Rider Education &
Crash Avoidance Skills
& Other Impairment
Personal Protective Equipment
Alcohol continues to be a prominent factor in serious motorcycle
crashes. Other substances and causes of impairment, including prescription
drugs, over-the-counter drugs, illegal recreational drugs, environmental
factors, and drowsiness, are unknown factors in motorcycle crashes.
Alcohol and other substances have been found to be major risk factors
in all types of motor vehicle crashes. These factors appear to weigh
more heavily in motorcycle crashes than in crashes of other vehicle
types based on the following:
In 1998, intoxication (BAC > 0.10 percent) rates
for vehicle operators involved in fatal crashes were 36 percent
for motorcycles, 29 percent for light trucks, 25 percent for passenger
cars, and 3.0 percent for large trucks. An additional 9.0 percent
of motorcycle operator fatalities had a BAC of 0.01 to 0.09 percent
Safety Facts, 1998).
Forty-five percent of motorcycle operators killed in single
vehicle crashes, and 62 percent killed in weekend-night, single
vehicle crashes, were intoxicated (Traffic
Safety Facts, 1998).
Helmet use rates for intoxicated motorcyclists are lower
than for those who are sober. Impaired motorcyclists involved
in crashes are more likely to be speeding than those not drinking
Safety Facts, 1998).
Alcoholic beverages are frequently available and promoted where
motorcycles are ridden and at events targeted to motorcyclists.
Public information programs and training programs currently include
information on the dangers of alcohol and motorcycling. The effects
of alcohol on judgment and vehicle operation skills have been
studied and quantified (Moskowitz,
1988). The number of skills needed to operate a
motorcycle is known to be higher than for other motor vehicles
1974). It is unknown at precisely what levels motorcycle-specific
judgment and skills are impaired.
The effects of prescription, over-the-counter, and illegal drugs
are also unknown as they relate to motorcycle crashes. In addition,
motorcyclists are subjected to more direct effects of the environment
such as heat and cold, and it is unknown whether these play a
role in motorcycle crashes. Other sources of impairment, such
as drowsiness, allergies, etc., could also play a role, but these
have not been studied.
WE WANT TO BE
To achieve this goal of reducing motorcycle crashes where alcohol
and other drugs are factors, we need a better understanding of:
Why alcohol continues to play a role in motorcycle crashes
more frequently than in those of other vehicles.
Alcohol use and substance abuse patterns of motorcyclists.
The role of alcohol and substance abuse, including over-the-counter
medications, in motorcycle crashes.
How alcohol, drug, and other substances and conditions
impair judgment and skill.
The role, if any, that other sources of impairment play
TO GET THERE
Reducing the role of alcohol and other impairing substances in motorcycle
crashes requires additional information and programs from a variety
of sources. These should include:
Increased research on the alcohol and other drug use patterns
of motorcyclists and the incidence of alcohol and drug involvement
in motorcycle crashes.
Increased partnerships with groups already involved in
alcohol/substance abuse issues and encouragement of new programs
Studying the effects of alcohol and other substances on
motorcycle operating skills.
Increased health care community involvement in detecting
and counseling regarding alcohol/substance abuse.
Encouraging the alcoholic beverage industry to promote
responsible use of alcohol and provide non-alcoholic beverages
at motorcycle events.
Working with law enforcement to enforce current laws and
helping them recognize motorcyclists alcohol/substance abuse
We need to know if and how other potential forms of impairment
figure into the motorcycle safety picture and whether they should
be addressed with programs. In the interim, motorcyclists should
be educated that impairment does not necessarily or exclusively
derive from chemical sources.