By Michael Simms, Registered Nurse

Planning an Adventure Holiday? - Like the feel of the wind at your back?

Looking for a cheap easy way to get about?

Renting a Moped, Scooter or Motorbike to take in the sights of overseas countries sounds like a lot of fun - and for many travellers it is - but for some this is the where the holiday can become a nightmare.

Motorcycles and mopeds may be fun on the road, but they also carry a significant risk of injury. Inexperienced riders are a major cause of motorcycle accidents. Lack of experience, risk taking behaviour and unfamiliarity with local conditions play a large part as contributing factors when it comes to accidents and injuries sustained by many a traveller.

Image courtesy of Flickr user William

It is incredibly easy to rent a scooter or motorbike in many South-East Asian countries.  There are many less then reputable hire companies who will happily rent you a bike. With little more than a cursory glance at some ID - sign some paperwork and in return you receive the keys, a helmet (…well something that we hope closely resembles one!)  And a friendly wave goodbye as you set off down the road on your way to adventure.  What many do not count on are the thousands of other riders sharing the same space, poor road conditions and the lack of any real obvious traffic laws or road rules.  For many locals, stop signs, traffic lights and indicators are little more than decorative distractions that are often ignored. In Bali alone, there are estimated to be up to three road deaths per day - usually related to motorbike or scooter accidents.  In Thailand the figures are alarmingly high, with an average on 80 deaths per day of which 74% of these related to motorbikes.  Too often we end up dealing with many claims related to these types of scenarios.

If you are lucky you may just end up with a minor injury or scrape. If you are not so lucky, you can wind up sustaining serious debilitating or life threatening injuries.  Unfortunately the latter is an all too common statistic we deal with in many overseas countries.  Thailand, Bali or Vietnam are NOT places to decide that you want to start learning to ride. Even experienced riders take to the roads in these places with a healthy degree of trepidation.

The most common serious injuries are head, orthopaedic (bones) and spinal injuries.  A helmet will offer a degree of protection but is merely a cushion at best. In high impact accidents, brain injuries are caused by rapid deceleration of the head causing the brain to violently smash into the inside of the skull.  For those that survive, it may be a simple concussion but at the high end of the injury spectrum, it can cause permanent loss of cognitive functions.  Orthopaedic injuries include fractures of the limbs and pelvis, many of which need immediate operative management far away from your home. Spinal and neck injuries can cause permanent paralysis  - a devastating outcome for both you and your loved ones. Please consider wearing proper protective gear / body armor.

Lesser but still potentially significant injuries can include internal injuries and bleeding (most commonly from striking the handlebars or whatever other objects you might hit before you eventually stop), groin injuries (striking the petrol tank) and eye injuries from foreign bodies such as stones or insects (use your visor or wear sunglasses).

I’ve paid for my Travel Insurance?  Unlucky enough to be in an accident? No Problem - I’m covered - right?

Make sure you have taken out the appropriate policy and that motorcycle riding is covered. Often this is an additional option on your policy and certain conditions need to be met. 

To be covered whilst travelling – whether as a driver or passenger on a moped or motorcycle – you’ll need to choose this additional cover.

With Cover-More policies - the cover is only in force if:

  • the engine capacity is 200 cc or less;
  • you're not participating in a professional capacity;
  • whilst in control of the vehicle, you hold a license valid in the relevant country;
  • you're wearing a helmet;
  • you're not racing, riding whilst intoxicated, under the influence of drugs or behaving recklessly in any way;
  • a current Australian motorcycle license or a current motorcycle license valid for the country you are travelling in.

For further info I recommend reading the following:

http://vietnam.embassy.gov.au/hnoi/Driving_in_Vietnam.html

http://indonesia.embassy.gov.au/jakt/DrivingLicen.html

http://driving.information.in.th/

Additional Helpful advice can also be found at https://smartraveller.gov.au/