Home » Features » Trend found in increasing U.S. cycle-related fatalities, injuries – August 14, 2006

Trend found in increasing U.S. cycle-related fatalities, injuries – August 14, 2006

Motorcyclists are more than 30 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash, a figure that’s increasing at an alarming rate.
That scary statistic is one of the findings in the 2006 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Motorcycle Safety Program Plan.
The NHTSA says the findings show an increasing trend in motorcycle-related fatalities and injuries, which show the need for new strategies as well as the expansion of existing programs. The NHTSA says motorcyclists in the United States would be safer with increased use of helmets and proper apparel, more education and training, a reduction in the number of impaired riders and an increase in motorist awareness.
On July 3, the organization released the 2006 safety program plan, a document designed to provide a shared national vision for future motorcycle safety efforts by incorporating input from a broad, multi-disciplinary spectrum of stakeholders.
The NHTSA’s motorcycle safety initiatives focus on education, enforcement, outreach and legislative efforts.
By focusing on more recent trends, the 2006 safety program plan also serves as an update to the National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety (NAMS), which was based on data from 1998 and 1999 but is still being used to assist states, local agencies and organizations develop education and training curriculum.
While some may argue the increase in motorcycle sales and units on the road is in direct correlation to increased fatalities and injuries, using the NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis reporting System (FARS) and General Estimates System (GES), the new Motorcycle Safety Program Plan revealed that motorcyclist deaths increased by 89 percent between 1997 and 2004, when — while only accounting for 2 percent of all registered vehicles and 0.3 percent of vehicle miles traveled on U.S. roadways — motorcyclists accounted for 9 percent of total traffic fatalities.
The NHTSA says, per vehicle mile traveled in 2004, motorcyclists were about 34 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash — a steep increase from 1997, when motorcyclists were 15 times more likely to die in a crash than people riding in passenger cars.
The plan also showed the motorcycle rider fatality rate in 2004 increased to 39.89 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, with 25 states at or below the national average of 6.9 motorcycle fatalities per 10,000 registered motorcycles and 25 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico above the national average.
Other trends the organization found through research in 2004:

  • 51 percent of all motorcycles involved in a fatal crash collided with another vehicle. In two-vehicle crashes, 78 percent of the motorcycles involved were struck in the front.
  • Twenty-six percent of motorcycles involved in fatal crashes collided with fixed objects.
  • 11 percent of the reported injury crashes involving motorcycles were fixed-object crashes.
  • In 39 percent of fatal two-vehicle crashes involving a motorcycle, the opposing vehicle turned left in front of the motorcycle. Both vehicles were going straight in 26 percent of the crashes.
  • 36 percent of all motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes were speeding.
    The NHTSA says the main ways to drop motorcycle fatality rates include more rider education and training as well as increased helmet use.
    The agency continues to work with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, the National Association of State Motorcycle Safety Administrators (SMSA) and other partners to enhance state motorcycle rider education programs.
    In April 2005, NHTSA published a detailed state-by-state listing of rider education and training programs to assist with the exchange of information among states; and in July 2005, the agency released Promising Practices in Motorcycle Rider Education and Licensing, a report outlining administrative efforts made by states that have implemented comprehensive training and licensing programs.
    Still to come, NHTSA plans to work with SMSA to create professional development workshops to assist states in improving their rider education programs and increase program capacity to meet student demand and reduce training backlogs.

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