The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Motorcycle Safety Program

January 2003










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Drivers Involved In Fatal Crashes by Driver BAC 0.10 g/dl or Greater Like operators of other vehicles, motorcycle operator impairment, mainly from the use of alcohol, is a serious problem. In 2001, motorcycle operators in fatal crashes had higher intoxication rates than any other type of driver. Twenty-nine percent of fatally injured

motorcycle operators were intoxicated at 0.08 g/dl or greater blood alcohol concentration (BAC), and another 7 percent were reported to be at BAC 0.01 to 0.07 g/dl. In single vehicle motorcycle crashes, 41 percent of the fatally injured motorcyclists were intoxicated with a BAC greater than or equal to .08 g/dl.  

The agency has set a goal of reducing the alcohol-related highway fatality rate to no more than 0.53 per 100 million VMT by the end of 2003. In 2001, the alcohol-related fatality rate from all motor vehicle crashes was 0.63 per 100 million VMT. In 2001, the alcohol-related fatality rate from motorcycle crashes was 14.3 fatalities per 100 million VMT, or 22.7 times higher than the rate for all motor vehicles.

The risk entailed in drinking and then riding is exacerbated by other risk-taking behaviors, such as riding without the proper protective gear, including protective clothing and a motorcycle helmet. Data indicate that in 2001, only 40 percent of intoxicated motorcycle operators killed wore helmets, compared with 60 percent for those who were sober. The intoxication rate was highest for fatally injured operators between 40 to 44 years old (42 percent), followed by ages 35 to 39 (40 percent) and ages 30 to 34 (35 percent). More than 5 percent of motorcycle operators in fatal crashes in 2001 had at least one prior conviction for driving while intoxicated on their driver records, compared to fewer than 4 percent of passenger vehicle drivers.

From 1990-1999, half of all riders killed on motorcycles with 1001-1500 cc engine sizes had alcohol in their blood (11% BAC 0.01-0.09, 39% BAC 0.10+). Two-thirds of 30-39 age group riders killed on undivided roadways were speeding and using alcohol, with 55 percent having at least BAC 0.10 g/dl.

A recent report Drinking, Riding and Prevention A Focus Group Study (November 2002) examined the attitudes and beliefs of motorcyclists' regarding drinking and riding and found that: (1) riders often discourage peers from riding after drinking, but a culturally reinforced respect for rider freedom and individual responsibility sets intervention boundaries; (2) rider concern for the safety and security of the motorcycle nearly always overshadows concern for individual safety and contributes to drinking and riding (i.e., leaving the motorcycle and getting home an alternative way); and (3) motorcycle impoundment and court-ordered payment for vehicle storage, alcohol treatment programs, and other costs are considered persuasive countermeasures that seem to deter drinking and riding. The results suggested that the integration of social norm models into drinking-and-riding prevention programming may be a promising approach.

In order to combat the impaired rider problem, NHTSA has ongoing programs and is currently developing new strategies based on knowledge learned from recent studies. The agency will continue to work with law enforcement organizations at the National, State, and local levels to develop strategies to more aggressively enforce impaired riding laws. Moreover, NHTSA will work to ensure that impaired riding laws will be fully prosecuted and adjudicated. NHTSA will also work with National prosecutorial and judicial organizations to educate their members on impaired riding related issues.

NHTSA's Rider Impairment Program:

    arrow Complete Alternative Methodologies for Determining Alcohol Crash Risk Project. NHTSA will assess the feasibility of alternative approaches to determine the relative risk of alcohol-impaired riders. The research project is intended to provide information regarding a variety of approaches (e.g. case-control method) that may be used to determine crash risks among riders who drink. Targeted completion date March 2003

    arrow Conduct Pilot Tests of Recommendations from the Alternative Methodologies for Determining Alcohol Crash Risk Project. The agency will pilot test the most feasible and effective data collection methodologies from the Alternative Methodologies for Determining Alcohol Crash Risk project discussed above. Targeted completion date To be determined upon completion of Alternative Methodologies for Determining Alcohol Crash Risk Project.

    arrow Conduct a Series of National Motorcycle Leadership Meetings to Address Impaired Riding. The agency recognizes that it will take more than just public information and education to solve the impaired riding problem. Under the auspices of the National Agenda, NHTSA in partnership with MSF, will convene the National motorcycling organizations to discuss issues related to impaired riding and encourage the leadership to begin to make policy changes within their organizations to discourage the use of alcohol at sponsored events. Targeted completion date October 2003

    arrow Complete Impaired Riding Demonstration Projects. NHTSA will complete two demonstration projects that test different strategies designed to reduce the number of alcohol-related motorcycle crashes. Enforcement of existing impaired driving laws; providing safe rides home, not only for the motorcyclists but also for the motorcycle itself; and public information and education targeting motorcyclists and their family members are key components of these efforts in Minnesota and Hawaii. The results of these demonstration projects will be analyzed and provided to States to use in their programs to impact impaired riding. Targeted completion date December 2003

    arrow Establish a Partnership with the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) to Develop Education Messages and Prevention Strategies. To reach motorcyclists at organized motorcycling events such as sanctioned AMA races, NHTSA entered into partnership with the AMA to develop specific impaired riding messages targeting motorcyclist event attendees to include the incorporation of NHTSA's current "Friends Don't Let Friends Ride Drunk" and "You Drink & Drive-You Lose" campaigns. Additionally, NHTSA will work with the AMA to provide alcohol server training to event management and race staff. Initial materials for this project will be released in Spring 2003. Targeted completion date August 2005