Ride safe, Claim safe: Motorcycling in Australia
“Sorry mate, I didn’t see you”, will be a phrase all too familiar to any motorcyclist who has had an accident at any point during their riding career. Not only is it a statement used by drivers to defend their actions, but it’s also used as a way of deflecting some of the blame on to you, the motorcyclist. So, what can you do to ride as safe as possible and avoid hearing those dreaded words: “sorry mate, I didn’t see you”?
Motorcycles are dangerous. It’s part of their allure and one of the reasons they possess a counter-cultural aura. But, just how dangerous are they? Here are some eye-opening stats that reveal the level of risk motorcyclists take every time they venture on to the road:
- In the event of a road crash, motorcycle riders in Australia are approximately 30 times more likely to be killed than car occupants.[i][ii]
- Motorcycle riders and their pillion passengers represent a significant proportion of road fatalities, even though motorcycles make up only a small percentage (5.7%) of registered passenger vehicles.[iii]
- In Australia, while the overall road death toll decreased by 18% from 2000-2009[iv], the number of motorcyclist fatalities increased by 17%[v]. Australia’s rate of motorcycling deaths per registered motorcycle is above the international OECD median[vi].
As the research above indicates, motorcycling carries significant risk of injury, serious injury and death. So you want to do everything you can to protect yourself from other road users to stay upright. Let’s take a look at some top tips that will reduce the risk of injury and also provide some insights into driver behaviour.
The do’s and don’ts of road riding
This is by no means an exhaustive list of do’s and don’ts; however we want to bring to your attention some important points to consider when motorcycling.
A helmet is essential. You and your pillion passenger must wear a helmet that complies with Australian standards (AS/NZS1698 or AS1698), or the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe standard (ECE 22.05) if you ride in Europe. You can check to see if your helmet complies with these standards by looking for a sticker or label – you’ll typically find this as a sticker on the outside of the helmet, or a label stitched on the inside.
It’s also very important that your helmet is correctly fitted and securely fastened.
Protection from injury
In addition to a helmet, it is highly recommended that you wear other protective gear when riding your motorcycle.
Wearing the right protective gear can:
- Protect you from cuts and puncture wounds from sharp objects.
- Reduce gravel rash from sliding across the road surface.
- Reduce the severity of contact burns from your bike’s engine and exhaust pipe(s).
- Prevent or reduce the severity of fractures, breaks and joint injury.
Examples of protective gear include back protectors, gloves, jackets, pants, and boots. All of which are readily available from reputable motorcycle accessory retailers. Wearing protective gear can also have the added benefit of protecting you from the elements.
Whilst your mates might want to tag along, you cannot carry a pillion passenger if you are a learner rider (even if the pillion passenger is your supervisor / instructor). If you hold an RE provisional or open licence you must hold that licence for at least a year before you may carry a pillion passenger. Once you’ve obtained your R licence you can carry a pillion passenger immediately.
There are also some key things to remember if you are a pillion passenger:
- You must be at least 8 years old and your feet must reach the footrests.
- You must wear an approved helmet (see details above), and it must be correctly fitted and fastened.
- Sit properly, astride the pillion seat and facing forward.
- You must not interfere with the rider’s control of the motorcycle.
On a single lane road, drivers must keep as near as possible to the left (where safe to do so); however, lane positioning is very important for motorcyclists and therefore they can legally use any part of the lane.
We’ve all seen motorcyclists filtering through traffic. Not having to sit in long queues is one of the reasons many people choose motorcycling for commuting purposes! But what are the rules?
Lane filtering is allowed at low speed, when the two lines (or lanes) of traffic are travelling in the same direction. If one of those lanes is a dedicated turning lane, then you’re certainly not allowed to use this lane to filter. Some other points to remember – you may only filter at 30km/h or less, if it’s safe to do so, and if you hold an open licence for the motorcycle you’re riding.
Do not filter if:
- You’re going faster than 30km/h.
- You’re in a school zone during school hours.
- You’re a learner or have a provisional licence.
- There’s a ‘no filtering’ sign on that portion of road.
- It’s not safe.
Safety checks and maintenance
It can be easy to get lazy and assume that your motorcycle is in good working order. However, it’s vital that you check your motorcycle before every ride. It can literally save your life!
Here are some key areas to check:
- Chain – check your chain tension. A chain that is either too tight, or too slack, can cause serious problems. You should also ensure your chain is regularly and properly lubricated.
- Tyres – have you got enough tread? Are they in good condition? Is the tyre pressure correct? These are all things you should check. Your tyres should have a tread depth of at least 1.5mm across the tread surface and they should be inflated as per the manufacturer’s recommendations. Your tyres are what keep you on the road, so take them seriously!
- Lights – your lights not only help you see but be seen. So, ensure all lights (including your headlights, taillights and brake lights) as well as your indicators are working (and are clean).
- Brakes – this may seem like an obvious point, but make sure that both your front and back brakes are in full working order, and that their brake pads are in good condition and not overly worn. You should also check the brake discs too, to ensure they aren’t excessively worn or warped.
- Horn – your horn can save your life! Make sure it works before you set off.
The attitude that you adopt when riding your motorcycle can have a big impact on your safety. In short, if you ride defensively – anticipating potential hazards and planning your response – can help keep you safe on the road. You must be focused on the task of riding at all times. Make sure you’re continually evaluating the riding environment and what is going on around you – not just on the road, but on the roadside and periphery too.
Watch out for animals
When animals venture on to the road, they can pose a risk for road users and can prove particularly dangerous for motorcyclists; as part of your continual road awareness, watch out for animals!
Animals tend to be more active around dusk and dawn and are often confused and surprised by vehicle noise. In many instances an alarmed animal will run towards a vehicle rather than away from it. Even if you spot an animal near the edge of the road (be it stationary or moving away from the carriageway) you should be very cautious, slow down and give them plenty of room (as well as being alert).
Ride safe, claim safe
Whilst the above list is not an exhaustive list (you can discover more motorcycle safety tips from the relevant department of your state government) it does offer some helpful tips to help keep you safe when you’re out on the road.
If the worst has happened and you’ve recently been involved in a road traffic accident, then get back on track by contacting Accident Claims Lawyers today.
Disclaimer: Data on this website is the latest available from the named sources in this article and was accessed online in January 2021. Accident Claims Lawyers Pty Ltd does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the data and accepts no liability whatsoever arising from or connected in any way to the use or reliance upon this data.
[i] Australian Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government (2008). Fatal & serious road crashes involving motorcyclists, Monograph 20.
[ii] Huggins, R. (2013). Using speeding detections and numbers of fatalities to estimate relative risk of a fatality for motorcyclists and care drivers. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 59(2013), 296-300.
[iii] Australian Bureau of Statistics (2019). Motor Vehicle Census, Australia, 2019, ‘Table 1: Motor Vehicles on register, type of vehicle – census years’, data cube: Excel spreadsheet (cat. no. 9309.0) Accessed 24 February 2020.
[iv] Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport, & Regional Economics (2011). Road deaths Australia: Statistical summary 2010. Canberra: Australian Department of Infrastructure & Transport.
[v] International Traffic Safety Data and Analysis Group (2011). Annual Report 2010. France: OECD/ITF.
[vi] Australian Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government. (2008). Fatal and serious road crashes involving motorcyclists, Monograph 20 (https://infrastructure.gov.au/roads/safety/publications/2008/pdf/mono20.pdf).