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Staying safe on our roads and knowing your entitlements
If you are in a car that is involved in a minor rear-end collision in traffic, you may walk away with little more than a fright - but on a motorcycle, the same type of accident could easily be fatal or result in life-long injuries. Unfortunately for motorcyclists, it can be a very fine line between a near miss and a catastrophic injury.
At Slater and Gordon, our motor vehicle accident lawyers have seen many clients who have suffered devastating injuries while riding motorcycles, many of which perhaps could have been avoided by a change in drivers’ attitudes. As a motorcyclist, you can do your part in reducing your risk of injury by following a few simple road tips.
What are the risks associated with riding a motorbike?
The rider of a motorcycle involved in a crash is at a much higher risk of serious or fatal injury compared with drivers of cars, irrespective of who caused the accident.
Motorcycle riders and their passengers are relatively unprotected and they are more exposed to the direct forces of a collision with a vehicle, the road surface or roadside objects such as trees and poles.
Unfortunately, motorcycle accidents are a common occurrence on our roads in Victoria. TAC statistics show that in the five years to December 2012, crashes claimed the lives of 224 motorcyclists in Victoria and a further 4830 were involved in serious accidents requiring hospitalisation.
‘Of the injured motorcyclists that I act for, there is a strong perception that drivers have very little awareness of them on the roads, and that this lack of awareness contributed to their injuries.’
Motor vehicle accident lawyer and motorcycle enthusiast
Findings from independent research commissioned by Slater and Gordon*
- 45 per cent of motorcyclists surveyed have been injured while riding.
- Motorcyclists are regularly involved in near misses, with 63 per cent of survey respondents stating that they had been forced into an evasive manoeuvre to avoid a collision at least once in their last five outings.
- 60 per cent of motorcyclists stated that they believed campaigns to raise awareness of motorcyclists needed to go further
- 76 per cent of survey respondents stated that negative attitudes towards motorcyclists among other road users significantly decreased rider safety.
- 69% of motorcyclists believed other road users failed to demonstrate an adequate awareness of riders in close proximity to them on the roads
- 66% believed conflict existed between riders and other road users
- When asked to nominate the biggest risk to their safety on the roads, most nominated other drivers failing to see them (60 per cent) followed by poor road conditions including potholes and other obstacles (28 per cent). Only 12 per cent cited risky riding behaviour as the biggest threat to their safety.
What are the major causes of motorbike accidents?
- Visibility: not seeing the motorcyclists is probably the most common reason motorists give for colliding with a motorbike. This is partly due to the speed of approaching motorcycles being difficult for others to judge but it also reflects the lax attitude of other road users to the safety of motorcyclists.
- Inexperience: Being a motorcycle rider you have a far higher risk of being involved in an accident due to lack of experience than if you were an inexperienced car driver. Ironically, motorcyclists are among the most vulnerable road users yet are required to do far less training than car drivers before being allowed to ride unsupervised on public roads. Drivers in Victoria must complete 120 hours of driver training before they can sit for their license but a motorcyclist can attend at a testing centre having never ridden a motorbike and ride home at the end of the day unsupervised.
- Poor road conditions: The condition of the road surface can have a more significant impact on the safety for motorcyclists than car drivers. The most common road factors leading to motorcycle crashes are potholes and general poor road condition, obstructions causing poor visibility and loose material.
Tips for motorbike riders to stay safe on our road
- Stay within your comfort zone. A large part of riding safely is anticipation; being ready to respond to things before they happen. This comes from experience. Build up your skills gradually by getting used to riding in daylight conditions, before tackling night riding conditions.
- Stay well-rested before you ride. Riding a motorcycle is harder and more physically demanding than driving a car so it is even more important that you don’t ride if fatigued, medicated or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Any or all of these factors can influence your decision-making, concentration, balance and vision.
- Wear bright coloured and reflective clothing. Purchase a helmet that is easily visible, in good condition and free from cracks as well as bright-coloured reflective clothing.
- Don’t scrimp on protective clothing: Helmets and protective clothing play an important role in reducing the severity of injuries. Wear protective gear on every trip, no matter how short your journey is. For further details on the protective clothing you need to minimise your risk of injury, visit www.spokes.com.au.
- Keep your motorcycle in tip-top shape. Maintain your motorbike regularly by checking your tyre pressure, brakes and brake pads, engine and electronics, clutch and throttle, cables and chains. For further details on motorbike maintenance, visit www.spokes.com.au.
- Stick to the road rules and stay alert: As a motorcyclist maintaining awareness at all times is even more critical as well as anticipating the likely behaviour of surrounding motorists. Watch out for oncoming traffic, avoid riding in the blind spots of drivers and do not cut over double lines.
Compensation entitlements for motorbike accident sufferers
If you have been injured in a motorbike accident, you may be entitled to a range of benefits and compensation under the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) scheme as you would if driving a car, bus or truck. The TAC is a Victorian government owned insurance agency and the scheme is funded with the premiums paid by Victorian motorists from their vehicle registrations.
Compensation and benefits available to injured at-fault riders in Victoria include: lost income, medical expenses, rehabilitation, vocational training and assistance returning to work, cost of home and vehicle modifications, household help and gardening services and childcare.
You can lodge a claim by calling the TAC direct on 1300 654 329. To be eligible for compensation, you must submit your claim to the TAC within 12 months from the date of the accident. Exceptions apply.
If the TAC denies your claim for compensation or if it does not make a decision about your claim within 21 days, please contact Slater and Gordon immediately on 1800 555 777.
Your entitlements may include medical and related expenses, income payments and a lump sum payment irrespective of who was at fault in the accident.
Depending on your injury, you may also be entitled to claim lump sum damages for pain and suffering and loss of earnings if you can show that the accident was caused by the negligence or fault of another party. The TAC ordinarily provides the insurance cover to the person at fault and pays out the compensation to the injured person.
Why it’s important to seek independent legal
A lawyer can offer independent advice on how much you should seek from the TAC and undertake negotiations on your behalf. At Slater and Gordon our team of TAC lawyers have wide-ranging knowledge and experience our in this area and are well equipped to handle claims for all injury types. You can contact Slater and Gordon on 1800 555 777.
If we agree to act for you, this will often be on a conditional No Win - No Fee basis. With No Win - No Fee, you are not required to pay our professional fees until the successful conclusion of your case
- For more tips on rider safety, protective clothing and the best rides around Victoria, visit www.spokes.com.au
- To tune up your riding skills, you can join TAC’s Ride Smart program. To find out how visit http://ridesmartonline.com.au
- For licensing and registration information, visit the Vicroads website at https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au