Otago Daily Times

Motorcycle death toll worst in 25 years


WELLINGTON: Dozens of motorcycli­sts died on New Zealand roads last year, the toll being the worst in 25 years.

The death toll in 2020 reached 57 riders, including two passengers, according to the Ministry of Transport.

It comes after NZ Transport Agency data collated between 2015 and 2019 reveals motorcycli­sts were responsibl­e for 63% of all fatal and injurycaus­ing crashes in which they were involved.

Ministry data shows 260 motorcycli­sts died over the same fiveyear period.

Last year’s death toll was equal to 1997’s and is the highest since 1995 when 78 died.

HarleyDavi­dson fanatic and former All Black Josh Kronfeld said motorcycli­sts were always on the alert for danger, as other road users often put them at risk.

‘‘Motorcycli­sts are so constantly having to be in that awareness that someone is going to do something wrong in a car. That’s every time you go to ride.

‘‘Unfortunat­ely, there’s a lot of hazards that come with [motorcycli­ng]. We as riders all know that and it’s just part of the game.’’

The NZTA data, provided by the crash analysis system (CAS), found the rider was likely to have primary responsibi­lity in 73% of the deadly motorcycle crashes between 2015 and 2019. The comparable figure for minor injury crashes was 55% and 39% for multiple vehicle crashes. Figures for 2020 were not available.

Mr Kronfeld was not sure what to make of the CAS figures and wondered if they factored in other issues such as the possibilit­y of a pothole or shingle on the road, wandering livestock or even a dip hidden in the road’s camber.

‘‘They’re factors that you assume the police put into it but how can you tell if they’re 100m off the road off the bike?‘‘ Mr Kronfeld said.

‘‘It’s only happened because of that initial issue and they’ve tried to save themselves.‘‘

One of the leading causes of crashes was as simple as other drivers not seeing them on the road, Mr Kronfeld said.

Harley Owners Group Auckland chapter president John Cameron said it was often the obnoxiousl­y loud motorcycle­s that kept riders safe.

‘‘Loud bikes save lives because if you hear us, at least you can be aware something is out there,’’ he said.

Mr Cameron said people using their phones behind the wheel was his biggest worry.

In 2019, ministry figures showed there were 15 fatal distracted driver crashes, resulting in the deaths of 17 people.

Mr Cameron has been riding for 45 years, having had only one serious crash — he was 16 and crashed into a car doing a Uturn in front of him.

He was not surprised to see motorcycli­sts blamed for crashes but thought the CAS numbers were not all they were chalked up to be.

‘‘The entire crash needs to be investigat­ed to include the timeframe before any crash as the leadup is often more likely to show the cause,’’ he said.

Mr Kronfeld and Mr Cameron both believed it was a small number of incidents involving motorcycle­s that gave them a bad reputation among other motorists.

Mr Cameron wanted the New Zealand driving test to have a section added to involve motorcycle­s, in a bid to better educate people.

Mr Kronfeld urged all road users to be more alert when travelling.

‘‘When you’re out on the road, you [should be] looking for something to go wrong.’’ — The New Zealand Herald

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Josh Kronfeld

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