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Social Factors: Enforcement & Adjudication Table of ContentsHomenhtsa

Motorist Awareness

Insurance Industry Involvement

Enforcement & Adjudication

Traffic Safety Community Attitude


Law enforcement is responsible for ensuring compliance with laws and regulations intended to promote and maintain highway safety, and is an integral component of motorcycle safety.

Some law enforcement agencies do not make motorcycle safety a priority and take a traditional approach toward law enforcement relating to motorcycles. For example, because motorcyclists are a small part of the motoring public, few programs are funded that proactively target motorcycles for compliance and safety programs.

Many prosecutors and judges are unaware of the factors that contribute to motorcyclists’ injuries and fatalities. Even though violations, such as riding without a motorcycle operator’s license, are associated with a significant increase in crashes and injury (FARS, 1998), there is little perceived threat for the motorcycle rider of being caught, and even less fear of the consequences.


Law enforcement agencies and the courts should recognize the importance of motorcycle safety. Agencies should participate in statewide Motorcycle Safety Program Assessments to maintain comprehensive enforcement and public education programs to enhance motorcycle safety. Enforcement programs should address specific problems related to motorcycles. Prosecutors and judges should be equitable when dealing with motorists who cause motorcycle crashes.

Technical expertise in motorcycle safety and crash investigation should be available to crash investigators. Motorcycle-specific crash investigation training should be more widely available to law enforcement investigative personnel.


Judicial and law enforcement agencies and associations should work together to promote motorcycle safety. Law enforcement agencies should involve themselves at all levels of state motorcycle safety programs to better understand the needs and aims of those programs. By coordinating with motorcycle safety organizations and working with other traffic safety groups that already work on motorcycle safety (e.g., AAMVA, MSF, NAGHSR, NHTSA, SMSA), law enforcement and judicial groups could become more aware of and involved in relevant motorcycle safety issues.

There should be a concerted effort to inform and educate law enforcement officers and administrators about other programs designed to address motorcycle safety. Areas to cover include:

• Existing materials—such as NHTSA cue cards with indicators for detecting impaired motorcyclists that differ from those of other impaired motorists—should be widely distributed and utilized.

• Law enforcement officers need the proper tools to fairly and effectively enforce helmet-use laws where applicable (see Personal Protective Equipment, page 27), such as information on how to differentiate FMVSS 218 compliant helmets from non-compliant helmets.

• Motorists who violate motorcyclists’ right-of-way should face legal consequences at least as great as if they had violated an automobile operator’s right-of-way. The public should be educated about the danger of overlooking a motorcyclist and the serious legal penalties for doing so.

• Motorcycle crash experts should be available as a resource for police crash investigators to aid in accurate analysis of motorcycle crashes (see Conveying Research Information to Users, page 13).


• Educate law enforcement and judicial officials about unique motorcycle safety issues and resources.

• Encourage inclusion of law enforcement officials in Motorcycle Safety Program Assessments.

• Develop and implement standardized data gathering and reporting for motorcycle crashes.

• Include motorcycle crash investigation procedures in the basic course given to crash investigators.

• Appropriate sanctions should be applied to those found guilty of contributing to motorcycle crashes. The sanctions, such as mandatory attendance at a motorcycle awareness course, would be designed to expand knowledge of motorcycle issues.

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