Act Now to Make Motorcycling Safer

The AMA calls for riders to support much-needed accident research.

The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) is asking motorcyclists to contact their U.S. Congressmen in support of the most important motorcycle safety activity in years. The Association also makes it easy to do so online at the "Rapid Response" page of its site: www.ama-cycle.org.

The issue is funding for a major study of motorcycle accidents on the scale of the "Hurt Report," the landmark study published in 1981 that shed real light on what motorcyclists do right and wrong, what other drivers do that causes accidents, and the effects of motorcycle designs, roadway designs and other factors. The Hurt Report confirmed that the other guy was usually at fault in a motorcycle-car collision, that training seemed to help, that helmets save lives and prevent debilitating injuries, that road maintenance isn't as good as it should be, that making yourself as conspicuous as possible is an easy way to avoid accidents, that safety devices (crash bars, for example) on motorcycles don't tend to work, and many other important pieces of information for riders (including surprises such as the tidbit that splitting lanes is not necessarily unsafe). Unfortunately much has changed in the quarter-century since the research for that study was conducted. Back then there were no cell phones and few SUVs, the average motorcyclist was younger, widespread motorcycle rider training had not been implemented, and the motorcycles and their equipment were much different.

When the National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety (NAMS) was presented by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) a few years ago (see www.ahainc.com/nams/), it unequivocally called for a major motorcycle-accident-causation study as the most pressing and immediate need in any effort to improve motorcycle safety. Since then, motorcycle fatalities have continued to rise. Yet when the NHTSA presented its Motorcycle Safety Plan (http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/pedbimot/motorcycle/motorcycle03/index.htm) earlier this year, there was no provision for major research.

Our own Art Friedman was the Principal Investigator/Editor for the NAMS project. He comments about the research issue: "The final figures aren't out yet, but last year street-motorcycling deaths probably topped 3000, which is a more-than-50-percent increase in the last few years. Why the rise? Everybody has a theory but nobody actually knows because there has not been any research. The Feds are in a lather about SUV rollovers, which involve about a tenth as many fatalities, but they won't spend three million bucks to fund a project that could save many more lives than that. Without information about crash-causation, they are shooting in the dark--they don't know if what they hit is what the actual target. The dissemination of the Hurt Report started a period of steady annual decreases in motorcycle deaths, and I believe that part of that was because we motorcyclists learned what to do to become safer and did it. Research is the gift that keeps on giving, and motorcyclists do need to sound off to their representatives on this one."

"AMA is to be commended for taking the lead on this." Friedman added. "It's unfortunate that the NHTSA, MSF or some of the motorcycle manufacturers haven't funded such a basic aspect of rider safety, but I think some of them are afraid of what they might learn. The car manufacturers regularly fund research, but our industry, with a much poorer safety picture, doesn't spend much money. Honda has funded more than its share, but other companies have done little."

The AMA release follows. We urge readers to use the AMA's Rapid Response feature, which provides an editable form letter, lets you find who your representatives are, and send the email. The precise page is: www.ama-cycle.org/legisltn/releases/2003/G03005.asp. While there, you could also join, since the AMA does an excellent job of protecting riders' freedom.

RIDERS NEED TO ACT TO GET A NEW MOTORCYCLE CRASH STUDY

Mar. 19 - Motorcyclists are urged to contact their members of Congress to support a critical new national study into the causes of streetbike crashes.

U.S. Rep. Mark Green (R-Wis.) is asking his colleagues to sign a letter addressed to U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, urging him to support a comprehensive, in-depth motorcycle crash study to find ways to prevent crashes. The last such study--"Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures," commonly called the "Hurt Report" (after lead researcher Harry Hurt)--was done more than 20 years ago.

"With motorcyclist fatalities increasing 50 percent in just the last five years, the time to act is now," Green said in the letter.

"Initiated in 1976 and completed in 1981, the Hurt Report remains the benchmark of motorcycle crash research and, sadly, the only such comprehensive study ever undertaken in the United States," Green's letter went on to say. "The 1981 publication of the Hurt Report was a catalyst for the development of motorcycle crash countermeasures such as rider training and motorist awareness programs."

The AMA Government Relations Department is working to get $3 million for an in-depth motorcycle crash study written into legislation now being considered for reauthorization by Congress: the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21).

The new crash research would involve detailed at-the-scene study of at least 1,000 crashes to find out what goes wrong for riders.

"The Hurt Report is the study that people turn to when they're trying to figure out what causes motorcycle crashes, and what can be done to prevent crashes," said Ed Moreland, AMA vice president for government relations. "But that information is outdated. For example, motorcyclists now are sharing the road with a new mix of vehicles compared with the late '70s, and dealing with drivers who face a lot more distractions."

Motorcyclists can urge their members of Congress to sign the Green letter and to support funding for a comprehensive motorcycle crash study by sending a message through the AMA Rapid Response Center.

Since the Hurt study, over 2 million people have graduated from rider-training courses, though this may not have been one of them.
Rural accidents have increased in recent years. Why? Nobody knows.