The increased popularity of mopeds and motor scooters : exploring usage patterns and safety outcomes

Blackman, Ross Alexander (2012) The increased popularity of mopeds and motor scooters : exploring usage patterns and safety outcomes. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Increased use of powered two-wheelers (PTWs) often underlies increases in the number of reported crashes, promoting research into PTW safety. PTW riders are overrepresented in crash and injury statistics relative to exposure and, as such, are considered vulnerable road users. PTW use has increased substantially over the last decade in many developed countries. One such country is Australia, where moped and scooter use has increased at a faster rate than motorcycle use in recent years. Increased moped use is particularly evident in the State of Queensland which is one of four Australian jurisdictions where moped riding is permitted for car licence holders and a motorcycle licence is not required.

A moped is commonly a small motor scooter and is limited to a maximum design speed of 50 km/h and a maximum engine cylinder capacity of 50 cubic centimetres. Scooters exceeding either of these specifications are classed as motorcycles in all Australian jurisdictions.

While an extensive body of knowledge exists on motorcycle safety, some of which is relevant to moped and scooter safety, the latter PTW types have received comparatively little focused research attention. Much of the research on moped safety to date has been conducted in Europe where they have been popular since the mid 20th century, while some studies have also been conducted in the United States. This research is of limited relevance to Australia due to socio-cultural, economic, regulatory and environmental differences. Moreover, while some studies have compared motorcycles to mopeds in terms of safety, no research to date has specifically examined the differences and similarities between mopeds and larger scooters, or between larger scooters and motorcycles.

To address the need for a better understanding of moped and scooter use and safety, the current program of research involved three complementary studies designed to achieve the following aims: (1) develop better knowledge and understanding of moped and scooter usage trends and patterns; and (2) determine the factors leading to differences in moped, scooter and motorcycle safety.

Study 1 involved six-monthly observations of PTW types in inner city parking areas of Queensland’s capital city, Brisbane, to monitor and quantify the types of PTW in use over a two year period. Study 2 involved an analysis of Queensland PTW crash and registration data, primarily comparing the police-reported crash involvement of mopeds, scooters and motorcycles over a five year period (N = 7,347). Study 3 employed both qualitative and quantitative methods to examine moped and scooter usage in two components: (a) four focus group discussions with Brisbane-based Queensland moped and scooter riders (N = 23); and (b) a state-wide survey of Queensland moped and scooter riders (N = 192).

Study 1 found that of the PTW types parked in inner city Brisbane over the study period (N = 2,642), more than one third (36.1%) were mopeds or larger scooters. The number of PTWs observed increased at each six-monthly phase, but there were no significant changes in the proportions of PTW types observed across study phases. There were no significant differences in the proportions or numbers of PTW type observed by season.

Study 2 revealed some important differences between mopeds, scooters and motorcycles in terms of safety and usage through analysis of crash and registration data. All Queensland PTW registrations doubled between 2001 and 2009, but there was an almost fifteen-fold increase in moped registrations. Mopeds subsequently increased as a proportion of Queensland registered PTWs from 1.2 percent to 8.8 percent over this nine year period. Moped and scooter crashes increased at a faster rate than motorcycle crashes over the five year study period from July 2003 to June 2008, reflecting their relatively greater increased usage. Crash rates per 10,000 registrations for the study period were only slightly higher for mopeds (133.4) than for motorcycles and scooters combined (124.8), but estimated crash rates per million vehicle kilometres travelled were higher for mopeds (6.3) than motorcycles and scooters (1.7). While the number of crashes increased for each PTW type over the study period, the rate of crashes per 10,000 registrations declined by 40 percent for mopeds compared with 22 percent for motorcycles and scooters combined.

Moped and scooter crashes were generally less severe than motorcycle crashes and this was related to the particular crash characteristics of the PTW types rather than to the PTW types themselves. Compared to motorcycle and moped crashes, scooter crashes were less likely to be single vehicle crashes, to involve a speeding or impaired rider, to involve poor road conditions, or to be attributed to rider error. Scooter and moped crashes were more likely than motorcycle crashes to occur on weekdays, in lower speed zones and at intersections. Scooter riders were older on average (39) than moped (32) and motorcycle (35) riders, while moped riders were more likely to be female (36%) than scooter (22%) or motorcycle riders (7%). The licence characteristics of scooter and motorcycle riders were similar, with moped riders more likely to be licensed outside of Queensland and less likely to hold a full or open licence. The PTW type could not be identified in 15 percent of all cases, indicating a need for more complete recording of vehicle details in the registration data.

The focus groups in Study 3a and the survey in Study 3b suggested that moped and scooter riders are a heterogeneous population in terms of demographic characteristics, riding experience, and knowledge and attitudes regarding safety and risk. The self-reported crash involvement of Study 3b respondents suggests that most moped and scooter crashes result in no injury or minor injury and are not reported to police. Study 3 provided some explanation for differences observed in Study 2 between mopeds and scooters in terms of crash involvement. On the whole, scooter riders were older, more experienced, more likely to have undertaken rider training and to value rider training programs. Scooter riders were also more likely to use protective clothing and to seek out safety-related information.

This research has some important practical implications regarding moped and scooter use and safety. While mopeds and scooters are generally similar in terms of usage, and their usage has increased, scooter riders appear to be safer than moped riders due to some combination of superior skills and safer riding behaviour. It is reasonable to expect that mopeds and scooters will remain popular in Queensland in future and that their usage may further increase, along with that of motorcycles. Future policy and planning should consider potential options for encouraging moped riders to acquire better riding skills and greater safety awareness. While rider training and licensing appears an obvious potential countermeasure, the effectiveness of rider training has not been established and other options should also be strongly considered. Such options might include rider education and safety promotion, while interventions could also target other road users and urban infrastructure.

Future research is warranted in regard to moped and scooter safety, particularly where the use of those PTWs has increased substantially from low levels. Research could address areas such as rider training and licensing (including program evaluations), the need for more detailed and reliable data (particularly crash and exposure data), protective clothing use, risks associated with lane splitting and filtering, and tourist use of mopeds. Some of this research would likely be relevant to motorcycle use and safety, as well as that of mopeds and scooters.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 52685
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Haworth, Narelle, Bunker, Jonathan, & Sheehan, Mary
Keywords: moped, scooter, motorcycle, powered two-wheeler, motorised two-wheeler, road safety, rider licence, vulnerable road user, mode choice, Australia
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety - Qld (CARRS-Q)
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Psychology & Counselling
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 23 Jul 2012 07:28
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2015 02:14

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