Motorcyclists and mobility

Motorcycling is a cost-efficient and convenient mode of transport. It can also be fun. The majority of motorcyclists are responsible road users who are passionate about their transport choice.

Motorcyclists are, however, exposed to unique challenges and risks on our roads. The AA fully supports the need for additional evidence-based initiatives to improve rider safety in New Zealand.

Did you know?

  • Motorcyclists pay a $30 annual ACC safety levy. The levy funds initiatives aimed at reducing motorcycle, scooter and moped fatalities and the number and severity of injuries. The AA supports this levy.
  • The Motorcycle Safety Advisory Council was established in 2011. It recommends initiatives to ACC on how to invest the $30 ACC annual levy to improve motorcycle safety. More information can be found on the Motorcycle Safety Advisory Council's website.

Motorcyclists are vulnerable road users: Key facts

Motorcyclists are much more at risk of injury or death than other road users. More should and is being done to enhance motorcycle safety. Key facts include:

  • Motorcyclists comprise 3 percent of the motor vehicles on New Zealand’s roads.
  • In 2013, 39 motorcyclists died and a further 1,188 were injured in road crashes. This was 15 percent of all deaths and 10 percent of all reported injuries on our roads.
  • The New Zealand Household Travel Survey shows that, on average, the risk of being killed or injured in road crashes is 19 times higher for motorcyclists than for car drivers over the same distance travelled (2009–2013 data).
  • In 98 percent of fatal crashes involving motorcyclists, the motorcyclist or a pillion passenger was among those who died (2009–2013 data).
  • 81 percent of all injured motorcyclists and 95 percent of motorcyclist deaths are males.
  • A rider without a helmet is three times more likely to suffer severe brain damage than a rider with a helmet in the same type of crash.
  • Near two-thirds (64 percent) of all motorcycle injury crashes occur on urban (speed limit of 70km/h or less) roads, but nearly three quarters (71 percent) of fatal crashes are on the open road. These crashes tend to involve larger bikes travelling at higher speeds - often at intersections where oncoming motorcyclists are often overlooked.

In summary, motorbikes are less stable, offer much less rider protection than a car, are less visible to other road users and are able to change position so quickly that they catch motorists unaware.

Motorcycle safety is improving

It is encouraging that the number of motorcyclist casualties has dropped markedly in recent years.

Motorcyclists now make up 10 percent of all road users injured compared to 21 percent in the early and mid-1980s.

The Government’s road safety strategy Safer Journeys for Motorcycling on New Zealand Roads includes a range of measures to enable road designers and engineers to improve road sections that are high-risk for motorcyclists.

How we can be more aware of motorcyclists

It is important that we are all aware of motorcyclists on our roads. The following simple tips can help ensure we keep ourselves safe:

Take longer to look for motorcyclists

Look carefully for motorcyclists when you pull out at an intersection. If you're approaching an intersection, look out for motorcyclists pulling out too.

Keep your distance

Driving too close can intimidate a less experienced motorcyclist. Motorcyclists can also decelerate very quickly compared to other vehicles without necessarily using their brakes.

Check for motorcyclists when changing lanes

A motorcyclist may be in the space you want to move into, or moving into it fast. Remember your blind spot.

Check for motorcyclists when turning

Parked cars or large vehicles can obstruct your view of a motorcyclist.

Motorcyclists might pass you on either side

Double-check for motorcyclists whether you're turning left or right.

Park safely

Check for motorcyclists before opening your car door - and ensure that your passengers do the same. When you pull away, remember to look specifically for motorcyclists as they can accelerate faster than cars.

Being a responsible motorcyclist

Motorcyclists need to be aware of their increased vulnerability and ensure they ride responsibly.  Road safety requires everyone to play their part.  It is important that, as a motorcyclist, you:

  • look well ahead when riding to pick up potentially dangerous situations before it's too late. Keep your eyes up for balance and control. Use your height advantage to look over or through the vehicle in front of you so you can see what's going on ahead
  • use your mirrors to look to the sides and behind often enough to be aware of surrounding traffic. This will help you spot potentially dangerous situations that could be forming around or behind you
  • turn your head and look over your shoulder when changing lanes
  • create a 'cushion' of safety around you by making sure there is a safe distance in all directions between you, other vehicles and potential hazards

AA speaking up for motorists

The AA is concerned that motorcyclists are not required to have a specific motorcycle licence to ride a 50cc moped. Riders of low-powered motorbikes are still vulnerable in a crash. Those intending to use a 50cc moped would benefit from professional training as the skills required are different to driving a car.

There is further valuable advice available on how motorcyclists can keep themselves safe on New Zealand’s roads. This can be found at:

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