Harry Hurt, 1927-2009

Hurt Report author dead at age of 81

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Dec. 03, 2009
Hugh Harry Hurt, author of a benchmark motorcycle safety study, died Nov. 29 from complications following back surgery. He was 81.

The “Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures, Volume 1: Technical Report”, better known as the “Hurt Report”, was published in 1981 following a review of over 900 accidents and 3,600 police reports.

The Hurt Report is recognized as the most comprehensive motorcycle safety study of the 20th century. The report’s findings led to improvements in rider training and protective gear.

Hurt also presided over the Head Protection Research Laboratory at the University of Southern California where he was also professor emeritus of Safety Science at USC.

“Harry Hurt was an icon in the motorcycling community, and there's no doubt that his research prevented many motorcycle crashes and saved many lives,” says Rob Dingman, AMA president and chief executive officer. “On a personal level, he was such a good friend to so many people. He will be missed greatly, and yet his legacy will live on and inspire all of us to achieve excellence.”

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A motorcycle rider himself, Hurt owned a 1947 Harley-Davidson 61 Knucklehead, a 1975 Norton Commando , and 1968 and 1979 Triumph Bonnevilles. Hurt also served as a Navy pilot during the Korean War.

Hurt was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2007. Hurt’s research earned him the Motorcycle Industry Council’s Key Award in 1989. Hurt was also named Motorcyclist of the Decade by Motorcyclist magazine in 1989, and in 1997, Hurt was given the Chairpersons Award from the National Association of State Motorcycle Safety Administrators.

“The most satisfying experience for any research scientist is to see public acceptance and wide application of their research results,” said Hurt in a 2007 interview with the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame. “We were thrilled that the public and industry so widely accepted and used the 1981 report.”

Hurt also expressed the need for an updated study.

“As the years passed by without further studies to update the 1981 findings, we were proud that our research was so durable, but it was apparent that current information was needed and the 1981 research was being stretched to the point of desperation,” Hurt said in the same interview. “What are the effects of many years’ changes in motorcycle riders, motorcycle design, training and licensing, law enforcement, etc.?”

Hurt is survived by his wife Joan, sons Harry and John, daughters Julie, Vivien and Vera, and 10 grandchildren.

The Head Protection Research Laboratory will hold a remembrance in Hurt’s honor in January.

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