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More action is needed to improve motorcycle safety

At a road safety conference in Brussels, where motorcycle safety was discussed, a prize for achievements in road safety was presented to Finland.

The prize was accepted by Finnish transport minister Lulu Ranne (photo: Wim Taal/FEMA).

Finland is the recipient of the 2024 European Transport Safety Council prize for outstanding progress in road safety. Finland reduced road deaths by 29% over the decade to 2023, while the average decline in the EU was 16%.

The Road Safety Performance Index (PIN) award recognises Finland’s progress in road safety and is a testament to the country’s long-term targets and comprehensive strategy for improving the road safety of all road users. Since 2000, Finland has implemented several important measures to improve road safety. These include lower speed limits in most urban areas, construction of pedestrian and bicycle paths, construction of 400 km of motorways, installation of automatic speed cameras on nearly 3,000 km of main roads.

‘Finland is the only country in Europe that does an in-depth investigation of every single fatal collision.’

Antonio Avenoso, Executive Director of the European Transport Safety Council said: “In Finland, they say ‘vahinko ei tule kello kaulassa’ which roughly translates as ‘accidents don’t come with a bell around their necks’. That may explain why the Finnish take such a comprehensive and strategic approach that seeks to cover many different aspects of road danger. The effort doesn’t end when crashes happen either; Finland is the only country in Europe that does an in-depth investigation of every single fatal collision. We congratulate Finland on their progress over the last ten years, and hope they will be inspired to redouble their efforts to reach their ambitious targets for the future.”

The ETSC Road Safety Performance Index (PIN) Conference and award ceremony took place in Brussels. During the event, ETSC presented the findings of the PIN Annual Report looking at progress in reducing road deaths and serious injuries. Two panel discussions looked at important road safety issues – powered two-wheeler safety and road safety on rural roads. New analysis published by ETSC which shows there were 20,418 deaths on EU roads last year. This represents a decrease of only 1% compared to 2022, falling far short of the 6.1% annual reduction needed to achieve the EU target of a 50 % reduction by 2030.

Photo: Wim Taal/FEMA
Wim Taal, FEMA’s general secretary and Christopher Hodder, FIM’s public affairs manager.

Before the panel discussion on road safety for motorcyclists, presentations were given by George Yannis, professor at the National Technical University of Athens, by Christopher Hodder, public affairs manager for FIM, the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme and by Martin Winkelbauer from the Austrian Kuratorium für Verkehrssicherheit.

Christopher Hodder gave a presentation on ‘Technology for motorcycle safety’, focussing on road safety systems in both cars and motorcycles. He also pointed out the importance of post-licence training for motorcyclists, by talking about the European Training Quality Label.

In his presentation ‘Improving the safety of infrastructure for powered two-wheelers’, Martin Winkelbauer focussed on the importance of forgiving roadsides, the friction of the road surface and on how road markings can direct motorcyclists to the safest route through corners.

Professor Yannis showed how more than 3,800 powered two-wheeler riders were killed on European roads in 2022, representing 19% of all road fatalities and he said targeted action is needed, such as the introduction of city-wide 30 km/h speed limits, implementing forgiving roadsides, improving the conspicuousness of motorcycles and promotional campaigns aimed at motorcycles and car drivers.

Call to make ABS brakes mandatory on motorcycles under 125cc.

ETSC is calling for the European Union and European national governments to make Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS) mandatory on all new motorcycles in a report on the state of motorcycling safety in Europe (ABS is mandatory for all new motorcycles above 125cc since 2016, ed.). The report found that 3,891 people died while riding a motorcycle or moped in the EU in 2021, around 90% of whom were men. That figure is 25% lower than a decade earlier but, over the same period, other road deaths fell by a third. According to the authors, changes to EU licensing requirements in 2013 may have contributed to the lower number of deaths by creating a series of stages to acquire a full licence for the largest and most powerful motorcycles. The minimum recommended age to ride a moped in the EU is now 16 but, in several countries, it is still possible to ride at the age of 14, without passing a practical test. ETSC says a practical test should be mandatory and all countries should apply the recommended minimum age of 16 or higher.

Among the report’s other recommendations:

  • Mandatory technical inspections should be required for all motorcycles and mopeds.
  • National governments should develop better enforcement of speed limits applying to motorcyclists.
  • Enforcement of helmet-wearing should be improved, especially in countries with very low levels of helmet-wearing such as Greece and Cyprus.
  • Manufacturers of cars, vans and lorries should improve their detection of motorcyclists by safety technologies such as Automated Emergency Braking.
  • Much more attention should be placed on delivery riders who now face a ‘perfect storm’ of risk factors, including distraction from mobile phone-based apps, pressure to make deliveries quickly and while unwell, a lack of protective equipment and little oversight of vehicle condition.
Source: ETSC

The two most important collision scenarios for PTWs are crollisions where the main opponent is a passenger car and collisions involving no other vehicle. In 2020 in the EU27, 1,449 PTW riders were killed in a collision involving a car, accounting for 41% of all PTW road deaths. These findings are based on the EU CARE database. More specifically, 1,240 motorcycle users were killed in a collision involving a car, accounting for 41% of all motorcycle user deaths and 209 moped users, accounting for 42% of all moped user deaths.

1,385 PTW riders died in a collision with no other vehicle involved, accounting for 40% of all PTW road deaths. Of these, 1,201 were motorcycle user deaths, accounting for 40% of all motorcycle user deaths and 184 were moped user deaths, accounting for 37% of all moped user deaths. Single vehicle crashes have the tendency to be more underreported than two vehicle crashes.

‘Simply restricting access to motorcycles and other powered-two-wheelers is not the answer.’

Wim Taal, FEMA’s general secretary and Pasi Anteroinen, managing director at Liikenneturva, the Finnish Road Safety Council (photo: Chris Hodder).

Wim Taal, FEMA’s general secretary: “It’s good that motorcycle safety is discussed at conferences like this, because the cold hard facts show us that we are lagging behind, compared to other vehicle categories, but we do not necessarily agree with all recommended measures. In order to really understand the cause of motorcycle accidents, especially those where no other vehicle is involved, we could all learn from the Finnish example, where every fatal accident is subjected to an in-depth investigation. We need better data before unsubstantiated measures are implemented. Simply restricting access to motorcycles and other powered-two-wheelers is not the answer, neither is putting blind trust in automated functions in cars and on bikes.”

Motorcycle organisations feel that the existing road safety programs like Vision Zero, Sustainable Roads and Safe System do not fully consider the specific situation and needs of motorcyclists. Especially when it comes to the road infrastructure this means that there is not enough attention for problems with the road surface friction and road infrastructure furniture. Road surfaces can be slippery or in bad condition with potholes. Roadsides often have obstacles that are too close to the lane or that are not shielded. Road infrastructure furniture are often obstacles on the roadsides or barriers that are unsafe for motorcyclists or installed in an unsafe manner, suited, and tested for those who travel in cars. Solutions for these situations are available, evaluated and described. In several countries, governments, road safety organisations, researchers and motorcycle experts have cooperated to draft road safety and infrastructure guidelines. Nevertheless, more action is needed in harmonizing of standards, researching the causes of motorcycle crashes, the consequences of crashing into barriers and other obstacles as well as planning, building, and maintaining roads with vulnerable road users on motorcycles in mind, as we show in the FEMA-SMC paper ‘Safer roads for motorcycles‘.

ETSC’s Road Safety Performance Index (PIN) programme was set up in 2006 as a response to the first road safety target set by the European Union to halve road deaths between 2001 and 2010. Following this target, the 27 EU Member States together with the UK agreed to, and worked towards, the aim of achieving the common target to halve the number of road deaths in the EU over the period 2010- 2020. A new target to halve road deaths and the first target to halve the number of serious road traffic injuries by 2030 compared to 2020 levels in the EU were announced by the European Commission on 17 May 2018. By comparing Member State performance, the PIN serves to identify and promote best practice and inspire the kind of political leadership needed to deliver a road transport system that is as safe as possible. ETSC also organises PIN Talks in several member states each year. In June each year ETSC’s analysis of overall annual progress on tackling road deaths and serious injuries is published in the PIN Annual Report. The report covers 32 countries, including all EU Member States.

Click here to download the 18th Road Safety Performance Index (PIN) Report (pdf, 64 pages). The presentations from the event can be downloaded here.

Written by Wim Taal

Source: ETSC

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