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Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce

Submission to the Victorian Government


on

Motorcycle Learners Permit and Licensing Ages in Victoria


July 2003
Victorian Automobile Chamber of Commerce Government and Public Affairs Department 7/464 St Kilda Road Melbourne VIC 3004 Phone: (03) 9829 1111 Fax: (03) 9820 3401 E-mail: vacc@vacc.motor.net.au Internet: www.vacc.motor.net.au

Contents

Page
3 5 5 6 6 6 7 8 8 9 9 11 13

1. Executive summary .. 2. Background 3. Introduction 4. Industry observations .. 4.1 Growth in motorcycle usage presents policy challenges . 4.2 Motorcycle fatalities young riders are not the real problem . 4.3 Motorcycle crash statistics are skewed .. 4.4 Contradictions in motorcycle safety policy . 5. VicRoads current policy position 6. The importance of rider and driver awareness 7. Alternative approaches to motorcycle safety .. 8. Recommendations 9. Conclusion

Tables
Table 1. Minimum learners permit and licence ages Table 2. Motorcyclist fatalities: Percentage change, 1991 to 2001 . Table 3. Motorcyclist fatalities, Victoria: Percentage share by age . 5 7 7

Graphs
Graph 1: Motorcyclist fatalities, Victoria 1983 to 2002 6

Motorcycle Learners Permit and Licensing Ages in Victoria: VACC, July 2003

1. Executive Summary
The minimum age at which a Victorian can obtain their motorcycle learners permit is 18 years, and for a provisional licence, 18 years and 3 months. Victorians must be from 15 to 21 months older than persons in all other states to obtain a motorcycle licence. Victoria is also the only state where there is a disparity in the age at which a motorcycle and a motor vehicle licence can be obtained. This disparity potentially disadvantages many prospective Victorian motorcyclists, particularly those in lower socio-economic groups, and those from outer metropolitan and rural areas, where access to public transport for work and education is often very limited. Crash statistics show that between 1991 and 2001 the number of motorcyclist fatalities in Victoria increased by 217% for the 40 years plus age group, and in contrast, declined by 32% for those in the under 26 year age group. Therefore the most urgent area for the attention of Government motorcycle safety policy should be older riders who are returning to riding in large numbers, many of whom have had extended absences from active riding. Motorcycle crash statistics in Victoria continue to be skewed by unlicensed and unregistered riders (unriders), and these flawed statistics are given undue weight in policy decision-making. Unlicensed riders accounted for around 35% of rider fatalities in 2001, which highlights that there are factors much more important than age that impact on road safety. Young, responsible motorcyclists are being unfairly tainted by the actions of a significant group of riders who flout the law, do not obtain a licence, and to whom the licensing age is totally irrelevant. The Victorian Governments policy and approach to motorcycle learner permit and licensing ages is ill-conceived, arbitrary, provides little assistance in improving road safety and reducing motorcyclist deaths, and is not supported by the unskewed fatality statistics. A good example of policy failure is the Victorian learning and testing regime, which is the same irrespective of whether a person wishes to ride a fully automatic 50cc scooter or a 260cc-racing replica. There are alternative policy initiatives that the Government could implement to improve motorcyclist safety that would be much more effective than the current age based policy. The most essential elements in providing safety for motorcyclists are high quality training, relevant road riding experience, rider and driver awareness and a safe operating environment.

Motorcycle Learners Permit and Licensing Ages in Victoria: VACC, July 2003

VACC makes the following recommendations: The Victorian motorcycle and motor vehicle licence minimum age to be set at 17 and the learners permit minimum age to be 16 years. Road safety strategies to be aimed at riders and motorists of all ages, not just young riders. Victoria Police to commit more resources to enforcement activities directed at unriders. The introduction of a Learner Approved Motorcycle Scheme with power-toweight ratios such as the scheme currently operating in New South Wales. The Victorian Government to undertake a review of the content and focus of motorcycle training. The Victorian Government to undertake more comprehensive research into causes of motorcycle fatalities. Older motorcyclists returning to riding after an extended break should undergo training or competency testing. More TAC advertising for motorcycle awareness directed at both riders and other motorists. Official published road crash statistics should provide groupings of responsible motorcyclists and unriders.

Implementation of VACCs recommendations will restore equity for young Victorians who are being adversely impacted by the Victorian Governments current motorcycle age policy. It will improve the safety of motorcyclists on Victorias roads and aid the sustainability of a significant small business sector in the Victorian Automotive Industry.

Motorcycle Learners Permit and Licensing Ages in Victoria: VACC, July 2003

2. Background
VACC is the peak Automotive Employer Association in Victoria representing over 4500 small businesses. Within its structure is the Motorcycle Industry Division (MID), comprising importers, distributors, retail dealers, repairers and ancillary safety clothing and helmet suppliers. It is a significant employer and contributor to the Victorian economy. MID is responsible for ensuring that motorcycling remains a viable commuter transport alternative in our increasingly congested road system. Motorcycles are also widely used as tools of trade in the agricultural sector. They are used for sport and leisure pursuits amongst our growing population. MID works cooperatively with VicRoads in promoting safe, legal and responsible motorcycling amongst the broad population, from youngsters to the ever-increasing return of baby-boomers to the pleasures of motorcycling. MID has representation on several Victorian safety committees including the Victorian Motorcycle Advisory Council (VMAC), sporting clubs and community organisations, thereby fulfilling its social responsibilities.

3. Introduction
Victoria is at variance with the rest of the nation in terms of the age at which motorcycle learner permits and licences can be obtained (see Table 1 below). Motorcycle learner permits can be obtained at between 16 years and 16 years and 9 months in all states except Victoria, where the minimum age is 18. Table 1. Minimum Learners Permit and Licence Ages
Motor Vehicle Motor Vehicle Learners Licence Permit NSW 16 17 VIC 16 18 QLD 16 and 6 months 17 SA 16 16 and 6 months WA 16 17 TAS 16 17 Source: Various State Government websites Motorcycle Learners Permit 16 and 9 months 18 16 and 6 months 16 16 16 Motorcycle Licence 17 18 and 3 months 17 16 and 6 months 17 17

Victorians must be at least 18 years and 3 months of age to be eligible for a motorcycle licence, which is a wait of 15 to 21 months longer than persons in all other states. Victoria is also the only state where there is a disparity in the age at which a motorcycle and a motor vehicle licence can be obtained. This disparity potentially disadvantages many prospective Victorian motorcyclists, particularly those in lower socio-economic groups, and those from outer metropolitan and rural areas, where access to public transport for work and education is often very limited. The inequity in licensing ages serves as a barrier that discourages the uptake of motorcycling, which is a legitimate, cheap and environmentally friendly means of transport. For some young Victorians, a motorcycle is the only affordable means of private transport. 5

Motorcycle Learners Permit and Licensing Ages in Victoria: VACC, July 2003

4. Industry Observations
4.1 Growth in motorcycle usage presents policy challenges According to Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) estimates, annual retail sales of new motorcycles in Australia have grown by almost 80% over the past eight years. However, off-road motorcycles have driven most of this growth. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures show that the total number of kilometres travelled by motorcyclists in Victoria jumped from 302 million in 2000, to 352 million in 2001, an increase of over 16%. The rising number of motorcyclists on Victorian roads brings with it road safety challenges. In turn this places demands on Government policy to be reviewed regularly, and where appropriate, updated. 4.2 Motorcycle fatalities young riders are not the real problem After declining steadily for most of the 1980s and 1990s, the number of motorcyclist fatalities on Victorian roads increased in 2000 and 2001 (see Graph 1). Given the substantial increase in motorcycle kilometres travelled on Victorian roads in that period, the increase in fatalities was a statistical inevitability.
Graph 1. Motorcyclist Fatalities, Victoria 1983 to 2002
90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 1983 1985 1987 1989 1991 1993 Year 1995 1997 1999 2001

Source: ATSB Interestingly, the number of motorcyclist fatalities fell in 2002 and in the first four months of 2003 declined by 56% compared with the same period in 2002. The fall coincided with the TAC driver and rider education campaigns, which point to driver and rider awareness as being perhaps greater contributors to road safety than age related licensing policies. It should be noted that between 1991 and 2001 the largest increase by far in motorcyclist fatalities has been in the 40 plus age group, as a greater number of mature age riders commence or return to riding (see Table 2). During this period fatalities in the 40 years plus age group rose by 77% nationally, while Victoria recorded a much larger increase of 217%. In contrast, fatalities in the 17 to 25 year age group fell by 47% Australia-wide, and declined by 32%* in Victoria. Motorcyclist fatalities also rose in the 26 to 39 year age group, increasing by 22% nationally, and rising by 60% in Victoria.

Fatalities

Motorcycle Learners Permit and Licensing Ages in Victoria: VACC, July 2003

Table 2. Motorcyclist Fatalities: Percentage Change, 1991 to 2001 17-25 years 26-39 years 40 plus years All ages Victoria -32.1%* 60.0% 216.7% 26.5% Australia -47.3% 22.4% 77.4% -5.5% Source: derived from ATSB and VicRoads data
* Due to different age groupings available in source data, Victorian 17 to 25 year age group data also includes persons 16 years of age.

It is interesting to note that in Victoria, the 17 to 25 year age groups share of motorcyclist fatalities has fallen from 57% in 1991 to 31% in 2001 (see Table 3 below). The 40 years plus age groups share of motorcyclist fatalities has risen from 12% in 1991, to 31% in 2001. Motorcyclist fatality statistics unequivocally show that motorcyclist fatalities in the 40 years plus age group in Victoria have risen dramatically, whilst fatalities in the 16 to 25 year age group have declined substantially. Table 3. Motorcyclist Fatalities, Victoria: Percentage Share by Age Group 16-25 years 26-39 years 40 plus years All ages 1991 57.1% 30.6% 12.2% 100.0 2001 30.6% 38.7% 30.6% 100.0 Source: derived from VicRoads data 4.3 Motorcycle crash statistics are skewed Motorcycle crash statistics in Victoria continue to be skewed by unlicensed and unregistered riders (unriders). The Government appears to give undue weighting to these statistics, without taking into account some key factors behind the numbers. A recent VicRoads report showed that of the 62 riders killed on Victorian roads in 2001, 22 riders did not have a current motorcycle licence. Therefore, unlicensed riders accounted for 35% of rider fatalities - an alarming statistic. Again, this highlights that there are many factors which are much more important than age in terms of their impact on road safety. Published statistics do not differentiate between fatalities involving licensed motorcyclists and unriders. However, VicRoads own research shows that the presence of an unlicensed rider, unregistered motorcycle, or person riding above a 260cc limit while on a restricted licence, was a factor in 40% of motorcycle accidents. Again this indicates that age is a minor road safety issue compared with problems such as unriders. Therefore, young, responsible motorcyclists are being unfairly tainted by the actions of a significant group of riders who flout the law, do not obtain a licence, and to whom the licensing age is totally irrelevant. In addition, this is leading to public policy that is unfairly disadvantaging potential young, responsible motorcyclists. Motorcycle crash statistics are also skewed by the mistakes and lack of awareness by motor vehicle drivers. According to the Motorcycle Council of New South Wales, in more than two out of three multi-vehicle crashes involving a motorcycle, the vehicle driver was responsible. In light of these facts, why then are Government policy measures directed at motorcyclists rather than vehicle drivers?

Motorcycle Learners Permit and Licensing Ages in Victoria: VACC, July 2003

4.4 Contradictions in motorcycle safety policy Victoria has a system that prohibits motorcyclists from learning to ride until they are 18 years of age, but then allows them to obtain a provisional licence with just three months experience. In other states the period between the minimum age for obtaining a learners permit and a provisional licence is up to twelve months. Curiously, in Victoria, the learning and testing requirements are the same, irrespective of whether a person wishes to ride a fully automatic 50cc scooter, or a 260cc-racing replica. This policy does not address the risk profile and skill needs associated with the wide range of motorcycle models on the market. Furthermore, the current laws create an absurd situation where a motorcyclist can learn to ride and gain experience on a low powered motorcycle, and can then upgrade to more powerful motorcycles on which they have had no training or experience. The Victorian Governments policy and approach to motorcycle learner permit and licensing ages is ill conceived, arbitrary, provides little assistance in improving road safety and reducing motorcyclist deaths, and is not supported by the unskewed fatality statistics.

5. VicRoads Current Policy Position


VicRoads current policy position on the age limit differential for learner permits for motorcyclists and drivers is as follows: Simplest explanation is to say that there is no difference in the age in which a person can drive solo/unaccompanied on the road. The road safety basis is fairly simple - we did not want to support a differential age limit which may encourage some people who would otherwise not chose to do so to obtain a bike permit/licence simply because it permitted them to drive solo at a younger age than normal licensing permitted. The first 6-12 months driving solo on the road is the high risk time for novices (due to experience factors), this is significantly multiplied by riding a bike (high risk for everyone), and further multiplied by age (the younger you are when you drive solo the higher your crash risk). (Source: VicRoads Road Safety Department, 24 April 2003) This explanation does not take into account a number of key factors: Motorcyclists cannot safely learn in the presence of another experienced motorcyclist, as learner drivers can with an experienced motorist. Therefore it is inequitable to apply the same age restrictions to motorcyclists and motorists, in regard to driving or riding solo. Victorias learners permit and licence age restrictions are considerably out of step with the rest of Australia. Why is it safe to obtain a motorcycle learner permit at age 16 in South Australia, but not legal for a Victorian until they turn 18? There appears to be no empirical evidence to justify this inequity.

Motorcycle Learners Permit and Licensing Ages in Victoria: VACC, July 2003

6. The importance of Rider and Driver Awareness


In December 2000 the Victorian Government raised the minimum age at which Victorians can apply for a learner motorcycle permit to 18 years. The basis of that decision was that, Young riders are over represented in serious accident statistics, and those riders with the least amount of on road experience are most at risk. Minister Bachelor supports the positive impact of road awareness and experience: It is important to ensure that novice riders concentrate on gaining experience and developing riding skills in traffic situations during their first year on the road as motorcyclists. This is also supported by riding experts, including rider trainers and motorcycle clubs who advocate that the best way to develop riding skills and experience is to allow learner riders on the road from 16 years of age, so they develop good road safety skills, habits and awareness very early on. This approach is also supported by the policies of the other State Governments. The current Victorian policy on licensing age works against skills and awareness development of young motorcyclists.

7. Alternative Approaches to Motorcycle Safety


VACC suggests the following measures that may be more likely to reduce fatalities and injuries to young motorcyclists: Better enforcement of unriders who feature in a disproportionately high number of fatalities. Learner Approved Motorcycle Schemes (LAMS) that limit power-to-weight ratios for novice rider motorcycle choice, thereby better matching the rider to the motorcycle (New South Wales leads the way in this initiative). Introduction of laws which allow learners and provisional licence holders to learn to ride on the same type of motorcycle they will choose to ride when they obtain a full licence. Familiarity and competence in riding ones motorcycle is considered by industry experts to be a key aspect of motorcycle safety. More frequent and better targeted attitudinal and cognitive training for novice and experienced riders. Better targeting of initiatives aimed at improving other road users behaviours and attitudes towards motorcyclists, with the objective of eliminating the phenomenon of inattentional blindness (if you are not expecting to see something you wont). Prudent use of Victorias $50 motorcycle levy to fund important road safety research and initiatives that will have a tangible impact on road safety. These initiatives provide a platform for 16 year olds to obtain a motorcycle learner permit and develop essential riding skills and experience. There is no evidence to suggest that someone 16 years of age is any less capable of learning to ride safely than a 17 or 18 year-old. With a year of valuable learning experience, motorcyclists should be able to apply for a licence at 17 years of age, as is permitted in every other Australian state. There is no reason why the same age requirements should not also apply to Victorian motorists.
Motorcycle Learners Permit and Licensing Ages in Victoria: VACC, July 2003

These initiatives also recognise and validate all motorcyclists as vulnerable but legitimate road users. The initiatives take a proactive approach to rider education and training, rather than punitive action targeted at responsible motorcyclists.

Motorcycle Learners Permit and Licensing Ages in Victoria: VACC, July 2003

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8. Recommendations
Recommendation 1 The Victorian motorcycle and motor vehicle licence minimum age to be set at 17 and the learners permit minimum age to be 16 years. Victorian motorcycle learner permit and licensing ages are out of step with the rest of Australia. There is no evidence or data to support this policy position that disadvantages young Victorians and the retail motorcycle industry. Revising the learners permit and licensing ages will bring Victoria more closely in line with other states and remove the present age inequity between motorists and motorcyclists. Recommendation 2 The Victorian Government to focus on road safety strategies aimed at riders and motorists of all ages, not just young riders. Young motorcyclists are being unfairly targeted by licence age restrictions. Data shows that over the past ten years, fatalities for younger riders have fallen substantially, whilst fatalities for older age groups have increased dramatically. Recommendation 3 Victoria Police to be requested by the Government to commit more resources to enforcement activities directed at unriders. A large proportion of motorcyclist fatalities in Victoria are unriders. In 2001, more than one third of motorcyclist fatalities in Victoria did not possess a current motorcycle licence. Better enforcement of unriders would improve road safety. Recommendation 4 The Victorian Government to introduce a Learner Approved Motorcycle Scheme with power-to-weight ratios such as the scheme currently operating in New South Wales. The introduction of a Learner Approved Motorcycle Scheme and a motorcycle powerto-weight ratio would better match riders to their motorcycles, thereby improving road safety. Learners and provisional licence holders should also be able to learn to ride on the same type of motorcycle they will ride when they obtain a full licence, so they have maximum experience and training on a comparable motorcycle. Recommendation 5 The Victorian Government to undertake a review of the content and focus of motorcycle training. Victorian rider training content should be reviewed in conjunction with stakeholders. Improvements to the content and focus of the courses could lead to improved road safety for novice riders.

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Recommendation 6 Victorian Government to undertake more comprehensive research into causes of motorcycle fatalities. There is a need for more research on unriders, the link between age and crash risk, and motorcycle crash risk factors. The research should be used to shape Victorian road safety policy and strategy. Recommendation 7 Older motorcyclists returning to riding after an extended break should undergo training or competency testing. There are a large number of riders in the 40 plus age group that resume riding after an extended break. Many of these riders have maintained a valid licence through that period. Motorcycle fatalities in this age group have risen dramatically over the past ten years. Measures to improve their road safety must be taken. Recommendation 8 More TAC advertising for motorcycle awareness directed at both riders and other motorists. Motorcyclists are vulnerable but legitimate road users. There is a strong need for frequent and better targeted advertising campaigns to keep motorcycle safety issues at the forefront of the minds of all road users, and to make inroads into the phenomenon of inattentional blindness. Recommendation 9 Official published road crash statistics should provide groupings of responsible motorcyclists and unriders. These enhancements would provide a clearer picture of the real issues behind motorcycle crashes. The poor safety record of a small but significant group of motorcyclists who flout the law, is unfairly impacting on responsible motorcyclists.

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9. Conclusion
In conclusion, there is no empirical or statistical evidence to vindicate the Victorian Governments current policy regarding motorcycle learner permit and licence age. The policy disadvantages many prospective Victorian motorcyclists, particularly those in lower socio-economic groups, and those from outer metropolitan and rural areas, where access to public transport for work and education is often very limited. It threatens the sustainability of a significant small business sector in the Victorian Automotive Industry. VACC calls on the Government to review the current motorcycle learner permit and licensing ages. Specifically, VACC recommends setting the motorcycle and motor vehicle learners permit minimum age to 16 years and the licence minimum age to 17 years, bringing Victoria into line with the rest of Australia. VACC also calls on the Government to consider a range of other measures that will save the lives of Victorian motorcyclists, including young riders.

Motorcycle Learners Permit and Licensing Ages in Victoria: VACC, July 2003

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