102 months ago

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Revealing Facts on Motorcycle Safety on Ontario Roads

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The electronically adjustable D-ESA suspension was a godsend on northern Ontario’s bumpy roads.

The electronically adjustable D-ESA suspension was a godsend on northern Ontario’s bumpy roads.

Basic Facts

With a population of about 14 million people, Ontario is Canada's largest province. For many years Ontario has had a three-tier graduated motorcycle license system i.e. entry level M1, then M2 each with various restrictions for learner riders but both include zero tolerance for alcohol use then finally riders enter the full M licence with no restrictions.

A few decades ago, calls for engine size restrictions were made but the insurance companies made changes that priced many riders out of the market looking for higher powered machines. Prior to this for many earlier decades riders were seen to ride without proper licenses but somehow still obtained affordable insurance.

As of 2012, Ontario Ministry reports indicate there are over 632,000 licensed motorcycle riders in Ontario. Of this over 526,000 have a full M licence; 95,000 have a M2 license and over 9,000 have a M1 beginner’s license.

In this writer’s opinion it would be fair to say that perhaps only 25% of these – certainly of ‘M’ licence holder - would be considered full or partly active motorcyclists. The remainder is made up of people who rode for a short time and gave up riding due to their age, cost of insurance, or experiences on the roads. Of the remaining estimated 25% active riders the M2 and M1 holders may be by percentage the more active and therefore more exposed to risks on our roads learning new skills.

Positively in the five years between 2008 to 2012 we have seen a lower level of riders killed (-20%) than the previous same period, even as registered motorcycles climbed by over 25%. The one figure that always eludes us is accurate data on exposure.

It’s fine to say that there are over 228,000 registered motorcycles in Ontario however many, many factors keep tens of thousands of those motorcycles from not being used on our roads. Added to this, our weather pattern has a drastic effect from October to March, thus lowering exposure risks and making international comparative crash rates extremely difficult.

This lack of accurate exposure data may change in the not so distant future with the use by riders of web technology being used by some Canadian jurisdictions and now private companies that records the actual use of their motorcycles on the roadways. With many young riders complaining of insurance rates keeping them from using motorcycles as a more sustainable form of transport the use of modern data may assist in more reasonable usable data for both researchers and others.

Motorcycle deaths are 5 to 8 times higher over car deaths in Ontario

The most recent annual data in Ontario, Canada’s leading road safety jurisdiction, is for 2012.

Motorcycle statistics are still relatively constant with about 2.5% of them in the vehicle population, however deaths of riders are still overrepresented by being between figures of over 5 and sometimes as high as 8 times the numbers killed compared to car drivers. Although these rates are for Ontario, historically the numbers are also close to national figures.

For the five year period 2008 – 2012, the latest complete years available from the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, there were a total of 232 riders killed with a low of 38 in 2011 and a high of 55 in 2012. Of these deaths the percentage levels of riders who were impaired or had been drinking shows a low of 20% in 2011 and a high of 21.6% in 2008. This last figure did thankfully drop slightly to 21.3% in 2012 but still a troubling rate for riders on two wheels given the amount of pro-active work by groups such as ‘arrive alive – Drive Sober’®.

The most frequent cause of rider death is excessive speed and, improper left turn by car drivers made in front of the approaching rider. Single vehicle collisions where only the motorcycle is involved ranged from 34% to 48% during the years under review.

In totality there were 52 riders killed in ‘drinking driving’ / impairment collisions and of course the major proportion involved M license holders with 31 of the 52 having a full motorcycle license.

When we look at actual numbers of licensed riders by class of license killed in ‘impaired crashes’ they represent 59%, however this number is actually much larger if you consider exposure rate (remembering of course earlier comments on actual exposure numbers of ‘M’ class riders). There has to be very serious concern for beginner and less experienced riders with M1 licenses showing their rate at 13.5% of these impaired deaths whereas M2 license holders are much higher at a rate of 27% of all the fore mentioned 52 motorcycle impairment deaths on our roads.

Since 2011 the province of Ontario has detailed a singular figure in the statistics of drug impairment of riders however to date there is no breakdown of whether the drugs were illegal or legal drugs used incorrectly. Hopefully that will be amended in future years. Of the 31 fatally injured riders in the two years of 2011-2012 period 55% of them were impaired by drugs, a very surprising number to many involved with motorcycle riding and safety.

The drug use figure will have to be remembered when remedial actions such as education and enforcement are to be considered to counteract this unacceptable use of two wheeled motor vehicles. In Ontario we have world-class motorcycle training systems led of course by the Gearing Up Canada Safety Council courses throughout the Province. Therefore a multi- faceted approached should be used to re-educate all riders, new and re-entering that use of alcohol and/or drugs will affect their balance and concentration thus leading to use of excessive speed, improper braking and to their deaths. With the age factors of most Ontario riders having moved to an older demographic of 30 to 50 age range even these ‘elderly’ riders should be constantly reminded that balance coordination and judgment are first to be effected so the only true safe level is a ZERO.

The other two-wheelers: Mopeds fatalities on the rise

Although not ‘motorcycles’ or licensed, these vehicles do have two wheels and the recent increase certainly within large urban areas of the use of e-bikes and low speed ‘scooters’ should not be ignored.

Until recent years no deaths have been recorded for moped riders but in the past three years alone, we have seen four fatalities and all of them were over 30 years of age. With the increased use of e-bikes all safety persons should be aware of this new problem, and, among other improvements we should prepare for education of these unlicensed road users.

Motorcycle riding everywhere can be safer with a multi-faceted approach not only from educators and enforcement agencies, but more importantly, from each of us as riders taking the art of safe riding with responsibility and a little...

A - Attitude

S - Speed

A - Alcohol [zero]

Most data derived from ORSAR, Ontario Road Safety Annual Reports

Northern Ontario motorcycle riding

Northern Ontario motorcycle riding

There's a huge number of roads to discover in Ontario, and while you're out there, make your voice heard. Let's make Ontario roads safer, with more education for drivers and riders.

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102 months ago

@UncleMac while I can understand some of your comments as a citizen and agree that years previously Ministry collision reports being completed by police officers could have seen error 'excessive speeds' box ticks in minor collisions this certainly does not occur in fatal collisions recently such as being described in this report.  This is due to the recent expertise by highly trained collision investigators and reconstructions. Personally, after three decades of investigation of all types of vehicle collisions I can only speak directly for Province of Ontario law enforcement that each fatal collision is properly classified. This may not have happened three decades ago but skill levels now are such that each fatal can take up to ten hours or even more to fully reconstruct and with that expert opinion of speed can come down to +or- 5kmh even at extreme speeds with extensive damage to any vehicle and/or body.

The majority of riders travel on our roads similar to much the same as car drivers keeping within a reasonable level of set speed limits however, suppose in a city setting the inexperienced rider rides at 20km/h above the speed limit and the usual "non-functioning" car driver pulls out of a side street not thinking of the narrow motorcycle coming towards him is a little fast and certainly by size is no threat to him what does he do? You know the answer, he pulls out! Would he do that with a car or a tanker truck, NO! as the vehicle(s) are much larger and are a very physical threat to him. The injury to the rider will not be minimal, hopefully not fatal, but a reason for HIM being involved in the collision is partly because of his "excessive" speed.

Hopefully this may give you a different view.


102 months ago

Excessive speed is 100% preventable, right? Or is it?

I suspect collision investigators often mark "excessive speed" on their reports whether there is evidence to support that or not. Just my opinion but hear me out (or read me out as the case might be) and perhaps you'll see what I mean.

A motorcycle rider fatality likely isn't pretty to look at, especially if there is dismemberment etc., especially if there was impact with another moving vehicle. You're a cop who has just looked at a mangled body. Now you are talking to the driver who has nothing but air-bag injuries. The driver claims to have been driving at the speed limit when the motorcycle appeared out of nowhere and boom... In reality, the driver was likely going +15 km/h (10 mph) over the speed limit. So too the rider.

Let's say it was a 80 km/h (50 mph) roadway. Collision speed without speeding is 160 km/h (100 mph) and with mutual speeding is 190 km/h (120 mph).

It's pretty easy to believe the all but uninjured driver and believe the dead rider was excessively speeding. The physical evidence on the body and the vehicles would be difficult to prove one way or the other. It's still a collision speed of 190 km/h (120 mph).

Take the scenario a step further and say the rider was going the speed limit and the vehicle was going 30 km/h (20 mph) over. The collision speed remains the same; the damages to the body and the vehicles remains the same.

The statistics come from police reports and it costs nothing but a check mark for a cop to add "excessive speed" as a factor.


102 months ago

Sadly your statistics are similar to the ones we have in the states. I hate when I'm out riding and every bar I pass is loaded up with bikes. Well over 50% of bike deaths here are bad mixes of alcohol/speed. I don't drink and haven't for over 10 years but never in my life have I drank and then got on my bike. It's not worth it.


102 months ago

Great article - lots of sobering statistics.