The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Motorcycle Safety Program
III. NHTSA’S KNOWLEDGE BASE
NHTSA has collected and analyzed data on motorcyclists since 1975. NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA) provides analytical and statistical support to the agency and to the highway safety community through data collection, crash investigation, and data analysis.
In June 2001, NCSA released Recent Trends in Fatal Motorcycle Crashes (DOT HS 809 271), a report that examined all motorcycle fatalities from 1990 to 1999. This report includes analyses from FARS, the Motorcycle Industry Council, the Federal Highway Administration, and the United States Census Bureau in exploring the recent increases in the number of motorcyclist fatalities.
Motorcyclist Fatalities in 2000 Research Note (DOT HS 809 387), released in December of 2001, compared recently released results from the 2000 FARS to the trends and rates from the earlier report.
In 1999, with motorcyclist fatalities in single vehicle crashes accounting for almost half (46 percent) of the fatalities from all fatal motorcycle crashes, the report - Fatal Single Vehicle Motorcycle Crashes (DOT HS 809 360), was written to provide insight into the possible causes for these fatalities. The analysis was based on 1990-1999 data from FARS, a census of all fatal motor vehicle crashes.
While NHTSA has a considerable knowledge base, the data analysis still does not get to the heart of the problem, or answer the question as to why motorcycle fatalities are on the rise. From recent data analysis, NHTSA has learned who is crashing and also where most motorcycle crashes occur, but needs to determine why older riders with bigger bikes on our Nation’s rural roadways are the fastest growing group of fatalities. However, basic questions remain including: What are the characteristics of motorcycle riders and their riding habits that distinguish those who are crash-involved from those who are not? What is the risk of crash involvement at increasing blood alcohol levels? What vehicle, roadway, driver, and rider-related factors are associated with the recent increase in motorcycle fatalities?
As a means of addressing some of these basic questions, NHTSA is pursuing the following motorcycle safety program to supplement the National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety (National Agenda), discussed below, to improve upon the major problems facing the motorcycling community, while also addressing safety issues emerging on the horizon.