Motorcycle riders - is concern warranted?: Poll

    OTTAWA, June 29 /CNW Telbec/ - Canadian motorcyclists are not behaving
more or less risky on the roads than other drivers according to a public
opinion poll conducted in September 2008 by the Traffic Injury Research
Foundation. Designed to investigate motorcycle rider behaviour and public
attitudes and perceptions of the problem, the poll also revealed the public is
less concerned about unsafe motorcycle riders than other road safety issues.
Yet researchers and interest groups may not agree and suggest that concern is
still warranted.
    "Riding a motorcycle was perceived as being the least risky of all road
behaviours," says Ward Vanlaar, TIRF researcher. "Only about 17 percent of
respondents perceived riding a motorcycle to be very or extremely risky."
    This lower rating of concern may be the result of the public's perception
that riders' driving behaviour is comparable to that of other road users. For
example, 25.5% of Canadian motorcyclists admit to riding well above the speed
limit, compared to 24.3% of drivers. This suggests that there is really no
difference between riders and drivers given the low margin of error of this
    Despite the relatively low-level of risk perceived by Canadians,
researchers and interest groups express concern over the safety of
motorcyclists. While data from Transport Canada suggest that the overall
number of motor vehicle crashes is decreasing, the motorcyclist fatality rate
in Canada has increased every year, from 172 in 2002 to 229 in 2005. This
increase was paralleled by a comparable increase in the number of motorcyclist
    "There was a modest decrease in the number of motorcyclist fatalities in
2006 of 0.3%," says Vanlaar. "Although such a decline may be encouraging, it
is small and it is too soon to tell whether the percentage is truly declining
or not."
    Motorcycle riders are more vulnerable because they lack the protection of
an enclosed vehicle. Motorcycles also lack many safety features of passenger
cars such as airbags and seatbelts. Also, when involved in a crash, a
motorcyclist without a helmet is 40% more likely to suffer a fatal head injury
and 15% more likely to suffer a non-fatal injury.
    "It was found that those who frequently ride a motorcycle without wearing
a helmet were significantly more likely to be older than those who do
frequently wear a helmet," says Vanlaar. "Those who do not frequently wear a
helmet were also more likely to be from a rural area and were more likely to
be unmarried."
    What is encouraging about the survey findings is that only 3.1% of
Canadian motorcyclists report riding without their helmet. However, there is
still room for improvement in decreasing the number of riders who engage in
risky riding behaviours as 10.5% of motorcyclists polled admitted to weaving
in and out of traffic, 9% of riders admitted to passing other vehicles when it
is not safe to do so; 8.5% of riders admitted to performing stunts on public
roads, this in addition to the 25.5% who admit to riding well above the speed
    "While overall motorcycle rider behaviour may not be more or less risky
than the behaviour of other drivers," says Vanlaar. "Canadian drivers and
motorcyclists alike agreed on various countermeasures to discourage risky
driving behaviours."
    Seventy-three percent of Canadians agreed that motorcycles should be
impounded for performing stunts on public roads; 66.2% agreed that there
should be increased fines for the non-use of helmets for motorcyclists; and
51.8% agreed that there should be an engine size limitation for new motorcycle
    Motorcycle riders agreed with increased fines for the non-use of helmets
as drivers of other motor vehicles and motorcycle riders were actually more
supportive than other road users for restricting engine size for new riders.

    About the poll

    These results are based on the Road Safety Monitor (RSM), an annual
public opinion survey conducted by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation
(TIRF). A total of 1,201 Canadians completed the interview. Results can be
considered accurate within plus or minus 2.9%, 19 times out of 20. This report
was made possible by financial support from Transport Canada, the Brewers
Association of Canada, the Canadian Motorcycle Association (CMA), the
Motorcycle & Moped Industry Council (MMIC), and the Canada Safety Council

    About TIRF:

    Established in 1964, TIRF's mission is to reduce traffic-related deaths
and injuries. As a national, independent, charitable road safety institute,
TIRF designs, promotes, and implements effective programs and policies, based
on sound research. TIRF is a registered charity and depends on grants,
contracts, and donations to provide services for the public. Visit us online

For further information:

For further information: Sara Oglestone, Manager, Marketing &
Communications, Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF), (613) 238-5235 ext.
304 (office),

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Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF)

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