Motorcycle levy system a failure, says safety campaigner

The government’s ACC motorbike levy system, which was meant to help meet the higher costs of bike accidents, has not improved road safety, says the car review website

The levy system has raised over $15 million, but the majority of it, which was supposed to be spent on road safety projects, remains unspent.

$2.9 million had been spent on road safety projects up to October 2016, projected to grow to $6.3 million by June 2017. editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, says the levy was also intended to make motorcycling more expensive and therefore less attractive.

“It was the same logic that led the government to place higher ACC levies on less safe cars.” 

However, he says, far from discouraging high risk activity, the opposite occurred.

“The highest risk groups at present are middle-aged men riding large and expensive bikes. The additional cost to these groups was nearly meaningless.”

In both 2015 (52) and 2016 (50), over 50 motorcyclists were killed on the country's roads. A large majority of those killed were aged between 40-59.

“Few people now ride road bikes purely for transport. Cars are generally a cheaper and more convenient as a way of getting to work. The people driving large motorbikes are generally doing so for status and for pleasure.”

Matthew-Wilson is also concerned that the government has spent $3.5 million on motorcycle training, when it is widely accepted internationally that advanced training for motorcyclists has little or no effect on the number of crashes.

“This has been demonstrated in study after study, and the road toll speaks for itself.”

Matthew-Wilson believes the government should introduce harder licence tests for older riders of larger motorbikes.

“As we age, our reaction times slow, and our ability to control a large, moving object such as a motorbike, drops substantially. There needs to be a much tougher testing regime, which gets tougher the older you get and the larger the motorbike.”

Matthew-Wilson adds that a change in road design would also help reduce the motorbike road toll.

“It’s ironic that motorcyclists tend to oppose median barriers and roadside fencing, because it’s generally far safer for a motorbike rider to hit a wire median barrier than a tree or to slide into the path of an oncoming car. Any solid object will pose a risk to a motorcyclist, but I’d still rather hit a median barrier than an oncoming car.”


study by Monash University of the effectiveness of roadside fencing and median barriers concluded that “reductions of up to 90% in death and serious injury can be achieved, with no evidence of increased road trauma for motorcyclists.”

Matthew-Wilson says there are three types of high-risk older riders, and they crash for different reasons.

"1) Men sometimes respond to mid-life crises by buying a large motorbike. If they’re not already experienced riders, they will often crash severely, because they simply lack the skills to control their motorbike.

2) Men who rode as teenagers sometimes return to riding in their middle age. This group often fails to appreciate that their reaction times and skills have dropped sharply since their early adult years.

3) There’s a third group of outlaw riders who have been defying death all their adult lives. They habitually speed and overtake in a dangerous manner. Sooner or later their recklessness catches up with them.”


• On average, the risk of being killed or injured in road crashes is 22 times higher for motorcyclists than for car drivers over the same distance travelled.