The year 2020 has been the most bizarre year of our lives.
The year started with the devastating bushfires which ravaged through huge areas, causing severe damage and loss of life. Unfortunately the bushfires were quickly forgotten (not by the victims though) as news of the COVID-19 virus started taking over the news headlines. From then on our lives in 2020 were dominated by the COVID-19 crisis.
“Self isolation” and “social distancing” became daily used phrases. “Lockdowns” and “curfews”, which for most Australians were things you hear about in the world news, became daily reality.
Lockdowns, Sales Up, Fatalities are Still High
Among other things, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way we travel and commute. During the year many people could not travel as borders between states were closed. Lockdowns forced many people to work from home. Others lost their jobs.
Motorcycles and scooters sales figures during the first quarter of 2020 (prior to COVID-19 and during the early stages of the pandemic) were down, continuing the trend of the last few years. However, Q2 had a sharp increase in sales, mainly for off-road bikes and ATV’s. In Q3 sales of road bikes had a huge increase compared with the same period in previous years.
There was a definite change in Australian’s motorcycle buying habits in 2020. The reasons vary between the market segments and are beyond the scope of this article. Examples include changes in recreational habits due to the pandemic and commuters wanting to avoid public transport due to health concerns.
Yet despite the prolonged lockdown periods on the one hand and the increased sales on the other, statistics for fatal motorcycle accidents were inconsistent across states. While NSW, VIC and WA saw a reduction in the number of rider fatalities, there was an increase in QLD and SA.
Fatal Motorcycle Accidents – State by State
Each and every loss of life is tragic. Even one motorcycle fatality is too many. So the reduction in rider fatalities in Australia from 204 fatalities in 2019 to 176 in 2020 is simply not enough.
Although the two calendar years 2019 and 2020 are not comparable, percentage differences are included here for reference only.
The number of NSW motorcycle fatalities in 2020 has dropped by 19% from 2019 to 2020. 51 riders and pillion passengers were killed in NSW in the year up to 17-Dec-2020, down from 63 in 2019.
Source: Transport for NSW
Victoria also saw a reduction in the number of rider fatalities in 2020. This is possibly due to the prolonged lockdown period imposed in Victoria during the COVID-19 pandemic.
33 riders and pillion passengers were killed in Victoria this year up to 17-Dec-2020. This is a reduction of 25% from 44 during the same period in 2019.
Source: Transport Accident Commission
Queensland is one of the two states in which an increase in rider fatalities occurred in 2020. 51 riders and pillion passengers were killed in Queensland this year up to 13-Dec-2020. A 13% increase from 45 during the same period in 2019.
Source: Queensland Government
South Australia was the other state with an increase in motorcycle fatalities in 2020: 18 riders and 2 pillion passengers were killed in SA this year up to 13-Dec-2020. This is an increase of 25% from 16 riders and no pillion fatalities during the same period in 2019.
18 riders and pillion passengers were killed in Western Australia this year. This is a steep decrease of 41% from 31 during the entire year in 2019.
The number of motorcycle fatalities in Tasmania in 2020 remained the same as in 2019: 3 riders lost their lives on Tasmania’s roads in 2020.
Source: Department of State Growth
The NT was another state with an unchanged number of motorcycle fatalities in 2020. Two riders were killed in the Northern Territory in the year up to 30th-Nov-2020. This number is the same as in 2019.
Source: NT Police, Fire and Emergency Services, Australian Road Deaths Database
There were no motorcycle fatalities in the ACT in 2020 (up to 30-Nov).
Source: Australian Road Deaths Database
Let’s Reduce this Toll
The high number of motorcycle fatalities in 2020 is still very alarming, as it always is. We need to do more to reduce this number.
It is a fact that many motorcycle accidents can be avoided or prevented. We, the riders, have the ultimate responsibility for our lives and we need to do everything we can to avoid a crash. Maintaining our buffer, expecting the unexpected, avoiding riding on the edge, riding at a speed that allows us to respond to any unexpected situation. All these are part of a riding strategy we need to follow, one that relies on a clear set of survival rules.
But it is not just up to us, the riders. Others have their responsibilities too, including other drivers and the authorities.
Other drivers and road users need to be more motorcycle aware and look out for motorcycles. They must look twice when pulling out from driveways and side streets and when they merge. They need to avoid looking at their phones and they need to be aware of the safety of lane filtering.
Governments have a responsibility too. Prioritising the removal of hazards (potholes, loose surface, gravel and grooves, slippery markings) will prevent some accidents. Investing in rider-safe safety barriers will reduce injuries and fatalities. Driver education, driver training and motorcycle awareness campaigns will increase awareness. We need to remind everyone that motorcycles are not the problem, but rather, part of the solution.
In addition, state governments need to work closer with the riding community when it comes to safety issues. Issues such as safety barriers, accessible advanced rider training and laws regarding safety gear are only a few of the many issues in which riders should have their input.
Together we can reduce this tragic toll.
Be safe. Enjoy the ride.
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