research >>motorcycle safety
With the increase in motorcycle ridership and collisions—of which fatal collisions are rising disproportionately rapidly—there is an even greater need for tools to better understand motorcyclists’ behaviors and attitudes that affect safety.
California saw a 63 percent increase in currently registered motorcycles between 1997 and 2006, while the number of fatal collisions doubled, and non-fatal injury collisions increased by 43 percent in that same period. Yet detailed knowledge about motorcyclists’ riding habits, demographics, and other elements important to understanding these trends is lacking.
In this study, TSC researchers employed various survey and sampling techniques to determine if conducting large-scale surveys of motorcyclists would be feasible. Another goal was to add to knowledge of the characteristics, behaviors, and motivations of motorcyclists in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Field, phone, web, and mail administration survey techniques wer used. Methods to identify riders included field visits to recreational riding areas, placing leaflets on motorcycles in public commuter and residential parking areas, and posting on Internet discussion forums.
In terms of methods, results suggest that leafleting is cost-effective and tends to produce representative samples, although field sampling in recreational areas and Internet sampling were also productive.
Among the findings for the 861 motorcyclists interviewed, 37 percent said they had received no formal training, and nearly one-third of those said they had not received even informal training. More than 90 percent reported riding with a full-face helmet on least some occasions. Nearly 80 percent were male, and 85 percent were white.
While compliance with California’s 17-year-old helmet law is nearly 100 percent, the types and protective levels of helmets vary widely. This makes riders’ choice of helmet crucial to the safety effects of the law, but little is known about factors that affect riders’ helmet choices.
Researchers used data from a TSC survey of 861 motorcyclists to identify trends in helmet use among the survey participants and to determine predictors of helmet choices. This information could help in the design of education programs and other efforts to encourage the use of more effective helmets.
Ninety-two percent of respondents said they wore a full-face helmet often or sometimes, and 23 percent said they did so at least some of the time. The amount of miles the motorcyclist rode each week did not appear to be a factor in helmet choice. As age increased, motorcyclists’ use of full-face helmets fell. As the level of helmet protection fell, especially among users of novelty helmets, respondents’ confidence in their riding ability rose.
Additional multivariate analysis comparing factors such as brand of motorcycle to helmet choice could produce added dimensions that could help in the design of education campaigns.
July 2009: A Critical Review of Motorcycle Safety Countermeasure Studies and Recommendations for Future Research in the United States
If involved in a collision, motorcyclists are at a much greater risk of death or injury than occupants of cars. In 2004, motorcyclists were 34 times more likely to die and 8 times more likely to be injured from a crash per vehicle mile traveled compared to occupants of cars. Similar differences exist when basing the rate on the number of registered vehicles. The comprehensive cost of a motorcycle crash has been estimated at nearly 12 times the cost of all collisions, an indication of the severity of the injuries sustained.
Risk factors for motorcycle collisions are similar to those for other types of motor vehicle collisions, but they differ in a number of key areas, including the effect of licensing and training, vehicle design, helmet use, driver conspicuity, environmental conditions, road design, and road conditions.
There are three essential components to improve studies of motorcycle safety countermeasures in the U.S.; better collision and denominator data, a case-control study modeled off work carried out in New Zealand, and a broadened scope of domestic research to account for existing or new safety countermeasures.
Conspicuity, education, and licensing factors have all been neglected in U.S. research, as have comparative studies of the effectiveness of various helmet types. Also meriting research are the safety measures that are being incorporated into new motorcycles, such as airbags and anti-lock braking systems (ABS). It is not currently possible to study all these factors with the available databases in the U.S., but new initiatives are in place to address many of these shortcomings.
A Critical Review of Motorcycle Safety Countermeasure Studies and Recommendations for Future Research in the United States
John M. Bigham, Thomas M. Rice, David R. Ragland, Traffic Safety Center
Poster at the 2009 Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association, November 7-11, 2009, Philadelphia.
Training, riding, and motivations among San Francisco Bay Area motorcyclists
Thomas M. Rice, Traffic Safety Center, Craig Anderson, University of California Irvine, Swati Pande, Christopher Yopp, and Casey Tsui, Traffic Safety Center
Presented at the 2009 Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association, November 7-11, 2009, Philadelphia.