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FHWA conducting motorcycle crash study

Motorcycle fatalities up 150% since 1997

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Oct. 13, 2009
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is conducting a new study on motorcycle crashes and their causes. The study will provide a better understanding of what causes motorcycle crashes and how to prevent them.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, nearly 5,300 motorcycle riders died in highway crashes in 2008, making up 14% of all traffic fatalities. An additional 96,000 were injured in crashes. Rider fatalities have risen 150% since 1997. In 2008, motorcycle crash fatalities rose 2.2% while deaths from all other vehicle crashes decreased.

“Having a better understanding of what causes these crashes will help us improve roadway safety for everyone,” said Victor Mendez, FHWA administrator. “Keeping people safe on America’s roads is (Secretary of Transportation Ray) LaHood’s top priority at the Department of Transportation.”

The study was called for as a provision of the “Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users” of 2005. Conducted by Oklahoma State University’s Transportation Center, the study will examine data from hundreds of crashes and look for common factors such as road configurations, environmental conditions and rider experience.

“The announcement that the full study will now begin is great news,” says Ed Moreland, AMA vice president for government relations. “While the study will take years to complete, it promises to offer up information that will allow for the creation of effective countermeasures to make the roads safer for all of us.”

The study will be the first of its kind in 28 years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted the last federal motorcycle crash study, the “Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures,” (also known as the “Hurt Report” after lead researcher Harry Hurt) in 1981.

“There is certainly a lot more traffic now than when Harry Hurt and his team did their research,” says Moreland. “SUVs didn't exist back then, and motorcycles have advanced light years in technology. On top of that, distracted driving poses a significant safety challenge. We will certainly learn a lot from this new study.”

Lawmakers have tabled $2.8 million for the study, asking the motorcycle community to match that figure.

“In 2007, the AMA committed $100,000, and AMA members contributed an additional $27,000 in our Fuel the Fund campaign,” says Moreland. “Since then, six state safety programs have pledged another $560,000. We hope that others in the motorcycling community will join us in supporting the crash study.”