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Overview of motorcycle crash fatalities involving road safety barriers.

Grzebieta, R H, Jama, H, McIntosh A, , Friswell, R, Favand, J, Attard, M, Smith, R (Peer reviewed)

Motorcycles and Scooters


There were 238 motorcycle-related fatalities in Australia during 2006, the highest number recorded in over 15 years. Similar increases are being noted in New Zealand where 38 motorcyclists were killed in 2006. Previous research indicates around 8% of NSW motorcycle fatalities involve a roadside barrier. No studies have been done for all of Australia.

Many myths still pervade concerning how injuries occur when a motorcycle strikes a roadside barrier. The main reason is that there have been relatively few recent real world studies of such crashes where "in depth" detailed analysis of the factors leading up to the crash and the injury mechanisms have been thoroughly investigated. Physics dictates that a rider/pillion passenger travelling at speeds at around 60 km/h or more impacting a crash barrier is at a very high risk of a fatal injury, regardless of whether the barrier is concrete, steel or wire rope. Obviously the human body is not designed for such high severity impacts, in the absence of any additional safe system components.

This paper presents some preliminary findings from a major research project currently underway at UNSW’s Injury Risk Management Research Centre and funded by a consortium comprised of road authorities, insurers and a consumer group. Statistical characteristics from an investigation of motorcycle fatal crashes for the years 2001 to 2006 extracted from the National Coroners Information System (NCIS), are presented. The issues of survivability and motorcycle rider injury reduction strategies are also discussed and observations concerning typical crash scenarios are provided.