NHTSA: Motorcycle Crash Pilot Study

Motorcycle Study

The number of motorcyclist crash-related fatalities has more than doubled during the past 10 years. In the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) P.L. 109-59, Congress directed the Secretary of Transportation to conduct a comprehensive study of the causes of motorcycle crashes.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has published the results from the pilot study that tested methodologies to be used in a more in-depth investigation into motorcycle crashes, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports.

The larger study is now under way at the Oklahoma Transportation Center, a well-respected research facility, under the supervision of Oklahoma State University (OSU).

"The AMA has long advocated for, and supported, a new federal study into the causes of motorcycle crashes and motorcyclist fatalities, particularly in light of evolving demographics and changing technology," said AMA Senior Vice President for Government Relations Ed Moreland.

"A comprehensive motorcycle crash study is long overdue, and this pilot study is the first step to making sure we collect the data necessary and employ the proper procedures to learn lessons that will save lives."

The current report does not focus on crash data from the scaled-down pilot investigation, but rather the investigative procedures that are crucial to the integrity of the OSU study.

"Motorcycle Crash Causes and Outcomes: Pilot Study" describes the processes investigators used to collect crash data, the type of data collected and offers recommendations for a larger motorcycle crash study that’s partially funded by a $100,000 grant from the AMA.

The motorcycle crash pilot study can be downloaded here. This publication is distributed by the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in the interest of information exchange.

In 2005, Congress approved the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, and the legislation called for the study. Lawmakers pledged $2.8 million for the research, and asked the motorcycling community to pitch in.

In 2007, the AMA committed $100,000, and AMA members contributed an additional $27,000 through the AMA Fuel the Fund campaign. Since then, six state safety programs — New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas and Wisconsin — have pledged another $560,000.

Westat, based in Rockville, Md., and Dynamic Science Inc., based in Anaheim, Calif., conducted the pilot study for the federal government. Over a three-month data-collection period, investigators worked with five police agencies in seven jurisdictions. Notifications were received on 53 motorcycle crashes, of which 23 cases were completed. Investigators concluded that data collection is the most-challenging aspect of such a study and offer suggestions to improve that process.

The pilot study reports that the average cost per completed case is $7,500, which includes a margin for dropped cases. However, this figure includes data collection only and does not include overhead costs of forms, manuals, other equipment and back-office support.

The last major motorcycle crash causation study, commonly called the "Hurt Report" in reference to its lead researcher, the late professor Hugh H. "Harry" Hurt, was completed in 1980.

The Hurt Report provided a wealth of data that has been used to develop training and strategies to help keep riders safer on the road. In the decades since, the traffic environment has changed enormously, prompting the AMA to begin campaigning for a new study several years ago.

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