Motorcycling After 30

Monash University Accident Research Centre - Report #192 - 2002

Authors: Haworth, N., Mulvihill, C. & Symmons, M.

Full report in .pdf format [320KB]

Abstract:

The project aimed to develop a better understanding of the patterns of riding and risk factors associated with older motorcyclists and to recommend measures that may reduce the crash involvement of these riders.

The survey of motorcycle licence holders aged 30 and over found that only 53% had ridden in the last year. The percentage fell with age, from 60% of licence holders aged 30 to 39 to 41% of licence holders aged 60 and over. Overall, 43% of riders who responded were "continuing riders", 27% were "returned riders" and 31% were "new riders". These groups were compared in terms of demographics, crash involvement and riding patterns and motorcycles owned now and in the past.

The number and percentage of riders in crashes who were aged 30 and over doubled from 1991-2000. Notwithstanding this increase, the crash involvement rate of licence holders aged 30 and over is lower than that of younger licence holders and it decreases with age. Reductions in the amount of riding and more experience (on average) as rider age increases may underlie this decrease.

Riders aged 30 and over were involved in relatively more rural crashes and more single vehicle crashes (even in the metropolitan area). They were also over-involved in crashes in medium and high speed zones, consistent with a pattern of open-road riding, rather than commuting.

Returned and continuing riders could not be distinguished in the crash data, but new riders were identified as those with learner or probationary licences. New riders aged 30 and over had higher crash involvement rates than other riders of the same age group, but their crash involvement rates were lower than for new or fully licensed riders aged under 30. Some of the elevation in crash involvement rates for new riders may relate to the survey finding that new and continuing riders rode further per week and rode more often than returned riders.

As for any road user group, the crash involvement of motorcycle licence holders over the age of 30 may be reduced by measures that reduce total distance travelled and by measures that reduce the risk per unit of distance travelled, including general motorcycle safety measures.

Executive Summary

The project aimed to develop a better understanding of the patterns of riding and risk factors associated with older motorcyclists and to recommend measures that may reduce the crash involvement of these riders. It comprised a survey of motorcycle licence holders aged over 30 and an analysis of crash data to gain an understanding of the magnitude of the involvement of older riders in crashes and to identify the characteristics of older rider crashes.

Magnitude of the involvement of older riders in crashes

The number and percentage of riders in crashes who were aged 30 and over doubled from 1991-2000. Notwithstanding this increase, the crash involvement rate of licence holders aged 30 and over is lower than that of younger licence holders and it decreases with age. The decrease in crash involvement with age is influenced to a large extent by reductions in the amount of riding as rider age increases. The survey results suggest that only 53% of motorcycle licence holders aged 30 and over had ridden in the last year. The percentage of licence holders who rode in the last year decreased from 60% of licence holders aged 30 to 39 to 41% of licence holders aged 60 and over. In addition, the survey data found that, among active riders, distance ridden per week and frequency of riding decreased with age among riders aged 30.

Another contributor to the lower crash involvement rate of older riders is that they are, on average, more experienced. The older rider group contains relatively fewer learner and probationary licence holders who have higher crash involvement rates than fully licensed riders. In addition, fewer older riders are unlicensed.

Characteristics of older rider crashes

Riders aged 30 and over were involved in relatively more single vehicle crashes. While much of this reflected their relatively greater involvement in rural crashes, it was also true for metropolitan crashes. The finding that older riders were also over-involved in crashes in medium and high speed zones, suggests that this pattern of crashes may indicate a pattern of open-road riding, rather than commuting.

Comparisons of continuing, returned and new riders

Overall, 43% of riders who responded to the survey were "continuing riders", 27% were "returned riders" and 31% were "new riders".

Compared to other riders, new riders are:

  • younger, more likely to be single and more likely to be female
  • more likely to have completed a rider training course
  • more likely to ride in urban areas (and involved in relatively more crashes in urban areas, according to the crash data analysis) and less likely to ride off-road
  • more likely to own smaller capacity motorcycles (less than 260cc)

Compared to other riders, continuing riders are:

  • more likely to live in rural areas
  • more likely to have undertaken an advanced rider training course
  • more likely to ride all year round
  • less likely to report being involved in a crash in the past five years (only if riding less than three days per week)

Compared to other riders, returned riders

  • ride less frequently and less distance
  • are less likely to use a motorcycle for commuting and general transport

Compared to continuing riders, returned riders are

  • more likely to nominate a car as their main means of transport
  • less likely to have commuted in the past and more likely to have stopped commuting
  • more likely to have started touring
  • less likely to have ridden on a farm in the past
  • less likely to have ridden for general transport in the past
  • less likely to have owned motorcycles with engine capacity greater than 750 cc in the past

Returned and continuing riders could not be distinguished in the crash data, but new riders were identified as those with learner or probationary licences (a different definition to that used in the survey).

While the crash involvement rate of new riders was higher than for other riders aged 30 and over, it was lower than for new or fully licensed riders aged under 30. Some of the elevated crash involvement rate for new riders may relate to the survey finding that new and continuing riders rode further per week and rode more often than returned riders.

While there is clear evidence that crash risk on a per rider per annum basis is higher for new riders, the comparative crash risks of returned versus continuing riders are less clear. The survey data suggest that returned riders possibly ride at higher risk per kilometre because of more recreational riding but they ride less than continuing riders.

Measures that may reduce crash involvement

As for any road user group, the crash involvement of motorcycle licence holders aged 30 and over may be reduced by measures that reduce total distance travelled and by measures that reduce the risk per unit of distance travelled.

The relative ease with which a motorcycle licence holder can return to riding may be contributing to the increased amount of riding by older motorcycle licence holders. Implementing a system in which there is an active requirement to maintain the currency of a motorcycle licence could act to ensure that those individuals wishing to return to riding have to regain a minimum level of skill or competence before doing so. This would have the added benefit of improving the ability to estimate the real number of riders and therefore improving the ability to monitor trends in motorcycle safety.

Promotion of refresher courses for licence holders returning to riding may be of benefit to improve skills and reinforce to potential riders that their skills may not be up to date.

The crash involvement of older riders could also be decreased by general motorcycle safety measures that would benefit riders of all ages. These measures could include reductions in impaired driving and other unsafe road user behaviours by car drivers, reductions in both speeding and general travel speeds and improvements in roadside safety to prevent injury or reduce injury severity in the event of a crash.

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