Motorcycle deaths on New Zealand roads highest in almost 20 years
Motorcycle deaths on New Zealand roads are the highest they have been in almost 20 years and a leading police officer is wondering whether a "macho culture" among riders is part of the problem.
The latest Ministry of Transport figures revealed 50 motorcyclists were killed in road accidents across the country in 2015, the most since 1997.
Together with the four pillion passengers killed, the deaths made up 17 per cent of all fatal road crashes in New Zealand last year, the highest proportion since 1989.
The figures come from the ministry's Motorcycle Crash Facts 2016 report, which looked at crash data from 1985 to 2015.
The last time more than 50 motorcyclists were killed in a single calendar year was in 1997, when 52 riders and four pillion passengers died.
Those deaths accounted for 10 per cent of that year's road deaths.
Full 2016 data was not yet available, but there had already been 51 motorcyclist deaths in the 12 months to the end of October.
That was almost 22 per cent of total road deaths, and 47 of the victims were males.
National road policing manager Superintendent Steve Greally said a number of factors were contributing to the continued rise, including not enough motorcyclists investing in rider training programmes.
"There are definitely not enough people doing lessons. Maybe there's a macho culture out there that says, 'I don't need them'."
Adding to the problem was that more and more New Zealanders were taking to motorcycling as a way of sightseeing and socialising, Greally said.
Some of them were returning to it after several years and had not accounted for the increased power of some newer models.
Together with increased traffic on the country's roads – vehicle kilometres travelled had gone up about three per cent for the past couple of years – there was a growing risk of crashing.
And while some people were "quick to point the finger" at motorcyclists, they were not always at fault, he said.
"Some are guilty of an arrogance against motorcyclists and cyclists as if they're a second-class citizen on our roads, and they're not.
"They've got just as much right as anyone else to be there.
"People just need to be open-minded, have their eyes open, have a look out and double check, because they [motorcycles] are so small and they do come up at speed."
But motorcyclists also needed to take more responsibility, Greally said.
Some took undue risks such as "lane splitting", and Greally had himself witnessed an unseen rider being run over while travelling between two heavy vehicles in Auckland.
The motorcyclist later died from his injuries.
"You do see some motorcyclists, as you see drivers, taking risks.
"But when you're on a motorcycle, the stakes are even higher. They have to ask themselves, 'Is this manouevre on or not?'."
Motorcyclists and pillion passengers accounted for 19 per cent of all road deaths in New Zealand in 1989, when there were 141 deaths.
That figure dropped to just 6 per cent by 2003, before increasing almost every year since.
The proportion of injuries suffered by the group had also gradually increased since 2001, from 5 per cent to 10 per cent.
There were 1181 riders and 51 pillion passengers injured in 2015.
MOTORCYCLE CRASH FACTS
• 50 motorcycle deaths in 2015, highest since 1997
• 1,181 motorcyclists injured, most since 2010
• Motorcyclists and pillion passengers accounted for 17 per cent of all road deaths in 2015, the highest proportion since 1989