The Federal Highway Administration will conduct an intensive study into the cause of the growing number of motorcycle crashes and deaths on America’s roads. It’s the first study of its kind in almost 30 years.
Nearly 5,300 motorcycle riders died in roadway crashes in 2008, representing 14 percent of all deaths, and 96,000 were injured. Between 1997 and 2008, motorcycle fatalities jumped from 2,116 to 5,290 — a 150 percent increase, according to the Transportation Department’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System.
In 2008 alone, deaths from motorcycle crashes rose by 2.2 percent while all other vehicle classes saw reductions in fatalities. The motorcycle fatality rate has nearly doubled from 21 per million miles traveled in 1997 to 39 in 2007.
The study was required by a 2005 federal law, the “Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act,” and will be conducted along with the Oklahoma State University. Researchers will evaluate data from hundreds of motorcycle crashes to help identify common factors, including road configurations, environmental conditions and rider experience.
The study’s focus is on countermeasures that could reduce motorcycle crashes or lessen their harm. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted a pilot study to develop the protocols for the full-scale causation research. NHTSA conducted the last major motorcycle causation study, which was completed in 1981.
NHTSA said in July it was considering requiring new safety features on motorcycles. The agency plans to decide by next year whether to require anti-lock brakes on motorcycles. An Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study showed that the rate of fatal crashes was 28 percent lower for motorcycles equipped with optional anti-lock brakes than for those same motorcycles without them.
Motorcycle fatalities are on the rise in Colorado, doubling from 45 in 1995 to an all-time high of 90 deaths in 2007, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). In the past five years (2003-2007) in Colorado, 402 riders and passengers have been killed in motorcycle crashes.
Of those riders, the majority (80 percent) were either not wearing a helmet or it was improperly used. The majority (88 percent) were men and 44 percent were age 45 or older. Alcohol was a factor in 35 percent of the fatal crashes.
Most Coloradans, riders and motorists alike, believe one of the single best things one can do to reduce the number of fatalities is to be more aware and take a rider training class. That’s why CDOT has launched a new motorcycle safety program, called ‘Live to Ride,’ to encourage rider education and motorist awareness.”
And CDOT also has developed a new motorcycle safety Web site (www.comotorcyclesafety.com) to address rider and motorist safety issues, including riding under the influence, use of proper gear, and tips for motorists.
CDOT’s new motorcycle program, MOST, focuses on training as the first step a rider can take to riding safer, and enjoying the ride longer even for those experienced riders who have been riding for years. CDOT has partnered with a number of organizations throughout the state to encourage more riders to take a motorcycle safety-training course offered by MOST-certified trainers. MOST stands for Motorcycle Operator Safety Training, and its mission is to provide high-quality, low-cost motorcycle training to residents and active-duty military personnel. MOST is administered by CDOT and offers courses that prepare motorcyclists of all skill levels to ride safely, have fun and stay alive.