Apr 25, 2018

Victorian Police Blitz Cops Flack

Scene of a serious motorcycle crash
The current Victorian Police Operation is targeting motorcyclists with the hope it can reduce the spike in fatalities.

The Police blitz targeting motorcyclists in Victoria is understandably copping some flack and being labelled by many as simply revenue raising and discrimination.

Operation Motus is in response to the death of 28 motorcycle riders on Victoria’s roads so far this year, which is only one less than for the whole of 2015.

And as always, when the subject of motorcycle safety is raised and authorities take any form of action, we’re seeing people point to other areas they feel deserve more policing attention like mobile phone use when driving.

Fair comment, but the fact remains that motorcycle injuries and fatalities are seriously over represented in any road safety statistics and deserve attention as well.

What has caused the spike in fatalities is also being hotly debated with some people blaming the numbers on unlicensed riders and unregistered or stolen bikes – even more of a reason for a crackdown it seems.

Of the 28 deaths so far this year in Victoria, rider error was deemed to be the cause in 24 crashes and speed was a contributing factor in 3 out of 4.

And for every fatality there are on average 16 hospitalisations and 9 serious injuries requiring medical treatment.

Will the current crackdown raise funds for the state? Of course it will, but only from those who are breaking the law.

Police Officer John Papas
Police Officer John Papas on a new Husqvarna 701 Motard that will be out on the roads soon. Picture: Sarah Matray. Source: Herald Sun.

It IS unfortunate that innocent people will be pulled over and have their licence checked during the operation, but surely that’s no different to a car driver being pulled over for a random breath test which doesn’t seem to attract the same level of protest.

The Police Operation seems to be having an effect already, if not because it has saved any lives yet but because it has opened up a discussion in the broader community – including among car drivers.

Surely that in itself is a good thing.

Raising awareness among both drivers and riders is one of the first steps to making motorcyclists safer on our roads.

The operation has also opened up debate about protective clothing, and whether it should be mandatory for riders to wear appropriate boots and gloves.

While boots and gloves may not save a life, they will help to protect a rider from a more serious injury, particularly gravel rash type injuries, in most crashes.

Brittany Morrow was seriously injured in a fall from a motorcycle and is now a brand ambassador for Icon.
Brittany Morrow was seriously injured in a fall from a motorcycle and is now a brand ambassador for Icon.

Calls for riding gear to be subsidised have merit, but need to be backed up by evidence-based research that shows riders are not wearing protective gear because of its cost, and that lowering it’s price would, in fact, encourage more riders to use it.

Any time a change is suggested it will be met with resistance. In 1970, the use of seat belts in cars was made mandatory in Victoria and the rest of Australia followed soon after.

After the debate died down, we saw a drastic reduction in fatalities and injuries from car crashes, and today we simply accept seat belts as a fact of life when driving.

Standards for protective gear would need to be implemented before making the use of the gear mandatory, a process that is likely to be a long and complicated process.

At least the Victorian Government and Police are making an effort to fix a very complex problem.

The current Police Operation isn’t the total solution, but it could form part of one if given a go.

The motorcycle licensing regulations in Victoria are also being overhauled at the moment, and that too is only a part of a possible solution but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

Maybe we as a community of road users can put the emotion aside for a moment and look towards a greater benefit in the future.