Australian Road Rider Magazine September edition.
Being aggressive on the street means jumping through blind spots and being in command of the situation. The fact is, you can’t you always trust a driver to see you in his or her mirror.
We’ve all seen the footage. A motorcyclist overtakes a car, the driver takes offence, speeds up, tailgates and tries to push the motorbike off the road. Scenes like this are becoming increasingly familiar on YouTube and sometimes even the nightly news. More often than not, the footage is from the point of view of a GoPro camera attached to the motorcyclist’s helmet. How does this new phenomenon fit into our road rules and traffic laws?
Some motorcyclists consider a helmet camera to be an important safety device. They report that driver behaviour tends to improve markedly when the motorist realises they’re being filmed–there’s less SMIDSY (Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You) and more awareness and respect. Helmet cameras can also provide important footage if there’s an incident or accident on the road.
But, across Australia, the rules and regulations around helmet cameras are inconsistent and unclear. A motorcyclist can be wearing a legal helmet camera in South Australia, then cross the border into Victoria and find themselves slapped with an infringement notice and fine. In Queensland and South Australia, the law is clear that the use of helmet cameras is allowed. In other states and territories, it’s not so clear. This inconsistency is caused by different laws in each state and territory and varying interpretations of those laws.
All motorcyclists in all states and territories must comply with the relevant road rules, which make reference to various versions of Australian Standards. Queensland and South Australian laws state that a helmet must comply with standards at point of manufacture. So, for example, once a Queenslander motorcyclist has purchased a helmet, they can legally attach a camera.
In Victoria and New South Wales, however, police have interpreted the law to require ongoing compliance with relevant standards beyond manufacture and supply. So, the argument goes, if you attach a camera to your helmet, it may no longer meet the required standards, and therefore may be unlawful. What was once a lawful helmet has become retrospectively unlawful.
Maurice Blackburn is currently representing motorcyclist Max Lichenbaum who was given an infringement notice by the police for‘failure to wear an approved motorbike helmet’on the basis of using a helmet camera.
Our argument is that once the helmet has been approved, it can’t be unapproved. Manufacturing standards were never intended to and do not provide an ongoing system of regulation. The date of compliance with the standards should be the date of manufacture, as it is clearly and explicitly in Queensland and South Australia.
Even if you disagree with the first argument and believe that ongoing compliance with Australian Standards is required, there’s another issue. And that is: accessibility to the Australian Standards under which these infringements are being made. In Victoria, it is a defence to a charge that relies on breaching a document if that document is not publicly available without charge. How do we know we’re breaking a rule if we’ve never seen the rulebook?
In Lichenbaum’s case, our argument is that the Australian Standards are not publicly available at VicRoads. The standards need to be not just theoretically, but practically and actually available and accessible to the public. A hard copy in a third-floor legal library with no practical public access does not, we argue, meet this requirement.
Just as importantly, if not more, the helmet laws in all states and territories need to be brought in line with the more explicit and clear position of Queensland and South Australia – that is, that where compliance with a Standard is required, the relevant time for compliance is at manufacture, not after sale.
Australia is a large country connected by asphalt. Consistency and clarity of national rules is a good place to start if we’re to reduce accidents, injuries and fatalities on our roads.
Malcolm Cumming is a Principal in Maurice Blackburn’s Ringwood office.
A new Australian report highlights the relationship between motorcycle crashes and road infrastructure, and specifically, how road infrastructure influences both the likelihood of a crash occurring or the resulting severity of a crash.
The investigation included: a comprehensive literature review, crash analysis, the identification of road infrastructure elements as crash factors, the identification of effective mitigation measures and their likely safety benefit and consultations with stakeholders.
The objectives of the project were to determine the influence of road infrastructure elements in motorcycle-related crashes, and identify countermeasures that have the potential to reduce the incidence and/or severity of such crashes.
Explanations of why, and how, road infrastructure elements influence motorcycle crash risk were researched and are provided. This primarily involved identifying how the design and condition of road infrastructure elements can influence either the likelihood of a crash occurring or the resulting severity of a crash.
Download the full report (pdf, 244 pages) by clicking here.
Police Minister Bill Byrne and Commissioner Ian Stewart today urged motorists to stay safe on the roads these school holidays at the launch of Operation Spring Break 2016.
The coordinated state-wide initiative for the September and October school holidays is aimed at reducing the number of serious injury and fatal traffic crashes.
The operation, which will run from September 16 to October 7, is designed to direct community attention to offences related to speeding, impaired driving, seatbelts, fatigue, distracted driving, defective vehicles, and other road related offences.
Minister Byrne said one fatality this school holiday period would be one fatality too many.
“The September school holidays are traditionally a busy time on Queensland roads, with many families taking the opportunity to travel long distances by car to and from their holiday destinations,” Minister Byrne said.
“With an increase in vehicles on the roads there is a potential risk for there to be an increase in traffic accidents.”
Commissioner Stewart said police would target traffic offences to make Queensland roads safer for everyone.
“Across these school holidays, police will maintain a highly visible presence on Queensland’s highways and roads,” Commissioner Stewart said.
During last year’s operation, which ran from September 18 to October 9, police detected 1,083 drink drivers and issued more than 1,157 infringement notices for use of mobile phones.
“This is a state-wide community issue and our police need everyone’s support to stop people being killed or seriously injured on our roads,” Commissioner Stewart said.
“Drivers can ensure they are doing their part every time they get behind the wheel when they stick to the speed limit, do not drive tired, do not drive drunk or inhibited by drugs, wear their seatbelt and ensure their full attention is on the road.
“Drivers should prepare for the school holiday break, plan their trips and take regular breaks from driving – at least every two hours.”
This is not your usual first aid training course.
At First Aid for Motorcyclists, the focus is entirely on learning motorcycle related first aid trauma management and understanding how to confidently manage an accident scene. The highly specialized areas of training include knowing when and how to remove a helmet and perform effective CPR, how to move a casualty in danger and manage breathing bleeding, burns, breaks, shock and head, neck and spinal injury.
The training is targeted, specific and relevant; whether you commute in the city or enjoy longer rides in the country, this highly specialised course gives you the knowledge, skills and confidence necessary to provide immediate and critical first aid to a rider who’s come down. You will learn how to effectively handle the accident scene, preserve life and promote recovery until emergency services arrive
Remember… Motorcyclists are more likely to come across other riders who have gone down.We urge you to enrol in this course and learn these vital skills today.
Until recently, driverless cars were the stuff of science-fiction movies. But many experts predict they could be the norm on our roads within the next twenty years. So what does this mean for motorcyclists?
While many motorcyclists consider driverless cars a threat to their autonomy on the road, it is unlikely that such technology will mean the end for motorcycle riders or their safety.
The end of SMIDSY
What we can expect is an unprecedented era of safety for motorcyclists. Cars driven by humans are at fault in up to 70% of motorcycle crashes with other vehicles. But driverless cars don’t get drunk, tired, exercise road rage or get distracted by Facebook or other social media. They use sophisticated sensors to detect surrounding vehicles, road markings and other road users, including motorcyclists.
The car’s computer analyses the sensor data, and in a split second, can apply the steering, acceleration and brakes to avoid a crash. These sophisticated sensors see far more, and respond a lot more quickly than a human is capable of.
Imagine riding to work, lane filtering between cars that act uniformly, and predictably, know exactly where your bike is (no matter how highly visible your clothing is) and will never pull out in front of you. The guilty driver’s utterance of “sorry mate I didn’t see you” might become a phrase of the past.
Motorcyclists are also likely to be able to take advantage of driverless technology. By tapping into driverless cars’ sensor technology, and using tools such as dashboard displays and warning sounds, a rider can be alerted to hazards such as loose gravel around an upcoming curve, or a pedestrian about to step on to the road.
Beyond this, Honda and Yamaha are already working on ‘connected motorcycles’ that would wirelessly “talk” to cars, other bikes and road infrastructure, maximising traffic flow and avoiding collisions. Riders will also be able to breathe easier knowing that the handlebar won’t be taken over by a robot just yet, with Yamaha’s Chief Executive Hiroyuki Yanagi recently assuring riders that the current focus is on using technology to assist the rider, not on taking the riding task away.
Robots versus riders
This technology does, however, bring risks to motorcyclists. Car manufacturers won’t necessarily have motorcyclists at the forefront of their minds in the design and rollout of driverless car technology. One of the key issues will be how driverless cars understand and respond to rider behaviour.
Human drivers often read riders’ body language and hand signals when making decisions on the road. Conversely, riders are used to predicting human driver behaviour such as suddenly braking when a light turns from orange to red. It may be that riders need the opportunity for exposure to driverless cars in safe environments to familiarise themselves with their behaviour, before they are introduced on our roads.
Programming to kill
One of the hardest issues to grapple with about driverless cars is how they will be programmed in the event of an unavoidable accident. Imagine a driverless car is faced with a scenario where it has only two options: don’t swerve and kill a motorcyclist, or swerve into a wall and kill the human occupant.
What should the car be programmed to do? Or what if a car is faced with two motorcyclists, one wearing a helmet and one who is not, how will it choose which one to swerve into? Should the car hit the person with a helmet because the injury risk might be less, even though this means penalising the rider who took extra precautions? There are no simple answers to these questions and manufacturers will have to think carefully about how their cars are programmed to respond in such situations.
But driverless cars will be on the road before we know it. Motorcyclists stand to benefit from the increased safety they are likely to bring, but will need to ensure their voice is heard amongst the driverless din.
Because stress while riding not only affects enjoyment and stamina but also how your motorcycle performs.
Think back on the last time you had a fleeting moment of anxiety while you were riding. I’m not talking about outright panic that happens when a car darts in front of you. I’m referring to that uneasy feeling you get when you’re not 100 percent sure that things will turn out okay. This can happen when faced with potentially life-threatening situations, like a scary blind turn or a dangerous intersection with drivers just waiting to pounce. Even relatively benign situations trigger anxiety, such as making a tight U-turn—an act greatly exacerbated by attentive bystanders.
Since few of us are masters of every aspect of motorcycling, we invariably experience bouts of low-level anxiety. Here is an example: You’re riding along when you notice a sign warning of a steep downhill hairpin switchback. You hate switchbacks. As you approach the turn you involuntarily tighten your grip on the handlebars and glue your eyes to the pavement immediately in front of you. Your bike is reluctant to lean into the corner, but you somehow manage to get around the bend. You decide to avoid this road in the future.
Others take a more dangerous path by denying their anxiety and carrying on as if nothing is amiss. For example: You are trying your best to keep up with some fast friends on a curvy road. You feel stressed with the pace, but instead of slowing down you soldier on. Your anxiety goes atomic after you dive into a fast right-hander that tightens more than you expected. Your eyes widen and your breathing stops as your arms become rigid. Next thing you know you’re in the oncoming lane.
Stress not only affects enjoyment and stamina but also how your motorcycle performs. It can present as simple muscle tension and narrowed focus, which can make your bike seem reluctant to turn in easily or hold a line in corners. You will have difficulty finding and following cornering lines. Your tension is preventing the bike from doing what it can do. Anxiety and tension can also cause traction-management problems, especially when the surface is wet or otherwise compromised. Being stiff makes it nearly impossible to use “soft” brake, throttle, and handlebar inputs that are key to maintaining control in low-grip situations.
Keeping anxiety and tension in check is important even under ideal conditions. Expert racers and track riders who corner at the very edge of traction are constantly monitoring handlebar tension, acutely aware of the dangers of stress.
The best riders frequently check themselves for signs of stress and then act to regain relaxed composure so they can enjoy a safer and more gratifying ride. With anxiety out of the picture, they can also identify where the stress is coming from, whether that’s a lack of confidence in their ability or trepidation about a particularly risky environment, such as a rain-slick corner or a route riddled with dangerous intersections. Whatever the source, these riders use their awareness of stress to recognize their comfort limit and then back off so that anxiety does not affect control, safety, or fun.
Anxiety and stress are very powerful tools for keeping us out of trouble if we are sensitive enough to recognize its presence and astute enough to heed its warnings. Stress can help define your personal limits and alert you to areas where you might need improvement. Pay attention to what environments, maneuvers, and situations flood your nervous system with anxiety and then acquire the knowledge and skill to become more proficient at handling those situations. Do this before you have to face a challenge that is more stressful than you can handle. In the meantime, take it slow.
BMW is working on an idea that could solve the problem of seeing and hearing traditional satellite navigation systems when riding by integrating GPS into a helmet that delivers information directly into your head.
No, there are no probes stuck into your brain. The idea is just to use the sort of haptic feedback that most smartphones have to give you information rather than relying on visual or audible methods. While our eyes and ears are already working overtime when we’re riding, our other senses – touch, smell and taste – aren’t used as much. Of them, touch is clearly the easiest to access and use, and that’s what haptic communication is based on.
Just as your phone might well alert you to a call or message by vibrating in your pocket, the idea of BMW’s haptic helmet is to use your ability to feel pressure or vibration, passing on information without distracting your vision or risking an audible signal that you might not hear.
The firm’s patented design is for a helmet that incorporates a ring of haptic actuators around your head, each able to vibrate or apply pressure to a particular spot. The huge advantage here is that it can pass on fairly complex information simply by altering the place where you feel the vibration or the frequency or amplitude of the vibration itself.
Initially, the most obvious use is for getting directions from satellite navigation systems, but as technology is constantly increasing the amount of feedback and electronic messages we receive from the machines we use – including our bikes – GPS is just the first of many things that could take advantage of the idea.
You’d clearly have to learn what the vibrations against your head mean, but BMW’s patent suggests that when it comes to navigation, the position of the vibration would reveal the direction of the next turn you need to take, while its frequency would increase as the turning gets closer.
The patent covered two variations on the idea. In the first, the navigation system is actually mounted on the bike, but a short-range radio relays information from that to a receiver in the helmet, instructing it to pass on the haptic messages. A second version is completely self-contained, with the GPS incorporated into the helmet itself.
Actually, it’s not. BMW is serious about finding ways to safely reduce information overload and get vital messages to riders without distracting them. In early January this year it revealed a prototype head-up display helmet developed by DigiLens, a Silicon Valley specialist in the field. The DigiLens HUD tech is due in production next year, and by combining it with the haptic feedback revealed in BMW’s new patent there’s scope for a huge amount of information to be safely passed to riders without the need to ever take their eyes off the road or strain to listen to muffled audible instructions.
BMW has a key position in the vehicle-to-vehicle communications project (V2V) that many car and motorcycle firms are collaborating on at the moment. The idea is to develop a common language and protocol allowing vehicles to talk to one another, and even accept signals from roadside objects. It’s a worthy goal, since it will allow cars and bikes fitted with the system to know of each other’s presence, direction and speed whenever they’re nearby and to pass on warnings about what they’re doing. But one stumbling block is getting all that information to riders. V2V means that in future your bike will know whether or not there’s a slow-moving truck just around that blind bend or if there’s been an accident in the fog up ahead. But it still needs to pass that message to you. In cars, where audio and visual warnings are easy to implement, it’s fairly simple. But bikes pose a challenge: warning lights are often out of your direct field of vision if you’re concentrating on the road ahead, and the combination of a helmet and wind noise means audible warnings might not be heard. HUDs are one solution but BMW’s haptic helmet idea might be just as effective.