The good news is that motorcycle fatalities appear to be down in most states in 2014.
Even better news, it is down while motorcycle registrations are up.
The bad news is that motorcycle fatalities are still higher than other vehicles as a proportion of their number on the road.
And that will probably mean more draconian legislation aimed at curtailing motorcycling.
The problem is that governments look for simple solutions so they reach for simple crash statistics for support and we all know how statistics can be twisted and distorted to satisfy an agenda.
However, there is some light on the horizon.
While there has not been a comprehensive investigation of motorcycle crash causes since the famous 1981 Hurt Report, studies in Australia and the US appear to be addressing that issue.
The Australian study by the Monash University Accident Research Centre uses a similar methodology to the Hurt Report, looking at all the factors involved in a crash, not just speed. It also gathers background information about the rider and the riding environment. It will use information from people who have crashed and people who have ridden in the same area and not crashed as a control.
The study has so far recruited 236 participants who have crashed and 535 “control” riders.
Results of the study are expected by mid-2015 and the study is supported by the Australian Research Council, VicRoads, Victoria Police, the TAC, the Department of Justice and the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce.
In the US, a similar study is using crashed riders and control riders to identify which factors lead to safe riding, and which factors lead to crashes and near-crashes.
The joint study by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute also involves reference to data from the MSF 100 Motorcyclists Naturalistic Study of 363,000 miles of riding with data from riders aged 21-80 years.
VTTI director Tom Dingus says the study will help determine the causes of motorcycle crashes so “effective countermeasures of all types can be developed or improved to reduce fatalities”.
It not only includes factors present at the time of a crash, but also factors such as the rider’s time since their last ride, training history, observed riding capabilities, or observed riding style.
While the results of this study will be used in MSF’s training curricula and provided for public information programs, it is not linked into any government group, so it will not be the basis of legislation.
However, these two reports should provide more focus on crash causes rather than basic reference to simple crash statistics.
While full Australian crash data from 2014 hasn’t yet been released yet, early state reports show similar trends. I will refer here only to my home state of Queensland as a reference.
Queensland data shows there were 37 motorcycle fatalities last year, which is down significantly from the 60 in 2009 and 45 in 2013.
However, motorcycle fatalities represented 16.5% of all Queensland road fatalities last year, while bikes are only 4.4% of all registrations.
However, it’s still an improvement on 2009 when bike fatalities were 18% of all road fatalities and motorcycles were 3.9% of all registrations.
RACQ safety policy guru and Suzuki Bandit rider Steve Spalding welcomes the reduction in motorcycle fatalities but says more can be done.
“Those who ride know how good it feels to get out and enjoy great roads on their bike, but riding safely, and defensively, has to be a core part of how we ride,” he says.
The RACQ developed two motorcycle videos last year – one with five-time world champion Mick Doohan and the other with yours truly of MotorbikeWriter – which puts the onus of rider safety on both riders and other motorists.