NHTSA - People Saving People

Motorcycle Safety Improvement Plan

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

JUNE 2001








Table Of Content


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is dedicated to reducing traffic crashes, saving the lives of vehicle occupants, as well as pedestrians and bicyclists, preventing injuries, and reducing the economic losses associated with traffic crashes. Despite significant gains since enactment of federal motor vehicle and highway safety legislation in the mid 1960's, the toll of traffic crashes remains tragically high. Crash information collected by NHTSA's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) indicated that in 2000, traffic crashes killed an estimated 41,800 people in the United States and injured approximately 3.1 million people (based on preliminary estimates). In 1999, FARS reported that 41,717 people were killed and another 3.24 million were injured. This represents a heavy toll on families and costs the country over $150 billion in medical and other costs. Traffic crashes continue to account for 94 percent of transportation fatalities and 99 percent of the injuries, and represent the leading cause of death for people ages 5-29.

Recent data suggest that deaths and injuries attendant to motorcycle crashes are becoming a larger element in the public health problem of traffic safety. Motorcyclist deaths and injuries have been increasing annually since 1997. While total traffic deaths increased only slightly during 2000, motorcycle deaths were up by a substantial 8 percent in just one year. Since reaching an historic low in 1997 (2,116), motorcyclist fatalities have increased 27 percent to an estimated 2,680 in 2000. Consequently, NHTSA and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) believe that a renewed national effort needs to take place at all levels - federal, state, and community - in order to reduce the number of motorcycle crashes, fatalities, and injuries. The United States Department of Transportation's strategic plan for 2000-2005 includes a new goal to reduce motorcycle-related fatalities by 5 percent by 2005. While this may not seem like a difficult goal to achieve, it will take a coordinated effort throughout the motorcycling community to reverse the recent fatality trend and further reduce the number of motorcyclist fatalities from the 1999 level. The motorcycle safety program plans to achieve this goal by making progress in these areas:

NHTSA and FHWA intend to continue to serve as leaders and major partners in motorcycle safety. Therefore, the agencies have developed this plan to respond to and support the framework of the recently released National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety (DOT-HS 809 156, November 2000).

Table Of Content


Motorcyclist fatalities - bar chart Motorcycle safety is a priority for NHTSA. The increase in motorcycle deaths and injuries calls for new program actions to supplement existing initiatives. Motorcyclist fatalities increased by almost 8 percent in 2000, following a similar annual increase of 8 percent each year from 1997 to 1999. This consists of an estimated 2,680 motorcyclist deaths in 2000 (based on preliminary estimates), compared to 2,483 riders killed in 1999. Another 50,000 riders were injured in 2000.

There have been periods of major improvement in motorcycle safety since federal laws and programs were first enacted about 35 years ago. But upward trends sound a warning that the effects of earlier improvements are waning. And, this unfortunate reversal is occurring just as other major safety trends, such as traffic deaths for other vehicle types, are showing an encouraging trend downward. In spite of the safety community's best efforts, crash data indicate unmistakably that riding a motorcycle continues to be a risky endeavor. It is in fact the most hazardous means of travel in the United States.

Vehicle Occupants Killed by Vehicle Type - Pie chart

Efforts by the motorcycle community to improve safety face difficult challenges. Although national data show that trends in crashes involving motorcycles shift to some degree over time, the big issues surrounding motorcycle safety - such as rider protection during crashes, the need for rider training, and the impairing effects of alcohol - are extant from year to year. The effects of a crash involving a motorcycle can often be devastating. NHTSA estimates that 80 percent of motorcycle crashes result in rider injury or death.

Fatality Rates Per 100 Million VMT Chart Exposure Factors: Motorcycle crashes tend to be over-represented in the overall crash picture. In 1999, motorcyclists represented less than 2 percent of all registered vehicles in the United States and accounted for only 0.4 percent of vehicle miles traveled, but crashes involving motorcycles accounted for 6 percent of total traffic fatalities on U.S. roadways. The trends measuring crash outcome have not changed substantially in recent years. Exposure as measured in terms of miles of travel in 1998 suggest that motorcyclists were about 16 times as likely to die in a crash than someone riding in a passenger car, and they are 3 times as likely to be injured.

Recent analyses of trends in motorcyclist fatalities over the past 10 years showed that fatalities in the 20 to 29 year old age group, the group with consistently the highest annual number of motorcycle fatalities, decreased, while fatalities in the 40 and over age groups increased in recent years. In addition, rural motorcycle fatalities have been increasing and surpassed urban fatalities in 1998 and 1999.

Fatality Rates Per 100,000 Registered Vehicles - Chart

Alcohol: Motorcycle operator impairment from alcohol is a serious problem. In 1999, 28 percent of fatally injured motorcycle operators were intoxicated at 0.10 or higher blood alcohol concentration (BAC), and another 10 percent were reported to be at 0.01 to 0.09 BAC. In single vehicle motorcycle crashes, nearly 50 percent of the fatally injured motorcyclists were intoxicated with a BAC .10. Blood-alcohol levels below legal limits are known to impair critical riding skills and decision-making. The risk entailed in drinking and then riding has been compounded by other risk-taking behavior. Data indicated that only 42 percent of intoxicated motorcycle operators killed wore helmets, compared with 62 percent for those who were sober. The 30-39 age group operators killed had the highest alcohol use among all rider age groups (12% BAC 0.01-0.09, 46% BAC 0.10+). About half (51 percent) of 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 0.10 BAC. More than 5 percent of motorcycle operators in fatal crashes had at least one prior conviction for driving while intoxicated compared to less than 4 percent of passenger vehicle drivers.

Motorcyclist Fatalities By Age Group - Chart

Licensing: Nearly one out of six motorcycle operators (15 percent) involved in fatal crashes in 1999 were operating the vehicle with an invalid license at the time of the collision, while only 11 percent of drivers of passenger vehicles in fatal crashes did not have a valid license. Nearly 30 percent of the motorcycle operators killed in 1999 did not have a valid license with proper endorsements for motorcycles. Motorcycle operators involved in fatal traffic crashes were more than 1.5 times as likely as passenger vehicle drivers to have a previous license suspension or revocation (20 percent and 13 percent, respectively).

Driver Involved In Fatal Crashes By Driver BAC - Chart

Helmet Use: Helmets worn as part of a motorcyclists' protective gear are known to be very effective in a crash. NHTSA estimates that helmets saved the lives of 551 motorcyclists in 1999. If all motorcyclists had worn helmets, an additional 326 lives could have been saved. Helmets are estimated to be 29 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcyclists. Helmets cannot protect the rider from most types of bodily injuries. A recent NHTSA study showed that motorcycle helmets are 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries. According to NHTSA's National Occupant Protection Use Survey, a nationally representative observational survey of motorcycle helmet, safety belt, and child safety seat use, helmet use was 72 percent for motorcycle operators in 2000.

motorcycle Operator License Status - Chart According to previous NHTSA surveys, helmet use was reported to be near 100 percent at sites with helmet use laws governing all motorcycle riders, as compared to 34 to 54 percent at sites with no helmet use laws or laws limited to minors. As of April 1, 2001, 20 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico required helmet use by all motorcycle operators and passengers. In another 27 states, only persons under a specific age, usually 18, were required to wear helmets. Three states had no laws requiring helmet use. NHTSA estimates that $13.2 billion was saved from 1984 through 1999 because of the use of motorcycle helmets. An additional $11.1 billion would have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets.

Motorcyclist Helmet Use In Fatal Crashes - Chart Observed Helmet Use - Chart

Table Of Content


The emergence of a broadly-supported National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety represents a significant event in the history of motorcycle safety. In 1997, NHTSA partnered with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF), a national, nonprofit organization promoting the safety of motorcyclists, to provide the leadership and resources to create the National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety (National Agenda). The National Agenda is a strategic planning document designed to provide a shared vision for future motorcycle safety efforts by incorporating input from a broad, multi-disciplinary spectrum of stakeholders. Developing this framework involved participation by experts in industry, research, safety, training, and rider communities (representing law enforcement, health care, media, insurance companies). The result was a collaborative document that examines components of motorcycle safety programs at local, state and federal levels, and offers strategies for broad-based support and action.

The National Agenda is expected to garner broad support by members of the motorcycle and traffic safety communities. It serves as a comprehensive, national blueprint which all interests can use to promote and enhance safety at the local, state and federal level. As such, it can guide the efforts of a myriad set of groups at all levels where safety problems are encountered.

The National Agenda was a crucial resource in helping to guide development of the NHTSA motorcycle safety plan demonstrating the agency's commitment to supporting the National Agenda.

Table Of Content


In general, NHTSA's current approach to improving motorcycle safety is straightforward. We recognize motorcycle safety among our major priorities. This is an area traditionally promoted by the agency through highway safety grants to states, technical assistance to safety programs, data collection and analysis, and regulatory initiatives designed to ensure safe operation and rider protection. Our resources have been allocated to these broad activities since the agency's inception in the late 1960's. NHTSA's goal has remained one of intensifying the focus we bring to safety problems inherent in motorcycle operation. Our approach entails safety leadership nationally and internationally. We work to encourage safety efforts by all segments of the U.S. motorcycle community, and we collaborate with international organizations and governments as well. We value partnerships and interaction with stakeholders as a crucial means to allow us to collaborate on how to improve safety.

NHTSA and FHWA will continue to actively collaborate to improve motorcycle safety by partnering to address the specific needs of motorcyclists by implementing roadway infrastructure-related activities and through engineering, enforcement, education, and emergency medical services.

Specifically, NHTSA has emphasized a comprehensive approach to motorcycle safety that focuses on three areas: (1) preventing motorcycle crashes; (2) mitigating rider injury when crashes occur; and (3) providing rapid and appropriate emergency response once a crash has occurred, as shown in the following table. Crash prevention activities address rider impairment by devising programs to decrease the proportion of alcohol-impaired crash death and injury. The agency develops effective rider training programs and seeks to increase the number of properly licensed motorcyclists. NHTSA promotes "share the road" and other motorist awareness activities and strives to make on-road operation safer through enhanced conspicuity and vehicle safety. Injury mitigation stresses promoting use of protective gear such as helmets that meet the federal safety requirement, and other protective riding gear, and supporting helmet usage laws governing riders of all ages. After a crash has occurred, an injured rider's life can depend on rapid and appropriate emergency medical response. Emergency medical service personnel provide life support at the scene and during the transport to optimal emergency care facilities. Bystander care programs are an important component of emergency response efforts.

NHTSA'S Motorcycle Safety Program(1)

  Human Vehicle Environment
  • Rider Education/Licensing
  • Impaired Riding
  • Motorist Awareness
  • State & Employer Safety Programs
  • Brakes, Tires, and Controls
  • Lighting and Visibility
  • Compliance Testing and Investigations
  • Roadway Design, Construction, Operations and Preservation
  • Roadway Maintenance
  • Use of Protective Gear
  • Roadside Design, Construction, and Preservation
  • Education and Assistance to EMS
  • Bystander Care
  • Training for Law Enforcement
  • Data collection & analysis

Table Of Content


NHTSA's Motorcycle Safety Improvement Plan encompasses major areas of concern, including behavioral and vehicle research, as well as the need to obtain data on specific aspects of motorcycle crashes. It also addresses issues of roadway design to enhance operator safety. The plan builds on current and past efforts, and also addresses a number of concerns raised in the National Agenda. The plan presents the priorities and specific program initiatives that NHTSA intends to pursue in the near term. It offers flexibility for NHTSA to collaborate with its partners, particularly FHWA, on roadway safety infrastructure, including needed initiatives in subsequent years. The plan is also consistent with our legislative responsibilities and reflects sound crash and injury analysis and research.

The Motorcycle Safety Improvement Plan's components are presented next, addressing the areas of: Improvements in Rider and Motorist Behaviors; Vehicular Operational Safety; Crash and Injury Data and Analysis; Roadway Infrastructure Safety; and Emergency Response System.

Table Of Content


The majority of NHTSA's resources devoted to improving motorcycle safety will continue to address the major behavioral issues related to motorcycle rider and operation safety. This is the area offering the greatest safety payoff for motorcycling. NHTSA's areas of emphasis are focused primarily on crash prevention by increasing the effectiveness of operator licensing systems, supporting rider education, decreasing rider impairment, and improving motorist awareness. NHTSA also sees value in seizing opportunities to mitigate crash injury, by promoting usage of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 218 compliant helmets and other protective gear.

Table Of Content

Rider Licensing, Training, and Crash Avoidance Skills

The National Agenda made several recommendations for Licensing, Training, and Crash Avoidance Skills. This plan addresses the following recommendations: identify and remove barriers to obtaining a motorcycle endorsement; increase the number of states conducting Motorcycle Safety Program Assessments; establish benchmarks for rider education and training effectiveness and program operation excellence; and conduct research to determine which rider crash avoidance skills are most important.

Many states are making progress towards a systematic, integrated method of delivering licensing and training programs for motorcyclists in a way that improves the effectiveness of the training and ensures training adequacy to achieve safe operation of their vehicles. While NHTSA is aware of this type of success in several states, there is no single repository for what can be considered as representing best practices. Without such a resource, NHTSA as well as the motorcycling community and vehicle manufacturers, are not able to share with other states meaningful ways to improve the licensing and training process. NHTSA will address this need by providing resources to assess state licensing and training practices and then disseminate "best practices" as models for use by other states.

NHTSA will encourage states to request and use the Motorcycle Safety Technical Program Assessments (MSTPAs) provided by the agency as a tool for assessing a comprehensive motorcycle safety program, including training and licensing. NHTSA will conduct three MSTPAs each fiscal year.

To learn more about the crash avoidance skills of riders, NHTSA will work with various user groups to survey braking and lane positioning skills and capabilities of motorcyclists. NHTSA will work in cooperation with a variety of user groups to refine available taxonomies to identify crash avoidance skills likely to be amenable to training intervention. Also, a subset of motorcycle crashes will be analyzed to identify causal factors that match the elements of the taxonomy. This will be used to identify specific skills that will provide the greatest payoff in reducing crashes. Subsequently, NHTSA will partner with motorcycle training specialists to support development of techniques for improving relevant skills.

Action Projected Completion
Conduct 3 MSTPAs each year Ongoing
Refine available taxonomies and analyze crashes Winter 2003
Conduct workshops with motorcycle training specialists Spring 2004
Assess state licensing and training practices Spring 2004
Survey braking and lane positioning rider training/capabilities of motorcyclists Spring 2004
Disseminate "best practices" on training and licensing practices Summer 2005

Table Of Content

Alcohol and Other Impairment

The National Agenda recommendations for Alcohol and Other Impairment include: study how alcohol, drugs and other substances, including over-the-counter medications, can affect a motorcyclist's operating skills; study the alcohol, drug and other substance use patterns of motorcyclists; continue to discourage mixing alcohol and other drugs with motorcycling; educate law enforcement about unique alcohol-related behavior of motorcyclists; and encourage partnerships with groups already involved in alcohol/substance abuse issues related to motor vehicle crashes, e.g., Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD).

While NHTSA and its partners have had success with reducing the fatality toll associated with impaired driving by operators of other types of vehicles, motorcycle operators involved in fatal crashes continue to have higher levels of intoxication (BAC of 0.10 or greater) and higher alcohol involvement in crashes.

Implementing this strategy will require NHTSA to take a critical look at existing knowledge and expertise related to reducing impaired riding in general, and determining which existing strategies and programs can be successfully used "as is" (or perhaps modified) to reduce impaired riding by motorcyclists. NHTSA will also conduct surveys and focus group research to determine what may or may not be different about the drinking and riding behavior of motorcyclists to refocus agency programs to better target agency programs to address the concerns and characteristics of motorcyclists. In the course of this work, there will be opportunities for motorcyclist surveys to "piggy-back" on exiting drinking-driver survey work.

NHTSA will support motorcycle safety administrators' efforts to address impaired riding at the state and local levels. The agency provided demonstration grants to encourage development of innovative techniques for deterring rider impairment. Based on the findings from the demonstration grants, NHTSA will create a "best practices" guide and disseminate it to the states.

Finally, there is at least anecdotal evidence that also indicates that the impact of intoxication on riding skills may occur at levels much lower for motorcyclists than for drivers of other types of vehicles. Research will be conducted to identify practical alternative methods for collecting and analyzing both motorcycle exposure and crash data. Depending on future funding, ultimately, collections and analysis of these data will permit the agency to answer questions regarding the likelihood of crashes at various BAC levels and to more effectively target those who drink and ride. For example, this type of research can tell us whether youthful riders are at a greater risk of crash involvement compared to older riders at similar BAC levels.

The agency will develop training for law enforcement in detecting the specific cues needed to identify impaired motorcyclists at lower BAC levels. An important follow-on element will be outreach and technical assistance to law enforcement officers. The agency will also study current and emerging technology that could be used for detecting impaired motorcyclists.

Action Projected Completion
Conduct focus groups to frame questions on motorcyclists' impaired driving Winter 2003
Recommend methods for determining effects of different BAC levels on high risk and impairment levels of motorcycle operators Winter 2004
Study current and emerging technology for detecting impaired riders Winter 2004
Train law enforcement in detecting specific impairment cues at lower BAC levels Ongoing
"Piggy-back" on existing drinking & driving surveys Ongoing
Distribute innovative techniques for deterring rider impairment "best practices" guide Ongoing
Disseminate/outreach to enforcement on impaired motorcyclist driving cues Ongoing

Table Of Content

Enforcement and Adjudication

The National Agenda made several recommendations for the improvement of enforcement and adjudication procedures. NHTSA's plan addresses the following recommendations: educate law enforcement and judicial officials about unique motorcycle safety issues and resources; develop and implement standardized data gathering and reporting for motorcycle crashes; and 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.

NHTSA works with law enforcement through a variety of programs. The agency is working with the Law Enforcement Television Network (LETN) to provide roll call training on licensing and alcohol issues as well as information about the National Agenda.

As mentioned in the previous section, NHTSA intends to continue to provide training to law enforcement officers to support their efforts to accurately detect motorcyclist impairment and enforce legislation aimed at deterring alcohol-impaired drivers.

Standardized information taken by law enforcement officers during the investigation of motorcycle crashes is critical for problem identification, analysis and countermeasure development. NHTSA intends to identify those data elements critical to motorcycle crash analysis and steps to incorporate these elements in police crash reports.

Individuals, including motorcyclists, who are convicted of high risk or aggressive driving behavior need to understand the consequences of their actions. Court imposed sanctions must reflect the seriousness of the offense, particularly when the behavior led to an injury-producing or fatal crash. During the development of anticipated training related to identifying, prosecuting, and sanctioning the aggressive driver, NHTSA will insure that motorcyclist awareness issues and appropriate sanctioning options for motorists who contribute to motorcyclist crashes are discussed. In addition, as training for prosecutors and judges is revised, NHTSA will incorporate appropriate motorcycle awareness and safety issues in the curricula.

Action Projected Completion
Provide training through LETN on licensing and alcohol issues Summer 2001
Identify standardized motorcycle crash data elements Spring 2002
Incorporate appropriate motorcycle awareness training and sanctioning options in aggressive driving workshop development Spring 2002
Incorporate motorcycle awareness and safety issues in updates to judicial and prosecutor training Winter 2004

Table Of Content

Personal Protective Equipment

The National Agenda made several recommendations for Personal Protective Equipment. This plan addresses most of those recommendations including: use effective strategies to increase the use of FMVSS 218 compliant helmets; educate motorcyclists about the value of protective apparel by providing an information source on related research and a forum for the exchange of information; find ways to more effectively communicate the benefits of helmet use and work toward making voluntary use of FMVSS 218 compliant helmets more widely accepted; and revise FMVSS 218.

Wearing a helmet that meets the federal safety requirement will save the lives of motorcycle riders. Helmets saved an estimated 551 riders in 1999, and if all motorcyclists had worn protective helmets, an additional 326 lives could have been saved. Currently, 20 states and the District of Columbia have universal helmet laws requiring helmet use by riders of all ages, but this is down from 25 states in 1992. Another 27 states now require helmets under a specific age, usually 18. In addition, several states have revised their mandatory helmet laws to permit riders to ride without helmets if they have a specific type of health insurance or have successfully completed rider training. Mandatory helmet use laws have been shown to be effective in increasing use. These laws, however, continue to be very unpopular with some segments of the motorcycling community. This resistence to usage laws is related, at least in part, to inaccurate information that permeates the motorcycling community about the possible dangers associated with helmet usage. Finally, results from a recent study(2) of the effects of the law changes in Florida indicate that states with mandatory helmet laws have an increasing number of riders wearing helmets that do not comply with FMVSS No. 218 (the standard for motorcycle helmets). We will continue to publicize the scientific basis that exists for promoting helmet usage as a means of saving lives and preventing injuries in a crash.

NHTSA will continue to work with the motorcycling community, protective gear manufacturers, and vehicle manufacturers to educate and promote use of helmets which meet FMVSS 218, along with the use of other types of protective gear as the last line of defense against serious injury for crash-involved motorcyclists.

The agency will partner with appropriate organizations on a five-year protective gear promotion campaign. NHTSA and the organizations will test potential messages for their effectiveness among different demographic groups in the motorcycling community. Research will be conducted to pilot test a campaign with motorcyclists. Focus group activities will be implemented, and will include helmet non-users. As NHTSA tracks motorcycle crash experiences in states which repeal their helmet laws, the agency will use the results of Texas and Arkansas studies to publicize the protective value of helmet use. This will position NHTSA to implement similar studies in Kentucky, Louisiana, Florida, and other states that may repeal mandatory helmet use laws.

NHTSA issued FMVSS No. 218, "Motorcycle Helmets," on March 1, 1974. FMVSS 218 has been amended twice, May 1, 1980, and on October 3, 1988. The 1980 amendment extended application of the standard to more helmets and the 1988 amendment added more test headforms and extended the standard's performance requirements to all helmet sizes and to improve test procedures.

NHTSA plans to propose rulemaking that includes: upgrading FMVSS 218's test procedure; higher impact attenuation test velocities; a helmet roll-off test to improve retention effectiveness; and extending the helmet test area. The agency is considering revising the standard's labeling requirement to strengthen the standard's enforcement effectiveness (e.g., to distinguish "fake" helmets from legitimate helmets). It may also harmonize the test requirements with other major international and national standards, where appropriate, for improving helmet performance based on safety need and for reducing helmet cost to consumers from more uniform helmet designs.

Action Projected Completion
Use results of Texas/Arkansas studies to publicize the effectiveness of helmet laws for all riders Ongoing
Revise FMVSS No. 218 Fall 2001
Test messages for effectiveness among different demographic groups Spring 2004
Study 3 additional states-Kentucky, Louisiana, and Florida Spring 2005
Pilot-test campaign with motorcyclists Spring 2006
Partner w/others on five year protective gear promotion campaign Spring 2007

Table Of Content

Understanding Motorcyclists' Behavior

The National Agenda recommendations for Motorcyclists Attitudes include: study factors that affect and shape motorcyclists' attitudes and behavior and how they affect crash involvement; and using information about how motorcyclists form attitudes about safety issues, create programs that reduce dangerous behavior and reinforce safe behavior.

Understanding and characterizing motorcyclists' attitudes are critical factors in developing effective behavioral strategies. Specific information on motorcyclist attitudes about impaired riding, protective gear (including helmets), licensing and education, and approaches for improving other motorist awareness of motorcycle riders is necessary in order to make progress in reducing the traffic crash toll experienced by motorcyclists each year.

Fortunately, NHTSA has amassed a wealth of knowledge and experience in surveying passenger car drivers' attitudes about risky driving behaviors and traffic safety. This expertise must be used and expanded upon to identify the specific differences in attitudes that motorcyclists may have towards impaired riding, use of protective gear, licensing, and skills training in order to make our public information and education efforts on these issues more effective. NHTSA will study the differences in motorcyclists' attitudes versus passenger car drivers' attitudes.

The agency will involve and engage protective gear and vehicle manufacturers in developing educational programs to increase the use of protective gear by riders of all ages. (See Personal Protective Equipment section). NHTSA will continue to train the law enforcement community about those characteristics of impaired driving behavior that may be dramatically different for motorcyclists than drivers of other types of vehicles. (See Alcohol and Other Impairment section).

Action Projected Completion
Study differences in motorcyclists' and passenger car drivers' behavior Spring 2004

Table Of Content

Motorist Awareness

The National Agenda recommendations for Motorist Awareness include: educate operators of other vehicles to be more conscious of the presence of motorcyclists; and remind motorcyclists that they may be overlooked and provide defensive strategies for overcoming this situation.

Specific strategies designed to increase motorists' awareness of motorcyclists are needed to improve traffic safety on our nation's highways for all motorists. NHTSA will continue ongoing efforts to educate operators of other vehicles to be more aware of motorcyclists through its motorist awareness demonstration project. NHTSA will also use simulation to study the factors surrounding other motorists awareness of motorcycles. When the study is complete, the agency will develop training/licensing approaches and disseminate the findings to its partners to improve other motorists awareness of motorcycles.

Action Projected Completion
Complete motorist awareness demonstration project and disseminate findings Fall 2002
Study "Other Motorist" awareness using simulation Spring 2004
Develop training/licensing programs Winter 2005

Table Of Content


It is important to monitor the motorcycle crash experience to facilitate identification of potential factors that may hamper safe operation and rider safety. A primary interest will center on determining whether present federal requirements for effective braking action need to be revised to more closely reflect new technology already available in the marketplace. A major issue will involve evaluation of how changes in motorcycle operational and design features affect rider safety and performance.

Table Of Content

Motorcycle Design and Vehicle Modifications

The National Agenda made several recommendations for motorcycle braking. This plan addresses the recommendation to study the effectiveness of linked and antilock braking in the field. The plan also addresses the recommendation to use information from research to implement other braking-related countermeasures.

Motorcycle design characteristics have changed dramatically over the past two decades. In the area of braking technology, braking systems are radically different in the current fleet. NHTSA will study two technological advances in the area of braking - linked brakes and anti-lock braking systems - in real-world situations as a means for determining overall effectiveness and judging if major modifications must be made to motorcyclist training curriculum to accommodate their performance and adequately train new motorcyclists. NHTSA plans to conduct additional brake testing that will be used as a basis for comparing the stringency of FMVSS 122, ECE R 78, and other national motorcycle brake standards for countries such as Japan. The agency hopes to use the test data to support its motorcycle brake harmonization proposals.

Action Projected Completion
Study braking technological advances Spring 2004
Quantify braking performance and conduct benchmarking for different systems Spring 2004

Table Of Content


The National Agenda made recommendations for improving motorcycle conspicuity. This plan addresses the following recommendations: encourage motorcyclists to enhance their conspicuity; and reconsider state requirements that prohibit safe conspicuity-enhancing modifications, including safe modification to lighting systems.

In the area of vehicle conspicuity, NHTSA will continue to work with the motorcycling community to encourage conspicuity enhancements. The agency will characterize the states' requirements related to conspicuity and determine if there are key characteristics of the programs in individual states that appear to be linked to crash reductions and overall improvements in motorcycle safety. This characterization of the states' conspicuity requirements will be helpful in formulating a model requirement that could eventually be recommended to other states for incorporation into their existing programs.

Motorcycles are operated with their lamps on. This makes them more conspicuous to drivers of other vehicles. The National Center for Statistic and Analysis (NCSA) will assess the possibility of using existing crash databases to study the effect that adding daytime running lamps (DRL) to passenger cars has had on the conspicuity of motorcycles. If it is possible to conduct this analysis using existing data, NCSA will perform the analysis and document the findings in a Technical Note.

Action Projected Completion
Study states w/conspicuity requirements to determine crash reduction impact Spring 2005
Study crash data to determine if adding DRLs to passenger cars has had an effect on motorcycle safety and publish a Technical Note Spring 2002

Table Of Content


The motorcycle community has identified the need to address a number of critical safety questions, and stressed in the National Agenda that improvements are needed in the general area of motorcycle crash and injury data collected at the federal and other levels. An important issue for NHTSA to determine is the need for acquiring and analyzing motorcycle crash data beyond the information now available in the agency's current crash data collection systems.

The only major study of motorcycle crashes conducted in the United States, titled Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures (commonly referred to as the Hurt Study), was conducted in 1976-1977. The Hurt Study was the only one of its kind in the U. S. which focused solely on motorcycle crashes and possible crash causation factors. This study, large enough to do an initial identification of the issues affecting traffic safety for motorcyclists, was conducted at a cost of approximately $500,000. Its geographical focus was southern California, and involved examining and studying about 900 crashes involving motorcycles, along with more than 2,300 interviews about vehicle exposure or mileage on the roadway, and 3,600 reviews of police crash reports. The findings of the Hurt Study have helped to shape today's national and state motorcycle safety programs.

Table Of Content

Research in Motorcycle Crashes

This plan addresses the National Agenda recommendation to take immediate action by government and industry to address the critical questions in motorcycle safety through comprehensive, in-depth studies as well as studies focused on specific topics.

NHTSA will conduct an extensive, in-depth analysis of its existing databases, including FARS (Fatality Analysis Reporting System), NASS (National Automotive Sampling System) and CODES, as well as state data. In concert with industry and a research panel, NHTSA intends to conduct a formal case review of a sample of motorcycle crashes from FARS and NASS. In keeping with its goal of disseminating up-to-date information, NHTSA intends to report all analytic findings to the states, motorcyclists, the motorcycle industry, and the general public.

The agency plans to conduct research focusing on specific topics. They include: research on potential impairment at lower BAC levels; evaluating a campaign for helmet use; studying advances in motorcycle braking; studying emerging technology; and evaluating potential conspicuity enhancements. These studies are included in earlier sections of this plan.

Action Projected Completion
Conduct extensive, in-depth analyses of existing NHTSA databases Spring 2002

Conveying Research Information to Users

This plan addresses the National Agenda recommendation to develop research-based safety information that can be used easily by the consumer media and in rider education and training systems.

NHTSA disseminates its motorcycle research findings to nearly 3,500 organizations, including those representing or having interest in motorcycle safety through its traffic tech series of research summaries. As new research and program information becomes available, NHTSA will disseminate it through postings on the agency's Web page, conference presentations, announcements in partners' newsletters, and through other outreach activities, as appropriate.

Action Projected Completion
Distribute motorcycle safety research findings through NHTSA's traffic tech series Ongoing

Table Of Content


FHWA, through the Federal-aid and Federal Land highway programs, provides financial and technical resources to State, local, and other Federal agencies for the improvement and preservation of America's highway system. The design, construction, operation, and preservation of the roadway relating to motorcycle safety are of prime concern in the plan. NHTSA will continue to support FHWA's efforts in analyzing the current and future roadway issues and identifying specific actions.

FHWA has already initiated actions to address motorcycle safety needs relating to the roadway infrastructure. FHWA and NHTSA will be working closely to identify future infrastructure related actions.

Motorcyclists are justifiably concerned about the effects of roadway infrastructure smoothness on operational safety. Consequently, FHWA, working in partnership with the American Motorcyclist Association, has taken steps to improve roadway surfaces, through guidance regarding using non-slippery road sealants and repair substances. This has been carried out in combination with educational campaigns. Receiving input on roadway infrastructure related safety issues from the motorcycle community will be crucial to an effective program by our agencies.

Table Of Content

Roadway Characteristics

The National Agenda recommendations for Roadway Characteristics include: identify and prioritize roadway hazards to motorcycle operation; develop and revise highway standards on all levels -- federal, state, county, and local -- to reflect the needs of motorcyclists and encourage motorcycle-friendly design, construction, and maintenance procedures; and educate motorcyclists about the hazards created by common roadway defects and maintenance methods emphasizing riding skills required to negotiate these hazards through education and training.

FHWA will conduct a study to identify the specific roadway infrastructure related actions to enhance safe motorcycle operation. These will then be assessed and prioritized for action. New educational initiatives will be undertaken to inform the highway and motorcycle communities about the inter-relationships between the roadway and the motorcycle. FHWA will offer technical advice on such hazards which can then be incorporated into existing state motorcyclist training programs. It is important that educational and training programs offered in the states focus on the rider skills required to negotiate the roadway. These actions will comprise a stronger roadway safety program that NHTSA and FHWA will develop and offer to states, local, and other Federal agencies, and the motorcycle community.

Action Projected Completion
Identify the inter-relationships between roadway infrastructure characteristics and motorcycle crashes Summer 2002
Develop action plan, based on study, to enhance motorcycle safety through roadway infrastructure improvements and disseminate information to the highway and motorcycle community Summer 2003

Table Of Content


Part of NHTSA's mission includes mitigating the consequences of crashes. One way to lessen the severity of crashes is by ensuring rapid response by emergency personnel. NHTSA works with its partners to provide education and assistance to Emergency Medical System (EMS) professionals and the law enforcement community. The agency also develops bystander care information to prepare motorists to provide life-saving bystander care while waiting for emergency responders to arrive.

Table Of Content

First Response

The National Agenda made recommendations for improving the first response system regarding motorcyclists. This plan addresses the following recommendation: integrate a motorcyclist treatment component in first-aid/bystander care training and encourage motorcyclists to obtain this training.

NHTSA has been influential in the bystander care awareness and education arena by developing and funding the National Standard Bystander Care Curriculum and Bystander Demonstration Projects Grants.

NHTSA has developed a national Bystander Care for the Injured campaign entitled "First There, First Care". The two components of the campaign are: (1) an Awareness Program to encourage the public to stop and assist victims of motor vehicle crashes and (2) a community based hands-on Training Program to increase public confidence and knowledge for assisting crash victims.

The agency will create supplemental material to the existing bystander care program especially targeted towards motorcyclists. Specifically, NHTSA intends to develop bystander care materials for motorcyclists to give them the information and training needed to provide life-saving assistance at the scene of a crash, thus increasing the chance of survival for crash victims.

Partnering with appropriate organizations, NHTSA will distribute these materials to motorcycle organizations and other groups.

Action Projected Completion
Create supplemental bystander care program material for motorcyclists Spring 2003
Distribute to motorcycle organizations Spring 2004

1. Activities shown in italics are either implemented jointly with or conducted by FHWA.

2. Turner,P.A.&Hagelin,C.A.(January 2000).Novelty Helmet Use by Motorcycle Riders in Florida presented at the 79th Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board


NHTSA is seeking comments on this draft plan through August 9, 2001. You may submit written comments to the Docket Management System, U.S. Department of Transportation, PL 401, 400 Seventh Street, SW, Washington, D.C. 20590-0001. Comments should refer to the Docket Number (NHTSA-2001-9595) and be submitted in two copies. If you wish to receive confirmation of receipt of your written comments, include a self-addressed, stamped postcard.

Comments may also be submitted to the docket electronically by logging onto the Docket Management System website at http://dms.dot.gov. Click on "Help & Information" to obtain instructions for filing the comment electronically. In every case, the comment should refer to the docket number (NHTSA-2001-9595).

The Docket Management System is located on the Plaza level of the Nassif Building at the Department of Transportation at the above address. You can review public dockets there between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays. You can also review comments on-line at the DOT Docket Management System web site at ``https://www.regulations.gov/.''

In our response, we will consider all comments that Docket Management receives before the close of business on the comment closing date indicated above under DATES. To the extent possible, we will also consider comments that Docket Management receives after that date.

Please note that even after the comment closing date, we will continue to file relevant information in the Docket as it becomes available. Further, some people may submit late comments. Accordingly, we recommend that you periodically check the Docket for new material.

You may see the comments on the Internet by taking the following steps:

  1. Go to the Docket Management System (DMS) Web page of the Department of Transportation http://dms.dot.gov.
  2. On that page, click on "search."
  3. On the next page https://www.regulations.gov/search/ type in the four-digit Docket number shown at the beginning of this document (9595). Click on "search."
  4. On the next page, which contains Docket summary information for the Docket you selected, click on the desired comments. You may also download the comments.

This document is 508 compliant