire engine or ambulance with its lights and sirens on and claim they didn’t see it, so what help will a vest be? Funny enough but the same people who don’t see ambulances or fire engines seem to see cop cars, I ride an ex police bike and you should see the effect it has. I have purchased a white helmet and a black and yellow hivis jacket to sweeten the effect without actually impersonating a police officer. I did this to improve my personal safety but also as a public service, when drivers see me their manners improve markedly and those who try to be rolling road blocks get out of the overtaking lane.
    One thing I am unclear about in this story
    Is it riders of bikes that older or is it the riders them selves that are older?
    Both statements could be true as older riders who lack the reflexes of younger riders who have taken up riding at an advanced age and lack the skills and muscle memory of experienced riders would be more likely to crash.
    And those whose bikes lack the technologies like abs and traction control would also be more likely to crash.
    So do you mean one the other or both?

  3. As every one wears hi Viz nower days nobody takes notice and it makes no difference wearing it on a motorcycle. I used one for a few weeks to see what a difference it made if any, cars still pulled out in front of me cut me off etc my conclusion is they make no difference.

  4. What a complete and utter waste of time this study was, anyone with half a brain could predict these results.

    “The Motorcycle In-depth Crash Study found that bikes need better technologies (ABS, traction control, etc), riders need to be more aware and roads should be optimised for motorcycles.” Talk about stating the obvious of course the more technology aids the bike has the safer it is going to be, same goes for motorcycle optimized roads.

    “The study also found that riding an unfamiliar motorcycle significantly increased the odds of a crash, riders who rode through a crash location daily had seven times more likelihood of being in a crash, yet route unfamiliarity was also a contributing factor.” Really and you needed a study to work this out?

    “The study found riders who wore more protective clothing had lower odds of being in a crash.” This I question the validity of… Stiff leathers and helmets that don’t allow you to turn your head are more likely to cause an accident than wearing nothing. It’s a no brainer that if you are wearing protective gear you would fare better in a crash, but I disagree that wearing it lowers the risk.

    The study states nothing about any of the ability to be seen as a contributing factor in accidents so why would a hi-vis vest be a recommendation. Go push your agenda somewhere else.

    Where’s the rest of the study that says a rider who does 100,000 klms per year has a greater risk of being in a motorcycle accident that someone who does 10 klms a year?

    If you going to do a study and put yourself forward as some kind of subject matter expert at least provide information that isn’t obvious to blind Freddy…

    1. So the findings you agree with, you consider to be obvious to blind Freddy, yet the study outcomes you don’t agree with you question the validity of. That is why studies are important and not a complete and utter waste of time….because sometimes the results aren’t what we would expect.

    2. Like a lot of studies, some conclusions and outputs are well meaning. I agree with your agenda comments.

      Nowhere in the study did they really get into the COGNITIVE reasons bikes aren’t seen, resting the majority of the blame on the bike/rider’s conspicuity. Fortunately they do recognise the issue of “time to arrival illusion” but they don’t call it that. They mention car blind spots a couple of times too. I’m surprised they seem to assume that a driver will see a bike if it is visible – haven’t they seen “The Invisible Gorilla Experiment”?

    3. Paul, while the results may seem predictable to ‘anyone with half a brain’, it is nonetheless necessary to demonstrate those results scientifically so that they can withstand scrutiny. You say stiff leathers increase crash risk? Prove it! While policy, programs and legislation are not always consistent with the science, rigorous research provides (or at least should provide) a sound basis for decisions which is not provided by anecdotal evidence and intuition.
      As for protective clothing, I think you have misinterpreted the findings; it isn’t the act of wearing it (or more of it) that reduces the crash risk for any individual (as it does, in fact, reduce the injury risk) – it is that individuals who choose to wear it are, on average, safer riders to begin with.

  5. We need education and information but not legislation. Make sure everybody is well informed about what safety devices and equipment is available but let the individual decide what suits their needs. What suits a recreational rider in Victoria’s climate doesn’t suit someone who lives in the tropics and rides everywhere all the time. Protective riding gear is impractical, inconvenient and too hot in some situations. Some riders need electronic aids. Other riders are safer without them. In some situations ABS and traction control are dangerous. Ignore any demonstrations and information from electronics companies. They have no interest in your safety. They just want your money.

    1. MotoRain I don’t understand how you can say that:

      …”Some riders need electronic aids. Other riders are safer without them”… and

      …”In some situations ABS and traction control are dangerous. “…

      How can some riders be safer without ABS & Traction Control? In what circumstances (apart from off-road) could they be dangerous? These things only activate when they are needed, so how can needing them and NOT having them be safer?

      Have you seen the comparison test that MCN did with professional riders on two Fireblades – one with and one without ABS? You can see it here:

      The change in the rider’s opinions from before and after is very telling.

        1. Nigel,

          That study is heavily flawed. It has a very serious confound that in later revisions of the study they did away with trying to make excuses for and now it’s quoted like the bible on ABS.

          The research compares the crash stats of the same model bike with and with out ABS. There is no indepth crash analysis. The bikes tend to be cruisers, tourers and big scooters. They don’t allow for age or experience. They don’t allow for distance or conditions. It’s a simple statistical comparison and since ABS was an optional extra that had to be purchased, have a guess what they found?

          ABS bikes crash less. They found a correlation, NOT causation.

          Now there might be something in the correlation, but the serious confound they haven’t dealt with is that attitude probably had the major influence in the result.

          If you are a conservative rider you already have a reduced crash risk. But a conservative rider is more likely to fork out the extra $1000 for the ABS. However, they already crash less because they are conservative. How then can they draw the conclusion that it was the ABS that was the key difference??

          Here’s another thought experiment. MAIDS 2004 analysed 900+ fatal crashes in Europe down to causal levels. No one has been able to re-interpret the results to show that ABS would have made any significant difference in those crashes. One report I read suggested maybe 12% would have benefited from ABS, but they were being generous.

          So then HOW can a statistical study be relied on when an actual crash causal indepth study couldn’t provide evidence that ABS will be the panacea that saves us from ourselves?

          ABS CAN get you into trouble if you ride outside it’s programming for example. Do you like late braking in downhill twisties? Will the rear go light in those conditions? If so, then don’t get a bike with antistoppie ABS – it will release the pressure on the front to keep the rear down… woooops, you just crossed over the white line.

          Having said that, the latest crop of ABS is pretty good. The more data the ABS computer has to analyse, the better the ABS application. The very recent crop of ABS that includes MSC and other black magic will out brake and out ride any of us mug riders and I endorse it. BUT the simple ABS packages, particularly the older ones… well, they will take longer to stop (compared to a proper set up and squeeze in the dry, and especially If it’s a snap panic brake) and get more confuddled at odd bike attitudes and could very well exacerbate a braking issue. It will keep you vertical though if the braking was started with a vertical bike which is it’s primary purpose – that alone may be worthwhile if you’re a commuter who doesn’t like to experience lean angles… but then ABS is a hail mary anyway. It only comes into play if your decisions and observations have failed you and you are braking to the point of skidding. In that case it is now luck of the draw whether ABS will help you – did you brake early enough?

          ABS is a convoluted topic. It’s not at all as intuitive as you seem to think… sadly, so few riders understand this.

          1. Rob,

            Thanks for taking the time to write a non-aggressive and informed reply. I’m an inexperienced rider and I didn’t know that bit about late downhill braking.

            I am however relieved to see you endorse the current crop of ABS systems – ABS will still be a deal-breaking must-have on my next bike. It’s the sort of thing I would like to be able to say that I would never need, but I have needed it once in my car and it probably saved a bingle – despite lots of experience and training. There aren’t many riders & drivers who can overcome their panic reactions when things really hit the fan. I won’t try to kid anyone I’m one of them.

            If I never need ABS I will be very happy – but if it only saves me once in my life then it will have be a very worthwhile investment.

      1. Nigel, ABS is such a contentious issue because everybody who rides a motorcycle likes to think that they are a great rider. In reality the majority of riders only have basic skills. So if one rider says that he wants ABS and a second rider says that he is safer without it the first rider gets offended because it suggests that he has inferior riding skills. If you need ABS buy a bike that has it, but don’t get the idea that everybody else needs it just because you do.

        It would take pages to explain all of the shortcomings of ABS and traction control. Read the comments on another article on this website titled- More calls for ABS on motorcycles. The comment about the subconscious survival instinct explains why nobody ever brakes at their maximum ability in an artificial situation. This means that braking tests and demonstrations are irrelevant. To see a skilled rider brake at his best you have to place him in real danger, and of course we aren’t going to intentionally do that.

        ABS just stops you from falling over. It does not improve the braking ability of a bike. On any surface, in any conditions a bike without ABS can stop in a shorter distance than one that has it. Whether it does or not depends on the skill of the rider. ABS and traction control interfere with bike control on loose surfaces. We don’t all spend all of our time on bitumen. In wet weather on bitumen I use a lower gear for the same speed to keep the revs up for more power and quicker throttle response. If the front wheel slides I use the throttle to spin up the rear wheel and make it also slide. If the front slides and the back grips you are in trouble. But if both wheels slide you can maintain control of the bike. Traction control would prevent me from doing this.

        Nigel, you may not believe that some riders are safer without ABS and traction control. If so it is because you are one of the many who only have basic skills, and have no understanding of what a rider with advanced skills can do. Whether ABS saves live is unproven and debatable, and any statistics available are flawed and biased. My point is that while it may make riding safer for you and your mates, ABS makes riding more dangerous for me. If you want to reduce human life to numbers and statistics, it may save more riders than it harms. But that doesn’t justify forcing me to have a device fitted to my bike which for me makes riding more dangerous. Keep ABS optional and not mandatory and everybody can have what suits their needs.

  6. 0lder riders take longer to heal than younger ones? really?
    You need a phd to tell us that?
    As for hi vis they should have crawled out from behind their
    computer and asked one of those stop/go people at roadworks
    how effective they are. All this does is give an excuse for drivers to run
    over us

  7. Crashes are broken into two main types. A collision with another motor car. Subjectively this is generally the drivers fault, but in many instances an astute rider can make provision for the poor driving standard here. This is however not always possible in light of some of the incidents I have seen, in other words the actions of the driver were totally unpredictable.
    The next crash is the optimism bias crash, that’s were the fine line between brilliance and stupidity is crossed. Actions such as riding mach 1 in windy mountainous rides with zero idea what is around the next bend, but riding in the hope its all good. Taking corners to fast and running wide is common. Really the crux of the problem as I see it isn’t age based, it is based on knowledge, skills and attitude. On a motor bike rider skill is imperative, and I can honestly say that I am not to keen on the current Q-RIDE system. Some run like sausage factories with courses delivered in a hurry with little regard for the participants future well being. I have a friend who has an open bike license who rode a motorcycle twice. Once to get his Provisional Bike license and the second time to get his opens. He cant ride to save his life, but somehow managed to pass both assessments with ease. An independent test facility such as the old Transport department tests worked great.
    How do we save lives, easy have a higher level of riding skills required to obtain a license. That’s a great start.

    1. George, what is needed to train new riders is riding simulators of equal quality to those used to train airline pilots. This would allow learners to experiment, push the limits, and practice making themselves crash, without getting hurt. Learning what makes a bike crash teaches you how far you can go and how to survive dangerous situations. Best of all it would teach riders how to control brakes correctly for maximum braking and eliminate the panic reaction which makes them lock the brakes.

  8. I think that rather than requiring hi-viz vests (I’m sure I have read report stating that it’s not the rider that drivers don’t see, but the bike itself), it would be far more effective in the long run to mandate that all new motorcycles sold have high intensity LED running lights installed in addition to the headlight cluster and the flashing LED brake light system that detects deceleration as well as pressure on the brake pedal/lever.
    As they become more commonplace in the new bike market, this will drive costs down for aftermarket kits too.

  9. My 2c worth – Idiots will still end up killing themselves even with all the best aids. It might happen less often, or at a slower speed, but it will still happen. No aids will stop riders doing stupid things like just riding too fast for the conditions, overtaking in dangerous ways, and just being a plain dickhead! Ride to any major bike event, and you’ll see plenty of evidence.

    I don’t bother with hivis, as I agree with comments above. I’ve had people “not see me” in my 3 ton Landcruiser (I drive defensively and have never hit any…..), and also seen many who don’t happen to notice a 12 ton bright red fire engine under lights and siren! The worrying thing for me is that if you are in an accident (hit by a smidsy car) and you don’t have hivis on, it will onday be regarded as your fault. I reasonable example is school zones and their flashing lights. Now that the gummint is starting to put up flashing lights at school zones, there are instances of people using zones without light as an excuse for ignoring them. In other words, we try to draw drivers attention to the time zones in school zones with flashing lights, and drivers use the lack of flashing lights at zones without them installed as excuses. Watch for the first one who challenges their fine and wins! What then? HiVis, flashing lights, strobes and whatever else plastered all over us, they’ll still not see us!

    Don’t want to be a statistic? Do rider training courses and change your attitude on the road to being slightly aggressive defensive. Maintain your bike properly, and keep a buffer around yourself when you ride. Most crashes can be avoided to a certain extent, and sometimes even SMIDSY moments can be avoided, but that can be subject simply to the stupidity of the other road users.

  10. Here we go again! Hi Vis this and that. #*#* me swinging, when are these safety buffoons going to awake, from their ideological dream (our nightmare) that does nothing but perpetuate the crap, yes the total crap of SMIDSY. The get out of jail free card used by drivers, to divert the blame back on to the rider, or should I say the second class citizen. It should be SMIDL or SMIDGAF. When will they step from their ivory tower into the real world, in which most of us riders live in.
    Hi Vis when first introduced into my trade way back when, used to work, it was new, it grabbed the road users by the proverbial and sweeeeezed. They the road user could not help, but sit up and take notice.
    Now, however it is everywhere, and I do mean everywhere, it’s not in your face, like it was way back when. Every building site, rail workers and staff, trucking yard workers and staff, road workers and their poor traffic controllers, electrical, gas, water workers. Port side workers, emergency services workers, police, even the service station worker when they step from the building must wear Hi Vis, right down to the trolley boy at the local shopping centre. It’s now the norm, not the exception.
    Dear Mr/Mrs safety buffoon, you missed the boat, only by 20 years or so. So badly did you miss the boat you must have been standing in the dead set centre of Oz when the boat left, and by the time you got there, in between brain storms, conferences, and the general time wasting bullseye that you do so well, NOT. Its a bit like mandating us to go back to hub drum brakes, and leather final drive belts, Hi Vis on motorcycle riders does not work. Period. Stop taking to the horse’s ass, in efforts to making riders lives safer, start talking to us, the horses head.
    How do I know you may well ask, apart from working in many of the industries listed above, I was one of the very first to trial Hi Vis vests in Melbourne, when I worked as a motorcycle courier. I kept a comprehensive log 3 months prior and post to the Hi Vis trial. Guess what, it did not work, and the worst accident I had in the period of my motorcycle courier career, happened whilst wearing a Hi Vis vest. In this log I would interview drivers, of accidents and near misses. Being a stalwart of the practice of looking at heads of drivers, I knew the answer to the most pointed question asked. Why did you, drive me off the road, pull out in front of me, etc etc etc. No sir/madam it’s not a case of you not seeing me, it’s a case of you didn’t look, I know that for a fact, I was looking at you. Hench why im still standing and am not now lying in the middle of the road as a statistic.
    Speaking of statics, we, maybe not all of us, sadly know how some police forces use and bend so called statics to suit their own agenda.
    Which then leads me to stupidest law of all. Dear Mr/Mrs safety baffoons, why is it so that helmet camera’s are so bad, that they are illegal to use in so many states. Maybe because it poses a risk to your bullseye statistics, and puts paid to your overpaid job. As the facts would soon become apparent, and your theories and kneejerk reactions, would be seen as negatives outcomes, not the positive outcomes you’re paid to achieve.
    I have asked members of both poltical persuasions to jump on the back of my bike for a ride home on a Friday night, up the Hume to witness for themselves the mindless acts, driver distractions, the state of our roads, etc etc etc. None have taken up this opportunity. Which begs the question why? I’ll tell you why. They already know, they don’t want to upset the apple cart. They don’t or should I say won’t bring forward laws that will be unpopular with car driving sheeple. No shyte no, they have their job and pension to protect, so to continue with a, being seen to be doing something, whether it has no positive outcome, and misleading the general populous, will continue. This sadly will continue till such a time, when motorcycling is a majority not a minority, and or if, the people in government and these so called safety programmes are there for the right reasons, not to feather their own nests. May I strongly suggest, one does not hold ones breathe waiting for either accurances. Until such a time we, as motorcyclist are up shyte creek, in a barbed wire canoe without a paddle. Get used to it.
    Welcome to motorcycling in Australia, to the newbies, get used to assuming the position, and being screwed. We can not even have a national helmet conformance. Tried, many thanks to Guy and others for your efforts. But clearly too many nests to feather.
    RIP common efen sense.

  11. Here’s a first — I have nothing to add about this report that has more holes in it then a US flag in Syria. So many of the comments above are spot on IMO.

  12. I’m a statistician by profession and read the report. Its so badly designed that few of the conclusions can be justified and they don’t understand their own analysis.

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