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Motorcycle safety study has some eye openers

February 17, 2010

Motorcycle safety study has some eye openers

Traffic Injury Research Foundation finds two-wheel drivers are no more likely to speed, yet motorcycle fatalities are on the rise.

By Ted Laturnus
The Traffic Injury Research Foundation is, in its own words, “the Canadian source for international research related to the human causes and effects of road crashes, providing objective and scientific information to support the development, implementation and evaluation of road safety programs, effective advocacy and consultation.” Among other things, the organization has conducted studies on truck safety, graduated licensing programs, and driving while impaired and/or fatigued.

It has also taken a look at motorcycle safety and, in 2008, conducted a study on the riding habits of motorcyclists. Released in June 2009, one thing the study attempted to do was determine the attitudes of automobile drivers when it comes to sharing the road with their two-wheeled counterparts. Since a lot of motorcycle accidents—but not the majority—involve automobiles, this is important. The study was conducted via a telephone survey, and the results were said to be accurate within 2.9 percent, 19 times out of 20.

While some of the findings are predictable, others are definite eye-openers. For example, motorcycles, scooters, and mopeds are more popular than ever in Canada, with sales of over 80,000 units per year. As well, the study showed that the vast majority of riders are male—at least 80 percent. That said, motorcycles still only represent about two percent of all registered vehicles on the road in Canada. This, says TIRF, could explain why so many drivers claim they “just didn’t see” a motorcycle after they’ve collided with it. According to the study, because motorcycles aren’t a constant sight on our roadways, “they are also less likely to be expected in moving traffic. Motorcycles are also less visible due to their smaller size than passenger cars or trucks. As a result, they are more difficult for other drivers to detect.” Intersections, in particular, are dangerous places for motorcyclists.

As you might expect, the report says that “motorcyclists are predisposed to more severe injuries in cases where a vehicle and a motorcycle are approaching each other from opposite directions and one vehicle attempts to turn right or left across the path of the other.”

The short version: it’s still risky to ride a motorcycle in Canada, and while the study doesn’t sound any alarms, the situation does merit concern.

Here are some other results of the study.

  • Motorcyclists do not break the speed limit more than automobile drivers do. At least, not significantly. According to the study, some 24.3 percent of automobile drivers speed, compared to 25.5 percent of motorcycle riders.
  • Riding a motorcycle was perceived by study respondents as being the least risky of all road behaviours. Number one? Driving while impaired, followed by running red lights and excessive speeding. In the same vein, reckless behaviour—and “stunt” riding—by motorcyclists is regarded by most people as a relatively rare occurrence, below cellphone use and distracted drivers. That said, most people felt that stunt riders and hooligans should be punished if they’re caught and their bikes impounded. (It’s important to bear in mind here that these activities are rated in terms of how they are perceived by automobile drivers, not how often they occur.)
  • While the rate of motor vehicle fatalities is slowly declining, according to Transport Canada, the rate of motorcycle fatalities is on the rise, probably because there are more bikes out there, especially bigger, more powerful ones. One of the highest risk groups for speeding-related fatalities? Riders aged 45 to 54—perhaps because there are more of them than there used to be and a lot of these riders are novice riders or those getting back into the sport after a prolonged absence.
  • Helmet use, law enforcement’s favourite whipping boy, is not a serious problem in our country, with a mere 3.1 percent of motorcyclists frequently riding without one. However, head injuries are still the leading cause of death in motorcycle accidents. According to the U.S.–based National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “When involved in a crash, a motorcyclist without a helmet is 40% more likely to suffer a fatal head injury, and 15% more likely to suffer a non-fatal injury.” The authors of the TIRF study also noted that, according to the NHTSA, helmets saved the lives of almost 1,800 motorcycle riders involved in accidents in 2007.
  • If you drink and ride, you’re making a big mistake, especially at night. Your motor skills, coordination, and common sense are affected by alcohol, and night riding amplifies the risk factor by a huge amount, especially for older riders. As well, impaired riders are more likely to crash at night than during the day, and—this is interesting—motorcyclists often have accidents when they have a much lower blood-alcohol content than car drivers. In other words, it doesn’t take much booze to get you into trouble when you’re riding.

The study was part of the Road Safety Monitor, an annual survey conducted by TIRF. The organization is funded by Transport Canada, the Brewers Association of Canada, the Canada Safety Council, the Canadian Motorcycle Association, and the Motorcycle & Moped Industry Council, among others.

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 17, 2010 7:38 pm

    Cause of 95% of motorcycle crashes in the Hurt Report was “failure to countersteer”, because the riders had never heard of it. Apparently this Canadian study censors it too.

    All state motorcycle rider “license” tests censor countersteering, and show pictures of motorcycles steering like cars and trikes. These deadly bogus pictures and text on the MC “license” tests are from the so-called Motorcycle Safety Foundation, which censors countersteering in order to extort $100 from customers for it’s 1,500 riding schools in USA.

    Dr Hurt was murdered by medical doctors in 2009. He had never crashed a motorcycle.

    Doctors are the leading cause of death in USA, with 2-million murders annually. You are 50 times more likely to be killed by a doctor than by a car crash. The most dangerous part of any crash is going to the hospital.

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