In the last 10 years motor vehicle fatalities have declined, except for motorcyclists, who have experienced an increase in injuries and fatalities over the same period. Motorcyclists are at least 15 times more likely to be involved in a crash than automobile drivers and 14 times more likely to die in a collision, as reported by Ted Laturnus in the Globe and Mail.
More motorcycle accidents are occurring in part due to the growing number of motorcyclists on the road. In New Brunswick, the number of registered motorcycles has nearly doubled in the past 12 years and now represents about three percent of all vehicles on the roads. Collisions involving motorcycles are responsible for about 11 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities.
Public Awareness Campaigns
In recognition of the growing numbers of motorcyclists and motorcycle accidents, several Atlantic provinces have instituted public awareness campaigns for motorcycle safety. The Nova Scotia government and Safety Services Nova Scotia jointly held “Motorcycle Awareness Month” initiatives last May, for example, to improve driver awareness of increased motorcycle traffic on Nova Scotia roads. They put out news releases and promotions locally to educate other drivers on how to take precautions with motorcyclists. The other Maritime provinces similarly inducted May as Motorcycle Awareness Month and they have made efforts to educate the public on the dangers that distracted driving can create for motorcyclists.
The key message in motorcycle awareness campaigns has been to highlight that road safety is a shared responsibility on our roads, and that both car drivers and motorcyclists have a right to be on the road and must be conscious of each other’s presence, especially at intersections and after dark. Motorcyclists are asked to make themselves visible to other road users in protective wear and to keep speeds within the posted limits.
Regulatory measures have been recently introduced to help motorcyclists reduce their accident rates. A graduated licence program (GDL) for motorcyclists became mandatory in New Brunswick on April 1, 2015 to introduce new drivers to higher-risk situations slowly, as experience is gained. This GDL program is available to those 16 and older and lasts 12 months. To qualify, applicants must pass a written test, an approved motorcycle driver training course and vision screening. Once in the GDL program, a motorcyclist cannot drive in the dark, carry passengers or tow a trailer with the motorcycle and he or she must have a zero Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). After an uninterrupted 12 month duration of having a GDL licence, a motorcyclist must successfully pass an on-road test before becoming fully licensed.
Similar GDL schemes are in place for new motorcyclists in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island to minimize motorcycles fatalities by fostering education and road safety. GDL systems can be especially practical for inexperienced motorcyclists, who are more likely to overbrake the rear wheel, underbrake the front wheel, and be unable to counter steer or swerve due to having few practical skills for collision avoidance.
Lobbying Efforts for Further Initiatives
Some lobbyists are of the view that current public awareness campaigns and regulations do not adequately protect motorcyclists. For example, Safety Services New Brunswick, has lobbied for more training for new motorcyclists and horsepower restrictions during the GDL at a maximum size of 650 cc or a motorcycle engine not to exceed 150 kilowatts per tonne. Studies have shown that motorcyclists on bikes with a capacity for higher speeds (e.g., sport and supersport) tend to speed more than motorcyclists on standard bikes. Also, it has been found that motorcycle size, speed and alcohol increase injury severity. Further, Transport Canada has found that motorcyclist speeding is a factor in 90 percent of motorcyclist accidents resulting in serious injury or death in a speed-related crash. With these factors considered together, horsepower restrictions for new riders could potentially help to reduce motorcycle speed-related crashes and injury severity.
Criticisms about the absence of restrictions on horsepower or bike size have surfaced in other provinces by a variety of watchdogs and safety regulators as well. However, none of the Atlantic governments are considering, horsepower restrictions for new motorcyclists currently and they are promoting rider safety through training instead.
Contact Wagners, Injury Lawyers in Halifax
At Wagners, we follow government initiatives, legislative changes and debates on how to increase motorcycle safety. Our accident injury lawyers in Halifax NS handle motorcycle accident cases regularly, including fatalities. Contact our lawyers in Halifax NS today for your free initial consultation at 1-800-465-8794.