New research from the Australian National University (ANU) has concluded that a ‘safety in numbers’ mentality applies when it comes to riding motorcycles.
The research suggests that drivers using roads in areas rarely frequented by motorcycles are slower to see and react to motorcyclists than drivers in high-usage areas.
Dr Vanessa Beanland from ANU’s Research School of Psychology said drivers would see and react to riders up to three seconds faster in areas where more motorcycles were more common.
“When motorcycles were high frequency, drivers detected them on average 51 metres further away, compared to when they were at low frequency,” Dr Beanland said.
“At a driving speed of 60 km/h, this allowed the driver an extra three seconds to respond.”
Dr Beanland joined colleagues from Monash University and the University of Nottingham to examine how the frequency of a specific type of vehicle in traffic can influence a driver’s ability to detect and respond to them.
Using a simulator, response times to motorcycles and buses on roads from 40 adult drivers were measured. Half of the group encountered a high frequency of motorcycles and fewer buses, while the remaining half encountered fewer motorcycles and more buses.
“The results suggest that drivers have more difficulty detecting vehicles and hazards that are rare, compared to objects that they see frequently,” Dr Beanland said.
More than 200 motorcyclists are killed on Australian roads each year – a figure that has barely changed in the last decade - with 211 riders killed in 2013. Latest figures from 2011 found more than 7,500 motorcyclists were treated for injury.
Dr Beanland said the results could also explain collisions between cars and bicycles. The 2013 road toll shows 50 cyclists were killed last year, with the figure for New South Wales alone doubling that of 2012.