20 Nov 2018

Motorcycle incidents: 'This crash rate is going to drop' when older riders stop

7:52 am on 20 November 2018

Riding motorcycles is losing its appeal which will help bring down the climbing road toll, a safety campaigner says.

Wellington Motorcycle fun riders, a group of keen riders who meet up for a group ride to Martinborough.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Four motorcyclists were killed in three separate crashes at the weekend and some are calling for greater regulation to make sure only those who are capable of handling a powerful bike are allowed to get on one.

The country's road toll clocked over 330 at the weekend and is tracking towards a similar result to last year, which was the highest road toll since 2009.

Police Minister Stuart Nash is blaming the spike in motorcycle fatalities on men in a mid-life crisis getting on powerful bikes they cannot handle.

Motorcycle Safety Consultants chief executive Allan Kirk said the hobby was becoming dominated by older men by virtue of young people spending more time indoors and on technology.

He said in the last year Harley-Davidson had shut down two production lines because motorcycles were no longer as popular as they once were.

"Younger people are being more inclined to stay with their tablets or whatever.

"They're not getting out as much, they're not riding motorcycles. The older guys are riding bikes and they're getting older and sooner or later they're going to be off them and this crash rate is going to drop right away."

The idea of a test for riders of more powerful bikes has been floated but Mr Kirk said it was pointless because it could not recreate a car coming at a motorcyclist on a corner or a rider losing control on a slippery surface.

But AA Driving School general manager Roger Venn said there was merit in some type of re-testing of motorists.

Middle-aged motorcyclist Mr Venn recently got back on a bike after a 20-year break.

"I think it's incredible that you can pass your driver test at 16, 17 years of age and simply never be tested at all ever again. And the first time you have to do anything again is at 75 when you have to get a doctor's certificate."

AA Driving School and ACC have teamed up to provide Ride Forever - a course of varying levels designed for motorcyclists to improve their skills.

Mr Venn said younger drivers were crashing far less than they used to; it was the older demographic who were responsible for the bulk of ACC claims.

As for upskilling courses, Road Safety Campaigner Clive Matthew-Wilson said they were a waste of time because most people who did them were already safety conscious.

He said if the government wanted to tackle the road toll it needed to implement a far tougher test for motorcyclists - one that measured their physical ability to stay safe.

"The reality is there needs to be a much, much stricter motorbike test that electronically tests people's reaction times, eye-hand-coordination and so on and so forth. And if they can't pass a relatively strict test then they should lose their license immediately.''

He said while regulation was incredibly unpopular, particularly with motorcyclists, it would be the only way to save middle-aged men from becoming a statistic.