21 Nov 2018

Motorcycle incidents: Riders just need the right skills to handle modern bikes, expert says

2:38 pm on 21 November 2018

Motorcycle riders are not at a disadvantage on modern powerful bikes but they need to ensure they have the skills to anticipate any emergencies, a former motorcycle instructor says.

Motorcyclist on the road - Racing motorbike stops at traffic lights

Photo: 123RF

The death of four motorcyclists at the weekend has brought renewed attention on the bike toll.

Earlier this week Police Minister Stuart Nash blamed the increase in motorcycle fatalities on men in a mid-life crisis getting on powerful bikes they could not handle.

Steve Bennett used to own a training school for motorcyclists in Britain and has worked with the police and ACC on safety programmes in New Zealand.

He said most of these bikes aren't ferociously powerful, they have better brakes, they handle better and some have traction control and ABS.

"So you aren't at a disadvantage on a modern bike at all."

He said riders can lessen their chances of serious injury on the roads by ensuring they have the defensive riding skills and brake skills so they can anticipate how to react in an emergency.

They should also complete the Ride Forever scheme, details of which are given out when bikes are registered, he said.

"Someone was talking earlier in the week about testing for reaction skills. Are you going to do that to everybody - truck drivers, bus drivers? You shouldn't need to test reaction skills if you can anticipate and apply defensive riding skills to an issue. Ninety-nine percent of accidents are avoidable to some degree..."

While riders had little protection on the roads that was part of the appeal, Mr Bennett said, and the key was to reduce the odds by having the skills to cope with an emergency situation.

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.

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.

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