Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fear over facts

TAC has launched a new campaign targeting motorcyclists - or more likely, their families - today.  Please note I don't say "safety campaign" because it actually contributes nothing to the complex issues of motorcyclist safety.

TAC's accident data for 2011 is as follows:
Of the 49 motorcyclists killed in 2011:
  • 94% were male,
  • 57% occurred in rural Victoria,
  • 47% were involved in crashes between the hours of 10am and 6pm, and
  • 39% of deaths occurred on roads sign posted at 100km/h or more.
  • 53% were involved in single vehicle crashes, 20% were invlolved in head on or overtaking crashes and 14% were involved in crashes with another vehicle at an intersection
To summarise: more than half of motorcycle fatalities happened on rural roads, between 6pm and 10am, were single vehicle accidents, and almost half happened in 100km/h zones. 

Their response to this?  "Speed kills, so slow down in a 60 zone"  I cannot find words to express my disappointment and disgust at the juvenile oversimplification evident in this video.

Other factors to note are that the 5 year average of motorcycling fatalities is 44.8, with a noteable dip in 2009 when the summer was horrendous and bushfires ravaged many areas frequented by riders. Also worth noting is that the number of motorcycles registered in victoria grew from 100,000 in 2003 to over 160,000 in 2007, an increase of over 60% over that time, while nationally motorcycle registrations grew at an average of 8.2% from 2006 to 2011.  In short there are approximately 60,000 more riders now than there were in 2006, and the fatality rate remains roughly the same - 48 in 2006, 49 in 2011.  Of all the possible conclusions and areas to focus on that this data suggests, the message driven home in this video addresses none of them.  TAC I want my motorcycle safety levy back.


  1. 10am-6pm, or 6pm-10am?

    The fact that the number of motorcyclists increased by approximately 60% with no appreaciable increase in fatalities is certainly interesting (and I would have thought encouraging).

    It looks to me like single vehicle accidents (and what percentage of those were in rural areas at 100kms I wonder) and/or overtaking accidents would be the obvious areas to target, especially if there is a high proportion of these also occuring at night.

    Tiredness and rider error would be big factors I'd imagine.

    I also wonder about the prevalence of alcohol involvement in motorcycle accidents.

    Certainly awareness of the danger represented by intersections might make sense (14% isn't high in the list, but it is probably an easy area to tackle).

    I have to say however that 'slow down in the 60 zones', while maybe a worthwhile message in itself (insofar as residential streets are prone to unexpected appearances of animals, pedestrians, balls, cars backing out of driveways without looking etc.) is hardly tackling the major causes of motorcycle accidents - neither in usefully educating riders, nor in educating other drivers who are also involved in 47% of motorcycle accidents.

  2. 47% between 1000 - 1800, 53% between 1800 - 1000

    at first that second figure really surprised me, but I realised that the entire morning commute falls outside 10am - 6pm, and in my case at least, much of my evening commute does as well.

    I agree that slow down in 60 zones is not a bad message, but to be honest I think that TAC has spelled that out time and time again, whereas there are many motorcycle-specific safety issues that have never ever been addressed by them. It really does come across as the appearance of concern rather than actual concern.

  3. What astonishes me about that ad is that the car rolled through a stop sign into the path of oncoming traffic, but the focus is on the motorcycle's speed. The same accident could have happened at 60 kph if the car pulled out half a second later. Where is the focus on the car that failed to give way to an oncoming vehicle?

  4. I completely agree Ali. There are so many messages wrong in this ad that I am going to have to write to TAC before I have an aneurysm.

    Firstly, at 68 km/h the bike is traveling 18.888 metres/second. At 60 km/h the bike is traveling 16.666 metres/second. I therefore doubt the ads suggestion that if the bike had been doing 60 the driver would have had more time to see the bike; assuming that the driver looked in the direction of the bike for 2 seconds before pulling out, the difference in travel of the bike in that time is a bit more than a car length. Unless the bike was swerving side to side in his lane, the chances of those 4m of travel making the difference between being seen and not is negligable.

    So let's assume therefore that the car fails to see the rider and pulls out regardless of whether the bike is going 60 or 68. At this point the ad has potential to be very useful for motorcyclists, as it is a daily occurence. They could:
    a) focus on the poor and ineffectual braking technique of the rider, contrast it with proper braking, and encourage riders to practice their emergency braking and to get more training
    b) contrast the braking distance of a bike with ABS and a bike without, comparing the likely outcomes of both bikes in the same situation
    c) contrast the rider in thongs and a tee-shirt with the rider in full leathers, and look at the injuries sustained in even a short slide/roll on the bitumen after going over the boot of a car.

    Instead, they take a rider who is wearing all the appropriate gear, and kill him off in a highly sensational (and I suspect improbable, but I could be wrong there) way.

    The takeaway message - you decide on your speed, physics decides if you live or die - is so overly simplistic as to be insulting. As you say, replay the scenario with the bike doing 60 and the car pulling out a second later, and what's the safety message then? Sorry, you did everything right (leather gear, doing the speed limit) but you still broke your neck and died. You don't want to die? Don't ride a motorbike.

    In my opinion the ad is clearly focused on trying to scare the loved ones of motorcyclists into pressuring them to stop riding. It is a wasted opportunity, and fundamentally a waste of money.