Centre for Road Safety

Safer outcome for riders

Safety barriers are a popular and proven road treatment used to protect vehicle occupants from roadside hazards. However, international and Australian research shows that safety barriers can pose significant safety risks to motorcyclists in crashes.

European research suggests that motorcyclists are 15 times more likely to be fatally injured in crashes with barriers than a car occupant. Unprotected support posts, guardrail ends and mounted reflectors pose a significant injury risk to motorcyclists.

Motorcycle protection systems (MPS) tend either to comprise steel guards, mesh systems or plastic tubes that fit below the existing safety barrier, preventing riders from sliding under the barrier and offering protection from the steel support posts.

As part of our NSW Motorcycle Safety Strategy 2012-2021, we ran crash tests on MPS to assess their suitability for use on NSW roads. We found some products helped reduce the risk of fatalities and serious injuries to motorcyclists by:

  • Protecting them from safety barrier posts
  • Absorbing kinetic energy
  • Allowing them to decelerate more slowly
  • Redirecting them along the barrier

Crash tests

Our Crashlab videos show how MPS help reduce the risk for motorcycle riders.

The tests used a crash test dummy modified to behave like a sliding motorcyclist to better simulate motorcyclist trajectory and injury. We assessed MPS against a range of criteria including injury risk to the head and neck, the behaviour of MPS (in terms of damage to the safety barrier), and the crash test dummy (in terms of injury damage or protrusion beyond the barrier).

Our research shows that the addition of MPS to standard W-beam barriers can be effective in reducing the risk of fatality and serious injury to sliding motorcyclists, without compromising the safety of other road users. These products have been approved for use on the NSW network.