Need For Research
Research in Motorcycle
Information to Users
Research using a common methodology to define the crash-involved
and at-risk population is the basis for safety countermeasures.
The research that forms the foundation of current countermeasures
is based on a study more than 25 years old.
The effectiveness of the concepts discussed in this document requires
a foundation of viable and current research in most areas pertaining
to motorcycle safety. While there is a substantial body of work
relating to motorcycle safety in the United States and abroad, few
of these studies, research projects, or statistical reports were
done in coordination with one another. This renders an incomplete
picture of motorcycle safety. However, budgetary constraints appear
to make such smaller-scope studies the most likely source of information
in the near future.
Beginning in 1976 and completed in 1981, Motorcycle Accident
Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures (Hurt, 1981)
is the benchmark of motorcycle crash research. The findings of
this research provided a comprehensive research base for many
aspects of motorcycle safety.
There was a continuous decline in motorcycle crash fatalities
from the mid-1980s through 1997. The rates then turned up again
in 1998 and 1999 (FARS, 1999). However, without research to investigate
the causes of these trends, we are unable to identify which specific
countermeasures are effective or meaningful and which ones are
From the first meeting of the Technical Working Group that prepared
this document, it was apparent that our effectiveness would be
limited by a consistent lack of viable, current research in most
subjects related to motorcycling safety. Wide-ranging changes
in motorcycling and related factors have altered the motorcycling
landscape since the publication of Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors
and Identification of Countermeasures (referred to as the Hurt
Report) so thoroughly that it is mpossible to determine if the
findings of past studies are still valid.
There are few contemporary or timely crash facts, and there are
few validations for existing countermeasures that demonstrate
what motorcyclists are and are not doing safely. Major events
that have affected motorcycling safety since the Hurt Report (see
| Motorcycle design has evolved so that motorcycle typessportbikes
and cruisersthat did not exist in the 70s are now the
majority of those seen on the streets.
Motorcycles have increased in cost, engine size, and power;
suspension systems have changed drastically, fuel tank design
has changed, there are new brake systems, and lights come on automatically
when the engine is running.
Motorcyclists have changed: Currently, the average motorcyclist
is 38 years old. In 1980, the average age was 24. Also, more women
are riding motorcycles than ever before.
Mandatory helmet use laws, often with significantly different
requirements, have been enacted, repealedor bothin
State motorcycle-operator licensing requirements and operator
training are generally more stringent and rigorous.
The motor vehicle population has changed significantly.
New vehicle types such as sport utility vehicles (SUVs) that are
larger and higher than most automobiles are now commonplace.
WE WANT TO BE
The critical questions that need to be answered include:
Among the many changes affecting motorcycle safety, what
factors are responsible for the reduced injuries and fatalities
during the late 1980s and early 1990s?
Why have motorcycle fatalities increased during 1998 and
Which problems identified by the Hurt Report still exist,
and which are less significant?
What are the commonalities of successful (i.e., non-crash
What are the root causes for an automobile drivers
violation of a motorcyclists right-of-way?
Why does alcohol continue to be a significant factor in
fatal motorcycle crashes?
What is the effect of motorcyclist education and training?
How does highway infrastructure affect motorcycle safety?