Hazard perception by inexperienced motorcyclists

Monash University Accident Research Centre – Report #179 - 2000

Authors: N. Haworth, M. Symmons & N. Kowadlo

Full report in .pdf format [140KB]

Abstract:

The project aimed to investigate how hazard perception and responding is affected by level of experience as a motorcycle rider and to assess the extent to which hazard perception and responding can be improved by specific training.

The literature review showed that car drivers with fewer crashes and older or more experienced drivers respond more quickly on hazard perception tasks and that at least some types of training can improve hazard perception abilities for car drivers. However, the nature and likely consequences of hazards for motorcyclists differ and the relationships between novice status, level of experience and age are complicated for motorcycle riders. Thus the findings that hazard perception in car drivers improves with age may not necessarily generalise to motorcycle riders. It may be that hazard behaviour (perception plus responding) is more important for motorcyclists (relative to car drivers).

Very few visually-based tests have been used in licensing in other parts of the world. Motorcycle simulation shows promise in the short-term as a research tool for the evaluation of different training programs with respect to hazard perception. In the longer-term, PC-based simulations may be useful for motorcyclist hazard perception training.

A limited re-examination of crash data showed that crash risk decreased as a function of years of on-road riding experience but not as a function of a definition of inexperience. Failure to respond appeared to reflect a failure of hazard perception but did not change systematically with experience. In general, younger and less experienced riders were more likely to report behaviours consistent with good hazard perception techniques than older and more experienced riders. However, these findings are clouded by differences in training and uncertain reliability of self-report data.

A useful first step in assessing the need for a specific motorcycle hazard perception test would be to examine the relationship between scores on the current Hazard Perception Test and actual hazard perception ability of motorcycle riders. Other issues in relation to the future of hazard perception training and testing for motorcyclists relate to format of presentation, content and structure of the licensing system. The opportunity may also exist to evaluate training and testing methods using a motorcycle simulator located in Sydney.

Executive Summary

The project has two aims:

  • to investigate how hazard perception and responding is affected by level of experience as a motorcycle rider
  • to assess the extent to which hazard perception and responding can be improved by specific training.

The results of Stage 1: Literature review and Stage 2: Re-examination of crash data are presented in this report, along with recommendations for future directions in hazard perception training and testing for motorcyclists.

Literature Review

The research undertaken with car drivers shows that drivers with better driving records and older or more experienced drivers respond more quickly on hazard perception tasks. Studies using on-road and off-road methods have found similar results. At least some types of training have been demonstrated to improve hazard perception abilities for car drivers.

However, differences between motorcyclists and car drivers with respect to hazard perception were identified in the literature review. Road-based hazards are of greater importance for motorcyclists and hazards pose a greater potential injury threat to motorcyclists. In addition, the relationships between novice status, level of experience and age are complicated for motorcycle riders. While age may reasonably be used as a proxy for driving experience for car drivers, motorcycle riders of the same age vary markedly in their riding experience. Thus the findings of studies showing hazard perception of car drivers improving with age may not necessarily generalise to motorcycle riders.

These issues are relevant to the interpretation of studies that have attempted to assess how much benefit experience as a car driver provides to novice motorcyclists. These studies vary in the extent of benefit they identify – from none to a substantial amount for some categories of rider.

It may be that hazard behaviour (perception plus response choice and execution) is more important for motorcyclists than hazard perception (relative to car drivers). Even with adequate abilities in hazard perception, deficiencies in decision making, execution skills and confidence may prevent the appropriate avoidance behaviour from occurring.

The literature review found very few visually-based tests which have been used in licensing in other parts of the world. A number of visually-based tests have been used in research, however. A slide-based test for moped licensing has been developed in the Netherlands where motorcycling and moped riding are very common. Many of the other jurisdictions where powered two-wheelers comprise a large amount of traffic are less developed and have less developed licensing systems.

The issues of moving versus still representation of scenes and methods for testing hazard perception and responding has not been systematically explored. The literature shows that results from on- and off-road methods are consistently similar, but the off-road methods have used moving representations of scenes only.

Motorcycle simulation shows promise in the short-term as a research tool for the evaluation of different training programs with respect to hazard perception. In the longer-term, PC-based simulations may be useful for motorcyclist hazard perception training.

Re-Examination of Crash Data

A limited re-examination of crash data collected for the Case-Control Study of Motorcycle Crashes (Haworth, Smith, Brumen & Pronk, 1997) was undertaken to identify specific rider and crash characteristics that relate to deficiencies in hazard perception and responding.

There was a statistically significant reduction in crash risk as a function of years of on-road riding experience. However, inexperienced riders (defined as riders who had ridden on the road for less than three years or rode less than three days or less than 100 km per week) were not found to be associated with a statistically significant increase in crash risk.

Failure to respond was more common in multi-vehicle crashes than single vehicle crashes, as might be expected of a factor reflecting a failure of hazard perception. However, experienced and inexperienced riders had similar proportions of multiple-vehicle crashes. Failure to respond was a little more common in crashes of inexperienced riders than experienced riders but the difference was not large.

In general, younger and less experienced riders were more likely to report behaviours consistent with good hazard perception techniques than older and more experienced riders. The greater likelihood that younger riders, many of whom were not fully licensed, had completed at least one training course somewhat complicates the interpretation of the observed differences. Interpretation is also more difficult given the lack of ability to validate these self-report responses.

Future Directions for Hazard Perception Training and Testing of Motorcyclists

There is a need for future research to answer the following questions:

  • Is there a need for a specific hazard perception test for motorcyclists?
  • What should be the aims of a motorcycle-specific hazard perception test?
  • If hazard perception training and testing for motorcyclists were to be developed, what would be the most effective and feasible format of presentation, what type of scenarios should be presented and what role in the licensing system should it play?

Sponsoring Organisation: Baseline Research Program - Department of Justice, Transport Accident Commission, Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV) Ltd, VicRoads