MUARC motorcycle study

VicRoads and Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) are running a research project to better understand factors that contribute to motorcycle crashes. The study aims to provide evidence-based information to riders and the wider community and also better inform road safety organisations in their decision-making.

This study is being led by MUARC.

The first component will involve two groups of motorcycle riders – those who have had a crash at a particular location (cases) and those who subsequently ride through that location safely (controls). Both case and control participants will complete a questionnaire about the motorcycle rider, rider training, experience and other related information. The questionnaire will also ask about the behaviour of other road users in general, and injured riders will be asked about the role of other parties in the crash. MUARC will compare experiences of the riders to investigate what went wrong for those involved in crashes, compared with those who negotiated a crash site safely.

The second component will compare crash sites with other sites safety negotiated by the rider. By comparing the crash site with another site safely negotiated, the study team will learn about the role of the physical environment.

MUARC will approach injured riders who have been admitted to participating Victorian hospitals. These include the Alfred, Royal Melbourne, Monash Medical Centre, Frankston and Western hospitals. MUARC frequently recruits injured patients, including riders, through hospitals for research projects.

Riders who are seriously injured will not be approached to participate until an appropriate stage of their recovery.

The ‘control’ group will be recruited via direct mail. The study team will observe riders through crash locations and record their number plate details by photo. We will write to these riders, inviting them to take part in the study.

The study is funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC), VicRoads (through the Motorcycle Safety Levy and state funding), Victoria Police, TAC, Department of Justice, and VACC.

ARC is a federal government agency that funds scientists for research. All projects submitted for funding applications are peer reviewed. ARC has funded other motorcycle projects.

We work closely with the Department of Justice, Victoria Police and TAC in the development and implementation of road safety counter-measures. For that reason, all these agencies have an interest in the project.

Six senior scientists, from engineering, psychology, statistics and public health fields. They have experience in motorcycle safety research and have designed and tested the project scope in consultation with the former Victorian Motorcycle Advisory Council. The operational study team has four members who are all motorcyclists.

We will contact riders, on behalf of MUARC, inviting them to participate in the control group.

Approximately $1.3 million.

There has been an increase in motorcycle riding over recent years due to factors such as increased fuel costs, increased traffic congestion, dissatisfaction with public transport, and the appeal of motorcycling to a changing population. Given that motorcycle riders are a vulnerable group for injury, there is a need to better understand the contemporary risk factors in a Victorian context and how these contribute to crashes.

The study aims to provide evidence-based information to riders and the community and better inform road safety organisations in their decision-making.

The analysis will indicate a range of factors that increase risk, reduce risk (protective factors) and that have no measured impact.

  • The role of speed, including the factors that determine the choice of speed.
  • The role of the physical environment in a crash.
  • The role of rider factors, including experience, training, trip purpose, perceptions of other road user behaviour and risk profile.

575 participants in the ‘injured’ group and 575 in the ‘control’ group.

Participation is voluntary. If a rider travelling through a crash site notices the camera and stops, they can ask the researcher to delete their photograph. As their details will no longer be recorded they will not be contacted by VicRoads to participate in the study.

Only those who have experienced a serious crash resulting in hospital admission. The study is not investigating minor or fatal crashes.

Sufficient reliable data on the required factors is not available, and data obtained from next of kin is likely to be inaccurate for important variables in this study.

All crashes notified to MUARC are eligible as long as they meet the definition of the study (between 6am-midnight and within 150kms of Melbourne). They will be included pending the consent of the rider who has crashed.

No, as this is not consistent for all crashes. Detailed reports are usually only prepared for serious crashes. We will obtain similar detail during the interview with the ‘case’ rider, and by investigating the crash site.

By comparing speed of injured riders at the time of their crash to that of riders who have safely travelled through the same site, the study can investigate the importance of speed. It is known that speed is a factor in the severity of a crash, but there is less information about the role it plays in causing a crash, and whether there is interaction between speed and other factors, like experience, age, etc.

It is important that speed measures are accurate and objective, rather than relying on recall. Speed measurement by the study team is a research activity, not an enforcement activity. When control participants are completing the questionnaire, their permission to use their measured travel speed will be sought.

The device will be as inconspicuous as possible so the riders don’t change their behaviour. It will measure the speed as close to the crash site as possible. The photograph will be taken downstream of the crash site.

The cameras will be operated by a member of the study team for a couple of hours at each identified crash site.

The speed measurement and the photograph are date and time stamped so we will be able to determine which measurement belongs with which photograph, except perhaps in instances where a number of riders pass through the site simultaneously. If it is not possible to distinguish between the riders, then the observed riders will not be invited to take part in the survey.

No, there is no enforcement of any kind as part of this project.

The registered owner will be asked to pass the invitation to the person who was riding the bike.

No. The study team will relay only the number plate details to VicRoads. VicRoads will only use this to establish the identity of the owner and invite them to participate in the study. VicRoads administers registration of vehicles in Victoria and maintains records and personal information for this. VicRoads will not forward any of these details to MUARC.

There are many factors to consider when understanding the causes of crashes. Riders will be asked about behaviour of other road users in general and the injured riders will be asked about the role of other parties in the crash. MUARC, and other research groups, are undertaking a number of other studies in which the role of other road users is the main focus.

Recruitment will take approximately 18 months to complete. It is important that recruitment of the control group occurs as close as possible to the same time as crashes occur.

Results should be available in late 2014.

Yes. We are focusing on data collection initially. We will then have the capacity to write the protocol for publication. The protocol has been peer-reviewed during the grant application process.

Yes, the case-control design is a recognised approach for this kind of study and we have examined the published literature to ensure we are using accepted methodology.

Supported by the Australian Research Council, Victoria Police, the Transport Accident Commission (TAC), the Department of Justice and the Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce (VACC), the study will focus on two main issues:

  • motorcycle travel speed and the key factors that determine the choice of speed
  • the role of the physical environment in causing a crash.

Monash University - Making roads safer for motorcyclists (External link)

Frequently asked questions about the study

Frequently asked questions about the study are available below.

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