Traffic Tech
Technology Transfer Series
Number 203July 1999


In 1997, 2,106 people died as a result of motorcycle crashes. While this represents a 42 percent decrease in fatalities in the ten years since 1988, motorcycle riders are still at risk for crashes, injuries, and fatalities. Per vehicle mile traveled in 1996, motorcyclists were about 15 times as likely as passenger car occupants to die in a motor vehicle traffic crash and about 3 times as likely to be injured. Per registered vehicle, the fatality rate for motorcyclists in 1996 was 3.1 times the fatality rate for passenger car occupants. In 1997, motorcyclists accounted for 5 percent of total traffic fatalities, 6 percent of all occupant fatalities, and 2 percent of all occupants injured. Motorcycles make up less than 2 percent of all registered vehicles in the United States in 1996 and accounted for only 0.4 percent of all vehicle miles traveled.

As with other traffic safety issues, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) motorcycle program works to prevent crashes from occurring in the first place, reduce injuries sustained during a crash, and provide rapid emergency medical services response and better treatment for crash victims after a crash has occurred. This Traffic Tech describes activities of NHTSA's comprehensive motorcycle safety program.

National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety

The National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety is a national effort to develop a comprehensive blueprint that organizations with a stake in safety and motorcycling can use to promote and enhance motorcycle safety at the local level. A technical working group of well-respected, knowledgeable motorcyclists is collecting and synthesizing data to produce a plan to benefit motorcyclists and traffic safety overall. The technical working group has developed the framework on a number of motorcycle safety topics which will be used to create a draft agenda. A national conference is scheduled for November 1999 where interested parties can comment on the draft document. After the conference, the technical working group will analyze the comments and deliver a final document in early 2000.

Rider Training and Motorcycle Operator Licensing Support

Working with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF), NHTSA is supporting the development of the next generation of motorcycle rider education programs and materials. NHTSA supports MSF's efforts to promote high quality motorcycle operator licensing programs, including training license examiners and instructors. NHTSA, through MSF, will work with states wishing to implement extended operator licensing testing hours.

Motorcycle Safety Program Assessments

The Motorcycle Safety Program Assessment is a technical assistance and cooperative effort that NHTSA provides to states which want an objective view of their comprehensive motorcycle program efforts. Based upon Highway Safety Program Guideline Number 3, Motorcycle Safety, a team of nationally recognized motorcycle and traffic safety professionals examines seven areas of a statewide motorcycle safety program, notes the strengths and weaknesses of the program, and develops a list of recommendations that a state can use to strengthen its motorcycle safety efforts. While NHTSA facilitates the process, the final report is a consensus report of the technical assistance team.

In April 1999, West Virginia and Missouri conducted assessments of their motorcycle safety programs. Ohio, Delaware, Oklahoma, and Indiana have also conducted program assessments.

Partnership with State Motorcycle Safety Administrators

NHTSA is working with the National Association of State Motorcycle Safety Administrators (SMSA) to develop and implement a professional development workshop series for state administrators to plan, develop, and implement comprehensive motorcycle safety programs. The first workshop addresses relationships between state motorcycle safety programs and state highway safety offices and will be held in August 1999 as part of SMSA's annual meeting. Six workshops will be developed over the next several years.

Literature Review: Cost of Injuries and Source of Payment From Motorcycle Crashes

To better understand the state of knowledge and identify future research needs, NHTSA is examining the cost of injuries and the source of payment resulting from motorcycle crashes. The objectives of this project are to prepare a comprehensive and critical review of the state of knowledge about costs associated with motorcycle crash-related injuries, and provide a review of the availability of motorcycle operator insurance, coverage, and costs. Similar information has been summarized for the costs associated with motor vehicle crashes. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 1999.

Reducing Impaired Motorcycle Riding

NHTSA plans to award up to three cooperative agreements in 1999 to address the issue of impaired riding. MSF, SMSA, the American Motorcyclist Association, and the Motorcycle Riders Foundation joined with NHTSA to collect information on current impaired riding programs to serve as a foundation for this effort. This project is designed to develop, implement, and evaluate impaired motorcycle riding programs in local communities. Awards are anticipated in September 1999.

Evaluating Effects Of Helmet Law Repeals

NHTSA is evaluating the effects of the motorcycle helmet law repeals in Arkansas and Texas which occurred during 1997. The evaluation is nearing completion and is scheduled for release in 1999.

Motorcyclists Awareness Program

NHTSA will be awarding a competitive contract to develop, implement, and evaluate a program implemented at a local level to promote awareness of motorcyclists, their special driving requirements, and the need to share the road with other types of vehicles. The results will be published in an implementation guide that documents what state and local motorcycle safety programs, state highway safety offices, local law enforcement agencies, and Safe Communities can do to implement a motorcycle awareness program. Key to this effort is working with new partners that traditionally have not participated in motorcycle safety issues. Award is expected by September 1999.

For More Information

For additional information about motorcycle safety activities, contact Joey Syner, NHTSA, NTS-15, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, DC 20590, or visit our homepage at

U.S. Department
of Transportation
National Highway
Traffic Safety

400 Seventh Street, S.W. NTS-31
Washington, DC 20590

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