Two recent incidents of 14-year-old boys stealing and crashing a motorcycle and scooter have again raised the issue of unlicensed riders adding to the motorcycle crash statistics.
Queensland Police have charged a 14-year-old Manunda boy with numerous offences involving a stolen motorcycle, hitting and injuring a five-year-old boy in the street and leaving the scene of an accident.
In the other incident a 14-year-old NSW boy has appeared in Albury Court after crashing a stolen scooter and injuring himself and his 15-year-old female pillion, neither of whom was wearing a helmet.
Unlicensed rider crash statistics
According to the Monash University Accident Research Centre about 7% of all motorcycle crashes were unlicensed or under-licensed riders, meaning they were riding a bike that they were not licensed to ride.
Unlicensed riders also tend to have 25% more serious injury crashes than licensed riders, MUARC says.
These incidents add to the crash statistics used by police, politicians and safety Nazis to justify discriminatory enforcement and higher penalties against riders.
So it is important that action is taken to reduce the incidence of unlicensed or under-licensed riding.
More patrols and licence checks
Some may believe there is little that can be done to curb the enthusiasm of young people who want to steal a bike for a joy ride or novice riders from trying a larger bike.
However, increased police patrols and licence checks would help.
While we might find licence checks intimidatory and discriminatory police harassment, we should also consider that they are helping to reduce the number of unlicensed riders.
It may not be obvious to police that a rider is under aged, so random licence checks become necessary.
After all, some 14-year-old boys can be quite adult in size and a helmet can disguise their age, although that was not an issue in the Albury incident.
The increasing use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition by police might also have benefits in reducing unlicensed and under-licensed riding.
Growing unlicensed rider numbers
MUARC says the proportion of unlicensed riders on the road has almost doubled in the past decade.
It is no coincidence that this coincides with tougher and more expensive licensing in most states.
While most riders would agree that tougher licensing and more training is vital, it seems many riders simply find it too time-consuming and expensive to obtain a motorcycle licence.
Instead, they take the risk of riding without a licence and therefore uninsured.
And because they haven’t received proper training, they are crashing!