Protecting riders from more than just the weather

It’s been more than 25 years since clothing has been examined as a safety mechanism for motorcycle riders. Injury researchers at The George Institute have filled a massive evidence gap, by providing new up-to-date informat ion aimed to keep riders safer and out of hospitals.

Researchers assessed 212 motorcycle and scooter riders involved in accidents to establish the severity of injuries and better understand the role of protective clothing.

By wearing motorcycle jackets, pants, gloves or boots riders were:

  • 23% less likely to have an injury to the upper body
  • 39% less likely to injure their legs
  • 45% less likely to injure their hands and feet
  • 53% less likely to have a foot or ankle injury than riders wearing shoes or joggers

Significantly less likely to be admitted to hospital. According to Research Fellow Liz de Rome, over 200 motorcyclists die and a further 8,000 are seriously injured on Australian roads each year. For many years, motorcycle safety research has been dominated by debate about the effectiveness of helmets with less focus on other protection for the rider’s body.

With the increasing human and economic costs of motorcycle injuries around the world, research into the effectiveness of protective clothing is fundamental to improving road safety.

While there are limits to the extent clothing can prevent injury in high-impact crashes, it is in low-impact crashes that protective clothing is thought to offer the greatest injury reduction. However, the results of the study also send a clear message to the manufacturers of motorcycle protective clothing. The proportion of jackets (29%), pants (28%) and gloves (25%) that failed under crash conditions due to material damage, indicates a need for improved quality control.

Co-investigator, Associate Professor Rebecca Ivers, Director of Injury Research at The George Institute said: “This research sends a clear message to riders that protection is important every time they ride, and highlights the need for further investment by governments to encourage riders to wear appropriate clothing, and to work with the industry to improve the quality of products available.”

The study was funded by Australia’s leading motorcycle insurer Swann Insurance.