Safety Issues for Motorcycle Riders
Motorcycles, mopeds and scooters are cheaper than cars and a fun way of getting from A to B. However, people who ride these machines are among the most vulnerable on the road and widely over-represented in road trauma statistics. Defensive driving is only one of several factors which can assist in preventing motorcycle accidents.
In 2010, Western Australia held a series of Motorcycle and Scooter Safety Forums. These were hosted by the Royal Automobile Club (RAC) and consisted of a series of think tanks designed to identify key concerns and areas for improvement. Road and motorcycle design, licensing, policing and road user behaviour were all explored.
The WA Office of Road Safety regards the rider’s helmet and clothing as part of the body of the vehicle due to the vital role they play in protecting the rider from the road.
At just 20 kilometres an hour, hitting the ground will see heavy denim shredding in just 0.6 of a second. In Australia, while wearing helmets is compulsory, wearing other protective clothing is not. Coming off a bike wearing only helmet, shorts and thongs can mean a very serious outcome, even at slow speed.
Inexperienced riders and those riding scooters and mopeds were believed to be less aware of the risks involved in not donning proper protective clothing.
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Good clothing can make a huge difference in the event of an accident. Buy the very best you can afford. There are not too many second chances when you have an accident on your bike.
Make sure your whole body is protected. Use impact protectors over the knees and elbows. When buying new gear, check the seams. There should be more than one row of stitching on all seams. External pockets and straps become tear points and can snag during a crash. Avoid them as much as possible. Don’t place items in pockets that could cause injury during an accident.
Riding a bike can be a cold experience. Look for insulated, waterproof and windproof materials for maximum comfort. On the other hand, reflective and/or light coloured clothing and ventilation will prevent discomfort from being too hot. Buy good-fitting gear that will stay in place should you fall.
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Avoiding accidents while riding a motorcycle requires a different set of skills to avoiding accidents in a car. Currently, in Western Australia, anyone with a motor vehicle license can get a learner’s permit and ride a (up to) a 250cc motorcycles with no further training or restrictions. By the end of 2012, it is expected that laws will have been passed making it mandatory for learners to have formal training.
Mopeds in particular are easily available and, following a quick lesson by the dealer, the purchaser is out on the road. This is a recipe for disaster. Motorcycles and scooters are sometimes simply not seen by those in cars and riders need to be particularly alert at all times.
Anti-lock braking (ABS) is virtually standard now on new cars sold in Australia. However, unlike the rates in the US and Europe, only about 20% of bikes sold in Australia have this feature. ABS brakes would help prevent motorcycle accidents.
There are several measures being put in place following the Forums. These include educating all road users to be aware of motorcyclists, improving road design and the provision of a motorcycle expert on WA’s fatal accident investigation teams.
If you ride a motorcycle, you owe it to yourself and your family to take precautions and be aware of safety measures.