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Motorcycle safety package aims to cut crash rate

Hon Minister Duynhoven
Minister for Transport Safety

28 March 2008 Media Statement

Motorcycle safety package aims to cut high crash rate


The Government has announced a range of measures to reduce the high number of motorcycle casualties on New Zealand roads.
Transport Safety Minister, Harry Duynhoven, says far too many novice motorcyclists, particularly in the over-30 age group, are involved in crashes.

“Since 2001, there has been a 28 percent increase in licensed motorcycles, and this figure is expected to grow with predicted rising fuel costs. But over the same period, there has been a staggering 80 percent increase in motorcycle casualties.

“The package of initiatives signed off by Cabinet aims to address this major road safety problem and to cut the high crash risk of novice riders,” says Mr Duynhoven.

The motorcycle safety proposals form part of the implementation of the Road Safety to 2010 Strategy. They include restrictions on the use of powerful motorcycles by novice riders, changes to the Graduated Driver Licensing System to encourage riders to take up more motorcycle-specific training and the introduction of safer motorcyling practices such as improving the visibility of motorcycle and moped riders to other road users.

“These proposals clearly target novice motorcyclists because these riders face the greatest crash risk. They are paying far too high a price – in 2007, motorcyclists and pillions accounted for 10 percent of all road fatalities.

“I am confident there will be strong support for the initiatives as they address many of the issues raised in the “See You There…Safe As!” public consultation programme run in 2006,” says Minister Duynhoven.

One of the key issues arising from the public consultation concerned the Graduated Driver Licensing System.

The package aimed at novice riders proposes restricting learner and restricted motorcycle licence holders to less powerful motorcycles. It also offers further training incentives to novice riders to progress through their licence and puts a cap on the time riders can spend on a learner licence.

In keeping with government proposals to shift the focus away from fines to increased demerit points for lawbreaking motorists, motorcyclists will run the risk of 25 demerit points for not wearing a helmet.

“The emphasis is on ensuring novice motorcyclists are aware of the increased risks they face on the road and that these riders are well equipped for the responsibility of motorcycle ownership,” says Mr Duynhoven.

The public will have the opportunity to comment on the proposed changes towards the middle of this year as part of the Land Transport Rules consultation process.

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Questions and Answers – Motorcycle Safety Initiatives

1. What are the new proposals?

The proposals are to:

- Improve the safety of novice riders by restricting learner and restricted motorcycle licence holders to motorcycles which do not exceed a power-to-weight ratio of 150 kilowatts per tonne. This is required because technological developments have meant the current 250cc restriction allows motorcycles which are very powerful. In addition to the power-to-weight limit an upper limit of 660cc is proposed to ensure that the approved motorcycles are not too physically large for novice riders;

- Encourage the uptake of rider training by amending the Graduated Driver Licensing System (GDLS) for motorcyclists so an approved motorcycle-specific training course completed in the learner licence phase reduces the time spent on a restricted motorcycle licence by six months;

- Introduce a motorcycle-specific competency based assessment option as an alternative to the restricted and full licence tests for those riders that undertake an approved motorcycle-specific training course in the learner licence phase;

- Encourage progression through the GDLS by introducing a maximum three year validity period for all learner motorcycle licences;

- Remove the 70km/h speed limit restriction which currently applies to learner motorcycle licence holders. This restriction is largely ignored. When this speed restriction is adhered to it creates a large difference in the speed of vehicles travelling on the open road, which is a known road safety problem. Road safety research indicates this speed difference issue outweighs any benefit of lower open road speed limits for novice motorcycle riders;

- Increase compliance with the motorcycle helmet requirement by introducing 25 demerit points and reducing the level of fine from $150 to $50 for helmet incorrect and non-wearing offences;

- Improve the visibility of motorcycle and moped riders by introducing a requirement for all motorcycle and moped riders to have daytime running lights or their headlights on at all times when riding on the road; and

- Reduce the level of risk for novice motorcyclists over the age of 25 by increasing the minimum time period these motorcyclists spend on a restricted licence from six to twelve months.

2. Why are these changes needed?

Motorcycle casualties (fatalities plus serious and minor injuries) have grown significantly since 2001. While some growth in casualties might have been expected as a result of the 28 percent increase in licensed motorcycles over the same period, it is very concerning that the casualty increase is so large. Furthermore the cost of fuel has risen, and is likely to remain high, so motorcycle ownership and use is likely to increase further. It is important that best practice motorcycle safety initiatives are put in place now to deal with this growing road safety problem.

3. Where have these best practice motorcycle initiatives come from?

The majority of the GDLS proposals are based on a best practice model for motorcycle licensing and training created by Monash University in Melbourne. In the development of this model Monash reviewed the motorcycle licensing and training systems in Australia, the United Kingdom, parts of Europe and the U.S.A. The model is based on the premise that motorcycle riding requires higher levels of both vehicle control and cognitive skills than car driving and that the potential outcomes of any failure on the part of the rider, other road users, or the road environment are severe. It states that in order to achieve substantial improvements in the safety of motorcycling, the rider training and licensing systems may need to be quite different than those for cars. New Zealand already has aspects of the model in place, including a Basic Motorcycle Handling Skills Test to obtain a learner licence.

There were also a couple of other specific motorcycle safety issues emerging outside of the licensing and training systems that needed a policy response.

4. Why have the specific limits of 150 kilowatts per tonne for power-to-weight and 660cc for engine capacity been chosen as a replacement for the current 250cc restriction for novice motorcyclists?

The limits are the same as those used for the Learner Approved Motorcycle Scheme (LAMS), which was first introduced in New South Wales (NSW) and has now been duplicated in a number of other Australian states. In terms of ease of implementation and working with bike importers and distributors the most expedient option for New Zealand is to also duplicate the NSW LAMS model and use their approved list of motorcycles. This scheme has been researched thoroughly and has proved popular with the local motorcycling community.

5. What role have motorcyclists played in the development of these proposals?

In 2006, the Ministry of Transport organised a series of nationwide public workshops to get public input into what were the road safety priorities, and how these could be better addressed. The See You There … Safe As! campaign attracted a lot of interest and from this, and other information collected, a draft policy statement was produced last December. Some of the proposals stem directly from feedback motorcyclists gave at the Safe As workshops and on the Safe As Community web-based forum. For example, removing the 70km/h speed limit for learner motorcyclists and replacing the 250cc restriction with a power-to-weight restriction for novice motorcyclists.

Key motorcycle stakeholders have been consulted through the Motorcycle Safety Reference Group, which is convened by the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC). The reference group involves the motorcycling industry, manufacturers, retailers, trainers and motorcycle interest groups. The group broadly supports the proposals.

6. Will there be any exemptions to the requirement for all motorcycle and moped riders to have daytime running lights or their headlights on at all times when riding on the road?

Consideration will be given to exempting motorcycles or mopeds over forty years old from this requirement as some older electrical charging systems (generators) do not have the capacity to reliably produce the power necessary to operate headlamps continuously.

7. The proposals mainly focus on novice motorcyclists, what about continuing and returning riders?

The proposals mainly focus on novice motorcyclists as they face the greatest crash risk, a growing portion of which are in the over 30 age group. However, there is a cross-government agency motorcycle safety group led by the Ministry of Transport that is examining non-legislative safety initiatives that will benefit all motorcycle and moped riders. This includes possible infrastructure improvements, education and enforcement activities.

ACC also plays a significant role in terms of promoting motorcycle safety for continuing and returning riders through the provision of education material (e.g. http://www.rideforever.co.nz/) and the funding of research.

8. What else is happening that will have an impact on motorcycle safety?

A Bill which proposes raising the minimum driving age from 15 to 16 has been introduced to Parliament and is currently before the Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee for consideration. Late last year the Government also announced a package of road safety measures focussing on:
- changes to the current penalty regime, and in particular the demerit system;
- changes to the penalty regime for people caught speeding by police officers;
- the introduction of demerit points for offences relating to intersections; and
- a package of proposals aimed at reducing the high crash risk to young and novice drivers.
These measures build on proposals announced recently to reduce the blood alcohol content limit to zero for drivers under 20 who do not hold a full licence. All of these changes will automatically apply to motorcyclists and moped riders and will assist in reducing the risk of this road user group.

Requiring all mopeds to be inspected before registration is currently being considered as part of a review of low powered vehicles. Restricting moped riders with learner and restricted car driver licences from carrying pillion passengers is to be included in the Land Transport (Driver Licensing) Amendment Rule 2008.


When will the changes occur?

The proposals will require changes to the Land Transport Driver Licensing and Road User rules and Land Transport Offences and Penalties Regulations. Amendments to these are included in the 07/08 rules programme and there will be a chance to comment on the proposals as part of the rules consultation process.

9. Where can I get further information?

The Regulatory Impact Statement is published on the Ministry of Transport’s website: http://www.transport.govt.nz/ris-bccs/

In terms of the current licensing requirements for motorcyclists, go to: http://www.landtransport.govt.nz/licensing/motorcycle/index.html

For information on the important role ACC plays in promoting motorcycle safety, including a link to the educative material they provide to riders, refer to:
http://www.acc.co.nz/injury-prevention/road-safety/WCM001268 and http://www.rideforever.co.nz/

Monash University Review of motorcycle licensing and training:
http://www.monash.edu.au/muarc/reports/muarc240.pdf


ENDS

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