By Jeremy Rochow
Published: Wednesday, February 12, 2020
Last year was devastating for motorcyclist fatalities on South Australian roads. It’s the responsibility of all of us, both drivers and riders, to reduce the toll.
Motorcycles only make up about 3% of South Australia’s registered vehicles, yet over the past 5 years, motorcyclists have accounted for almost 15% of motoring fatalities. In 2019 alone, 17 motorcyclists were killed on SA roads – a 37.5% increase on the previous year.
These shocking statistics show why more needs to be done to protect motorcyclists on our roads. Whether you’re a rider or driver, here’s how you can play your part.
Lane filtering – where a motorcyclist travels at low speed between 2 marked lanes (other than a bicycle or tram lane) of slow-moving or stationary vehicles travelling in the same direction – was made legal in South Australia in 2017.
This practice can help reduce congestion on our roads and make them safer for motorcyclists, but riders and drivers both need to take several precautions.
Only motorcyclists with R and R-date licences can lane filter. If you’re on your learners or provisional licence, or riding a moped with a car licence, it’s not even an option. So, how is it done?
Firstly, make sure there’s enough room for you to get through banked-up traffic, and look for any obstacles – such as large trucks – that may block your path and pose a safety risk.
Once it’s safe, begin filtering through traffic no faster than 30km/h. As you ride, cover the front brake lever with 2 fingers and watch for any motorists who might be looking to change lanes.
Choose wisely where you filter. If you undertake the manoeuvre in the incorrect location, such as a bike lane, at a school zone, next to a parked car or between the vehicle and kerb, you risk a $398 fine, plus a $60 Victims of Crime Levy and 3 demerit points.
Have you ever ridden your motorcycle in shorts, a t-shirt and thongs? If you have, reconsider your attire while riding.
Without the correct protective clothing, a person sliding, in a crash, on bitumen can lose about 1mm of flesh for every 2km/h they’re travelling over 40km/h. Sliding in a crash can even scrape away bone. So, what should you wear to protect yourself?
Many jackets, pants and gloves are star rated for safety by motorcycle clothing assessment program, MotoCAP, and RAA recommends you consider equipment with the highest safety rating you can afford.
Thongs, running shoes or dress shoes don’t offer much protection in a crash.
Boots made specifically for riding a motorbike can help prevent your feet or ankles from being crushed in a crash. Try to find boots that provide ankle and shin protection and include a zip or Velcro, to ensure they stay on your feet in the event of a crash.
Not only could a helmet save your life, it’s also a legal requirement for motorcyclists and passengers to wear one. Full-face helmets, which include a chin panel and integrated visor, are the best option as they offer face and eye protection and shield you from the wind and sun.
We recommend you replace your helmet after a crash or significant impact, if it becomes loose fitting, if it’s more than 5 years old or if the straps are beginning to deteriorate.
Motorcycle gloves are one of the most important pieces of safety gear, as hands usually touch the ground first during a crash.
You’ll want a pair that have a strengthened palm area, provide knuckle protection, and have a zip or Velcro around the wrist to prevent them sliding off.
Jackets and pants
You should wear a motorcycle-specific jacket and pants which completely cover your arms, legs and body. While it may not be as fashionable as black, choose brightly coloured clothing, or wear a hi-vis vest, so other road users can see you. Ensure clothes are secure around your wrists, waist and ankles to prevent them from sliding up and exposing skin.
Share the road
All motorists can help keep motorcyclists safe on our roads. Here are a few ways other road users can share the road.
Always check your mirrors and blind spots before changing lanes. While this is an important habit to get into, it’s especially crucial during times when motorcyclists are nearby. They could be lane filtering so stay in the centre of your lane and indicate if you plan on changing lanes.
While we’re on the topic, make sure your music’s not so loud you can’t hear a motorcycle if it comes up alongside your car. You should also avoid wearing headphones while driving for the same reason.
Overtake a motorcycle in the same manner as you would any other vehicle. Motorcyclists can take up an entire lane, so overtaking them is no different from any other truck or car you encounter on the road.
Make sure you keep a safe distance behind a motorcycle if it’s in front of you. This is particularly important in poor weather conditions as motorcyclists have a tougher time handling the oil and debris that might be on the road.
So, you want to ride a motorbike?
There are 3 licence types motorbike riders need to progress though. Each comes with certain restrictions and depends on the type of South Australian driver’s licence you hold.
Before you apply for a motorcycle learner’s permit, you should read The Rider’s Handbook. You then need to pass the Rider Safe basic training and a theory test.
Once you’ve received your learner’s permit, you can ride a Learners Approved Motorcycle Scheme (LAMS) motorcycle; however, you must display L plates, ride under 100km/h, not incur 4 or more demerit points and not exceed the speed limit by more than 10km/h, among other learner-specific conditions.
To get your R-date class licence, you’ll need to complete the Rider Safe advanced course within 2 years of acquiring your learner’s permit. You’ll have to ride on this licence for 12 months and then you can apply for an unrestricted R-class permit.
An R-class licence allows you to ride a motorcycle of any power-to-weight ratio. For more information about motorcycle licences and restrictions, visit the My Licence website.
Are dirt bikes street legal?
Every now and then you might see somebody riding a dirt bike on the road. Just like other motorcycles, these bikes need to be registered, insured and roadworthy and meet the Australian Design Rules.
The ADRs stipulate the motorcycle’s braking performance, horn, number plate position, noise output and rear-vision mirrors. For a full list of requirements, visit the My Licence website.