Emergency Medicine Australasia

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  • Press Release
October 11, 2010

Off-road motorcycle-related major trauma increasing … call for urgent promotion of helmet use

While the incidence of on-road motorcycle-related death in adults has decreased, off-road motorcycle-related major trauma has increased, and this has not been targeted in injury prevention campaigns in Australia.

This is the finding of a study published in the latest issue of Emergency Medicine Australasia, the journal of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine.

The study, by Dr Antonina Mikocka-Walus (research fellow), Dr Belinda Gabbe (senior research fellow), and Professor Peter Cameron (academic director), from the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at Monash University and the Alfred Hospital, reviewed data on adult motorcycle-related major trauma from 2001 to 2008 in Victoria.

This is the first population-based study comparing trends in on- and off-road motorcycle-related major trauma in adults.

During the study period, there were 1157 major trauma survivors and 344 deaths with motorcycle-related injuries.

The researchers found no change in the incidence of motorcycle-related major trauma (both survivors plus deaths) and no change over time in the incidence of on-road motorcycle-related injury (survivors plus deaths) per 100,000 population.

However, the incidence of off-road motorcycle-related injury (survivors plus deaths) increased over the study period.

This finding is consistent with the results of another study conducted recently on motorcycling in children, and it suggests that off-road motorcycle use is resulting in an increased incidence of major trauma and death.

Notably, the study showed that the incidence of on-road death due to motorcycle-related major trauma in Victoria decreased significantly from 2001 to 2008.

“This encouraging finding might be associated with the Victorian Motorcycle Road Safety Strategy 2002–2007 aimed at improving education, training and communication with motorcyclists, as well as improved road design and safety enforcement,” the researchers said.

“The reduction in mortality might also be linked to the introduction of the Motorcycle Safety Levy in 2002, which has funded over 159 projects aimed at improving the safety of motorcyclists in Victoria.”

Another finding of the study is that most motorcycle collisions resulting in major trauma in Victoria occur on main roads, streets or highways.

Younger participants reported by a WA study (a mean age of 31 years compared with the present study mean age of 35) are more likely to be off-road motorcycle users, as off-road motorcycling in Australia does not require registration and does not have a minimum age limit provided that people ride on a private property.

In the current study, injured off-road motorcycle users were younger than on-road motorcyclists, which is consistent with this observation.

Consistent with other Australian data, in the present study, off-road collisions occurred more commonly on weekends, and in regional Victoria, than on-road collisions, reflecting the recreational nature of participation.

“As helmets have been found to reduce the risk of death by 40% and the risk of serious injury by 70% in motorcyclists, lower usage rates in off-road motorcyclists are of concern,” the researchers said.

“In the present study, head injury was more commonly the cause of death for off-road cases compared with on-road cases, which is consistent with lower usage of helmet reported by other researchers.

“Clearly, there is an urgent need to promote helmet wearing among off-road motorcyclists in Australia.”

Professor Cameron said this research shows “how absolutely essential it is to promote greater safety awareness and prevention in this largely unregulated group, and helmets are only part of this.

“A big problem is that kids go on off-road tracks in the bush, without the usual restrictions of speed, without appropriate training, and with poor road conditions.”