Life-saving motorcycle technology to become mandatory in New Zealand from April

Life-saving motorcycle technology will become mandatory in New Zealand from April after years of campaigning from advocates.

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) has announced that from April 1, the fitting of anti-lock braking systems (ABS) will be compulsory for new motorcycles over 125cc. ABS or a combined braking system will be necessary for motorcycles between 50cc and 125cc.

ABS technology uses feedback sensors to control the braking force of a vehicle and prevent the brakes locking up, reducing the chance of a vehicle skidding out of control and crashing.

The move is being described by NZTA as the "most significant change to motorcycle safety in New Zealand in decades" and follows numerous studies highlighting the technology's benefit for riders.

A 2015 Monash University study into the effectiveness of ABS found the technology resulted in a 33 percent reduction in injuries from motorcycle crashes and a 39 percent reduction in severe injuries. 

The increasing evidence of the safety benefits of ABS led the European Union to pass legislation mandating the technology on motorcycles in 2016. Other jurisdictions, like India, Brazil, Taiwan and Japan have also made it compulsory.

The move is a part of the Government's road safety strategy.
The move is a part of the Government's road safety strategy. Photo credit: Getty / Newshub.

Some experts have previously questioned why New Zealand wasn't following suit.

"It is just too long full stop…[It would lead to] not just a reduction in fatalities, [but] a reduction in crashes full stop," New Zealand Motorcycling Safety Consultants chief executive Allan Kirk told Newshub in March.

"It is overdue, well overdue. The rest of the world hasn't done this for no good reason," 

NZTA general manager of safety, healthy and environment Greg Lazzaro said on Friday that the changes will "significantly reduce the number of motorcycle crashes which result from the loss of control". 

"Motorcyclists have the highest rate of deaths and injuries of any group on our roads, and the mandatory fitting of ABS technology is a much-needed step to help riders stay in control and stay safe," he said.

"ABS is a relatively low cost life-saving technology for motorcycles, but it is still not widely adopted in New Zealand. The evidence is clear that it will deliver the highest returns relative to costs of any motorcycle safety technology we have seen."

Although motorcycles only make up four percent of the New Zealand vehicle fleet, NZTA says they were involved in 17 percent of fatal road crashes between 2014 and 2018, with 248 motorcyclists killed. 

Life-saving motorcycle technology to become mandatory in New Zealand from April
Photo credit: Newshub.

"We want riders to stay safe on our roads. By mandating life-saving ABS technology, it’s estimated 34 lives can be saved and 375 serious injuries prevented over the next 26 years," Lazzaro said.

The changes - which are part of the Government's road safety strategy - were consulted on earlier this year. Research by the Ministry of Transport into the safety benefit of vehicle technologies began in 2017.

NZTA said submissions during the consultation period showed a "high level" of support from the motorcycling community.

The new rule applies to all new-model motorcycles first available for sale in New Zealand from April. Current model and imported used motorcycles will require ABS from November 2021. 

There are some exceptions such as classic and collectable motorcycles. This is because they only make up a small fraction of imported motorcycles. The NZTA also won't require existing motorcycles registered in New Zealand to be retrofit with ABS.