“Buddies” and “rookies”: a new method of education and training for motorcyclists

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Susanne Pröstl
Klaus Robatsch
Martin Winkelbauer

Economic reasons and urban congestion make the use of powered two-wheelers (PTW) increasingly more attractive. While injuries and fatalities among car users have been decreasing in high-income countries (WHO, 2013), the share of PTW riders among all victims still increases. For this reason and due to the severity of motorcycle accidents, motorcycle novices and motorcyclists that have not been riding for some time (“returning riders”) are the target group of this research. Examples from Sweden, Germany and Austria show that quality and extent of driver training have a significant impact on novice drivers’ risks. Furthermore, a study of the Institute for Road Safety Research in the Netherlands (SWOV) showed that trained riders scored better on safe driving when observing their riding behaviour before and after a one-day advanced rider (risk) training, both in the short and in the long term (De Craen, 2013). Thus, improving the driver training can effectively reduce traffic accidents. However, a training duration of up to two years and training mileage of several thousand kilometres can only be achieved by lay instruction models. Professional training to this extent would not be affordable. So far, no experience exists in applying such a comprehensive, holistic education model for PTW riders. In Austria, the basic driver training is highly formalised, consisting of about 5 hours of theoretical and 12 hours of practical training provided by certified professionals. Therefore, in order to offer the required education in a cost-efficient way, two additional training modules, especially targeting PTW riders, were recently developed by the Austrian Road Safety Board (KFV). Both training modules are voluntary and intended for the time after obtaining a driving license in order to foster safer driving behaviour and attitudes of motorcycle novices and returning riders.

The two additional training modules for PTW riders are an e-learning tool and a training with a “buddy” thus representing a theoretical and a practical approach. The e-learning tool addresses issues of risk perception and risk management, vehicle safety, protective equipment and related topics. These topics are prepared individually depending on the learning content and the learning target and include practical information and professional advice. The main advantage of an e-learning-based method is flexibility - users can learn according to their individual learning speed and whenever it is convenient for them. In addition, the content of the e-learning tool is customised for the preferences of the users. The main goal of the e-learning tool is to reduce the risk of accidents through a target-oriented intermediation of risk competence by raising awareness concerning specific hazards and bringing about a related change of attitude toward motorcycle riding. The second module consists of hands-on training with a “buddy”. Within this training, motorcycle novices or returning riders (“rookies”) are accompanied and supervised on the road by an experienced rider (“buddy”). The training targets the intensive build-up of driving routine and gathering of driving practice on typical motorcycle tracks. The guided "learning by doing" and the strengthening of defensive driving habits form the core of this module. Important are: the training of higher order skills (i.e. anticipation skills); the improvement of safety behaviour, risk competence and hazard perception; the increased sustainability of the previously learned issues; and the strengthening of realistic perception. The e-learning tool and the training with a “buddy” will be linked together within a matching application in the future to accomplish an autonomous “dating platform” where “buddies” and “rookies” can team up and stay in touch. Thus, motorcycle novices and returning riders get additional theoretical and practical training within one application.

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