May 18, 2021

Queensland Motorcycle Fatalities – a passionate plea to riders

Motorcycle fatalities in Queensland are at a record level.

Queensland is in the midst of a crisis.

As of the 26th March 2021, 21 motorcyclists have died on Queensland roads. That’s a massive increase compared to the same time last year when 10 riders had lost their lives.

As a passionate rider for many years and a coach and trainer for the last 15 or so, those numbers are very distressing.

But what is most disturbing are the reasons behind the crashes and the attitude of some members of the motorcycling community towards the issues.

Queensland Police and other organisations have released a number of statements recently, alerting our community to the crisis on our roads. Whilst many riders have adopted a sensible attitude to the reports, many have “come out swinging” with a number of unrealistic explanations and unsubstantiated excuses for the rapid rise in fatalities.

It’s an emotional and distressing time, especially for those among us who have lost a partner, family member or friend.

In this emotional time we are seeing an abundance of incorrect information being spread by well meaning but misinformed people who have either failed to look at the facts or are in denial of them.

This is clouding the truth, and what we as motorcyclists can do to stop this situation from getting worse.

I felt compelled to write this piece, hoping it may bring some focus back onto the facts.

The reality is:

🏍 21 motorcyclists (20 riders and 1 passenger) have lost their lives and investigations into those crashes have concluded that at least 14 of those fatalities were due to rider error.

🏍 Queensland currently has the worst numbers of any state or territory in Australia.

As a rider trainer we look at any incident and ask the questions – “What could I have done to avoid this, or at least reduce the consequences? And how can I do it better next time?”

Yet many riders are failing to accept the facts, instead blaming external factors for the situation:

“Of course deaths are up, this time last year we were in lockdown.”

  • Not true! There were 6 fatalities in January/February 2020 before we went into lockdown, there were 17 in January/February this year.
  • Even at the peak of lockdown there was still an average of 4 deaths per month, and the total lives lost during 2020 was actually higher than in 2019 – 45 in 2019 and 54 in 2020. Coming out of lockdown is NOT the real reason for the increase in fatalities.

“There has been a massive increase in registrations, so you have to expect an increase in deaths.”

  • This comment was disturbing to hear from a fellow rider, and to dismiss any fatality as being acceptable is disgraceful.
  • Yes, there has been a big surge in registrations! In fact, between April and December 2020 8,922 motorbikes were registered and Queensland Police state that number is equivalent to the last 3 years combined. But does that mean there are now 8,922 bikes on our roads that weren’t there at this time last year? And that many new riders? Logic says that’s probably not the case.
  • Many people would have traded an existing bike and upgraded. But I do accept that some people who did not own a motorcycle would have bought one, and some of those would have returned to riding having held a licence for many years but not been active. For many reasons these riders fall into a particularly high-risk group and could contribute to the increase in lives lost.
  • All riders will benefit from additional training and guidance to improve their skills, especially when coming back to riding or when changing to a new bike. But to conclude that this is the only reason for the increase in lives lost is flawed.

“Most of the footage on the news showed car drivers were at fault.” 

  • Yes, there was at least one news report that did. And it was because the producers used dramatic footage from their archives for effect, inaccurately reporting the facts as a result.
  • The reality is that over 70% of fatalities have been attributed to rider error and not other road users. So placing the blame on car drivers alone is also incorrect.

“Car drivers are the problem, they’re the ones that need better education.”

  • Yes, we all make mistakes and we can all do with better training to improve our skills. Our licensing systems often come under criticism, especially from riders, for being too harsh and restrictive. Compared to other countries we actually have some of the weakest training and licensing protocols in the world, and they regularly fail to give both drivers and riders the roadcraft skills they need to stay safe on our roads.

We are dealing with a complex issue that needs to be addressed in a rational manner. It certainly won’t be helped by people who think they know better than the authorities making irrational, emotional and incorrect statements on social media.

If we are going to change the situation we are going to have to confront the truth! We need to stop dismissing the facts.

I plead with the motorcycle community to unite and work together on this, to look at the facts with a calm attitude and to look within ourselves for a solution. We need both riders and drivers to think about what we are doing on our roads, and to accept that we can all improve our skills, be more aware and make better decisions.

But most of all we need a culture shift. We need to stop blaming other road users and external factors, and we need to take some responsibility for our own safety and for the safety of others around us.