Motorcycle Crash Study Gets More Funding

The MIC chips in another 200,000 to the Motorcycle Crash Causation Study, and the AMA addresses the dangers of distracted drivers with a new Public Service Announcement.

If you're a motorcyclist, last summer's announcement that a new major motorcycle crash study was finally slated to begin at Oklahoma State University was good news indeed.But it's also proving to be costly; current estimates project a figure somewhere north of $6 million, a dramatic increase from the original amount of $4 million when the new Motorcycle Crash Causation Study was first announced.

At that point, Motorcycle Safety Foundation members pledged over $2 million to match the $2 million in funding granted by the feds. Then, last month, the Motorcycle Industry Council said it would contribute an additional $200,000. When you add this figure to the $2.8 million already in the till from Motorcycle Safety companies, total contributions from the industry now equal $3 million. And it's sorely needed.

The study would end a 26 year drought of motorcycle traffic safety information; the last (and most comprehensive) log of data on the causes of motorcycle accidents came out with the Hurt Study in 1981. In over a quarter of a century, however, a lot has changed. Almost 11 million street bikes have been sold in the U.S., and the rider population has swelled to over 6.5 million. Even more significant is the average age of riders. In 1985, the typical rider was 27 years old. Today, he's 41.

"We need new field research that might help us further refine our safety initiatives," said Tim Buche, president of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation."There's a long list of things that have changed over the years". Motorcyclists still tend to be about 0.5% of vehicle miles traveled, Buche said, "but motorcycle fatalities are approximately 10% of all roadway fatalities in the United States."

Changes that have cropped up in recent smaller studies show that more fatalities are now related to negotiating a curve prior to a crash, and more deaths are occurring on rural, rather than urban, roadways. The new study will be based at Oklahoma Transportation Center and conducted by Samir Ahmed, the Oklahoma State University civil engineering professor in charge of the research.Unfortunately, due to layers of governmental bureaucracy, the pilot study won't even begin until spring 2008.

Warning: Distracted Drivers Ahead

In related news, Ed Moreland, AMA vice president for government relations, announced the release of a Public Service Announcement made in conjunction with Nationwide Insurance. In this interview, he discusses how the AMA is trying to reduce motorcyclist fatalities on U.S. roadways.

1) "Distracted Drivers" is the latest public service announcement from The American Motorcyclist Association and Nationwide Insurance. Why on that topic?

EM: Nationwide's recent "Life on the Go" survey found that roads are full of distracted motorists, with 73 percent of respondents admitting they use their cell phone while driving. More evidence is pointing to distracted drivers as the cause of motorcycle crashes involving another vehicle. We wanted to remind drivers to put down their phones, lattes and make-up, and pay attention to the road.

2) With gas prices reaching new highs, more people are purchasing motorcycles and scooters. What advice do you have for new riders?

EM: First, take a motorcycle training safety course. Even if you've been riding for years, you'll find new skills in a safety course. Plus, some companies, like Nationwide, will give you a discount on your insurance for completing a safety course. Second, consider your first bike purchase carefully. A smaller bike may be the best choice for those new to motorcycling.

** 3) While participation in motorcycling is increasing, there are also more RVs and trailers on the road. What tips would you offer to drivers sharing lane space with motorcyclists?**

EM: First, don't simply rely on the rearview and side mirrors to check who is sharing the road with you. It is especially easy for motorcycles to visually disappear within the blind spots on recreational vehicles. Always use your signal and physically turn your head to check before merging. Second, make sure any items you're storing on or outside your vehicle are securely tied down. It's especially critical for drivers towing a trailer to check for adjustments at every stop.

4) I have seen a number of stories lately about the rise in motorcyclist fatalities. What is causing this increase and what can be done to change the pattern?

EM: Part of the reason motorcyclist fatalities are up is due to the fact that there are more motorcyclists. According to the Motorcycle Industry Council, sales increased 34% between 1998 and 2003. Other factors have been the proliferation of larger vehicles, and the expanding use of cell phones and other driver distractions.

Through a grant from the US government and contributions of the motorcycle community, a comprehensive crash causation study is going to be conducted by Oklahoma State University. When the study is completed, we will be better equipped to understand how to prevent crashes and ultimately reduce fatalities on roadways.

5) How can the motorcycling community and the public support the new motorcycle crash study?

EM: The government has agreed to match money raised by the motorcycle community to complete the study. So far, through significant contributions from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, the Motorcycle Industry Council, the AMA and individual riders, the community has been able to make available over $3 million.

Additionally, AMA has established a web site to allow other riders to contribute to the effort through our "Fuel the Fund" program - one tank's worth of gas at a time. So far, individual riders have given over $20,000. Riders can find more information at www.amadirectlink.com/study/.
You can view the PSA at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPGazsBjxF4