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Introduction: Table of ContentsHomenhtsa

“Safety is not the equivalent of risk-free.”
— United States Supreme Court, 1972

The mission of the National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety is to point the way to the most promising avenues for future motorcycling safety efforts in the United States (U.S.). It seeks to do so by incorporating information and ideas from a broad, multidisciplinary spectrum of stakeholders. This document was created to provide guidance to those seeking to enhance motorcycling safety at the national, state, and local levels. The authors sought to apply the most objective data available in formulating recommendations. The group that created this agenda drew from a wide cross section of interests and areas of expertise.

In an effort to maintain harmony among all groups holding a stake in motorcycle safety, this document has consciously omitted specific legislative recommendations. This exclusion should not be interpreted as support for or opposition to legislative initiatives.

The goal of the National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety is to enhance and improve motorcycle safety. The National Agenda simply attempts to answer the question, “What are the most important issues in improving motorcycle safety?” Unfortunately, the answers to this question are not at all clear. A lack of research, caused by a paucity of mechanisms and funding devoted to studies of motorcycle safety, has created a shortage of information about why motorcycles are crashing at the turn of the millennium.

Despite an upturn in motorcycle sales during the last decade, motorcycle crashes and fatalities steadily declined during most of that period, but then increased again in 1998 and 1999 (NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System, 1999; see following page). The motorcycling community has invested considerable time and effort to improve its safety record through initiatives such as increased rider training and licensing campaigns. To the outside observer, this positive change may seem improbable, since motorcycles themselves have not fundamentally changed. Motorcycles continue to offer no significant protection to their users in a crash, a fact that horrifies some people used to being enclosed in a steel cage and cushioned by airbags. The very fact that a motorcycle at rest won’t remain upright without its rider or some external method of support seems ominous to some.

Attempts to alter the perceived shortcomings of motorcycles with passive restraints, an enclosure for the rider, or an additional wheel create problems of their own. Although such approaches might bear fruit at some point in the future, successful efforts to continue improving motorcycling’s safety record appear most likely to be those that focus on more established approaches, such as skills training, incremental technological advances, rider behavior, and personal protective equipment.

However, that doesn’t mean that the motorcycling community is the only party capable of or responsible for brightening the motorcycling safety picture. Some of the most promising avenues to this goal exist outside of the motorcycling sector. The larger traffic safety community, highway designers, law enforcement, the medical community, designers of other vehicles, government, researchers working in related areas, insurers, and all road users can accomplish much more toward improving motorcycle safety. The working group who prepared this agenda drew from many of those communities to consider available methods of improving motorcycling safety. Small contributions in all these areas and others appear to offer significant reductions in motorcycle crashes, injuries, and deaths.

In addition, the pursuit of motorcycle safety can assist personnel in other areas charged with stemming crashes, injuries, or deaths caused by specific problems. An agency seeking to reduce drug- and alcohol-related crashes, for example, may find that programs targeting impaired riders can be very effective.

The motorcycling community continues to have substantial opportunities to contribute. Motorcycle rider training programs have been widely implemented to help reduce crash frequency, but they are still underutilized and often lack support from the larger traffic safety community. A broader educational approach,which provides motorcyclists with practical information outside of a formal training setting, can also aid both new and experienced riders. Finally, the motorcycling community can further improve its safety record simply by creating awareness of and interest in issues surrounding the subject, both among motorcycle riders and the wider community.

The Technical Working Group (TWG)offers the National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety as a first step along that road.

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