New NHTSA Safety Proposals

Washington, DC - According to the Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF), in reading the new Motorcycle Safety Program (MSP) issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the one thing shows up pretty clearly is that the footprints of researchers outnumber the boot prints of riders.

True, the new NHTSA plan places more emphasis on rider training, acknowledges as unsatisfactory long waiting periods for rider training, takes a step closer to genuine motorist awareness and emphasizes that "crash prevention...offers the greatest potential safety benefit for motorcyclists."*

"Motorcyclists can take credit for these gains," said Tom Wyld, Vice President of Government Relations for the MRF, "but NHTSA is only leaning, rather than leaping, in the right direction toward motorcycle safety." You can view NHTSA's new Motorcycle Safety Program in its entirety by visiting their website at

Under "Crash Prevention," a NHTSA data collection priority is a "study of rehabilitation costs associated with motorcycle crash related injuries." NHTSA attempts to justify this cost study merely by stating that it would "provide a more complete picture of costs associated with motorcycle crashes." "The cost of a crash does not and cannot help anyone to prevent a crash," said Wyld.**
NHTSA issued this new plan more than a year and a half after the Motorcycle Riders Foundation, State Motorcyclists' Rights Organizations (SMROs) and academicians leveled stiff criticism of the draft "Motorcycle Safety Improvement Plan" (McSIP) the agency had proposed in May 2001. The MRF and SMROs charged that plan ignored dangerous motorists (ie, car drivers) and placed more emphasis on safer crashing (eg, protective gear) than safer riding.

The MSP's greatest weakness lies in rider training and motorist awareness. In the summer of 2001, the MRF asked the agency to get behind the joint MRF-SMRO plan for rider safety by supporting their call for a resource injection to help rider training and motorist awareness. MRF began providing their plan to Congress nearly one year ago. Today, NHTSA's rider training program continues to fall well short of the mark.

NHTSA's safety program for motorcycle safety is a shadow of the joint MRF-SMRO agenda for the reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, or TEA-21. "Motorcycles Rev the Future," the joint MRF-SMRO plan for TEA-21 reauthorization, can be seen in its entirety at

"NHTSA may have had an opportunity to hear, but the agency is not listening closely enough to street riders," said Wyld. "In the next five years, nothing will impact motorcycle safety more than the reauthorization of TEA-21. With a fresh, new $2 million appropriation for NHTSA to launch a massive study of motorcycle crashes, researchers are way out ahead of riders. It is time to accelerate this debate to get resources where they matter the most - to prevent crashes, reduce injuries and save lives."

NHTSA Motorcycle Safety Program January 2003
NHTSA’s Motorcycle Safety Program promotes the Department of Transportation’s highest priority - safe transportation. It includes only brief synopses of the many activities the agency will pursue in reducing the number of motorcycle crashes and the fatalities and injuries associated with these devastating incidents. The problem of motorcycle fatalities and injuries is not NHTSA’s alone to solve. States, local jurisdictions, national organizations and individuals each have the responsibility for ensuring motorcycle safety. NHTSA’s program focuses on crash prevention, which is the area that has the greatest potential to offer a safety payoff for motorcyclists, but also addresses the areas of injury mitigation and emergency response. Personal protection is the best weapon against injury mitigation when a crash does occur, followed by rapid emergency response.

Study of Rehabilitation Costs Associated with Motorcycle Crash Related Injuries.
Data are needed on rehabilitation costs of injuries resulting from motorcycle crashes. NHTSA is examining the rehabilitation costs associated with injuries received as a result of motorcycle crashes to provide a more complete picture of costs associated with motorcycle crashes. One of the products of this project is a model for estimating rehabilitation costs resulting from motorcycle crashes and adapting this model so that it can be applied to all motor vehicle crashes. Targeted completion date – December 2004.
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George Obradovich
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