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SECTION I--SUMMARY Safety to use along with this guide in tackling the motorcycle safety needs most pertinent to their roadway system or area of responsibility. Since the mid-1990's, motorcycle use in the United States for commuting and recreational purposes has been on the rise, with motorcycle registrations having increased 61 percent between 1996 and 2005 (NHTSA, 2006b). As the number of motorcyclists increases, it is important that the safety issues associated with this mode of travel be addressed. These issues include improved motorcycle crash reporting, personal protective equipment, proper motorcycle rider training, and roadway environment characteristics that pose a unique problem to motorcyclists. Motorcycles themselves present a unique mode of transport relative to other motor vehicles. The lack of a protected vehicle compartment means that motorcycle riders and passengers are much more vulnerable to injury in crash situations. Furthermore, the task of operating a motorcycle is much more demanding than operating a passenger vehicle. Riders must focus on coordinating speed and body lean, and managing traction and control, while navigating various surfaces, curves and conditions. While there are risks associated with riding motorcycles, this guide demonstrates how to minimize some of these risks by addressing specific objectives with detailed strategies designed to approach motorcycle safety from a variety of perspectives. Objectives of the Emphasis Area The objectives for improving motorcycle safety and increasing the awareness of the unique characteristics of motorcycles include: · Incorporate motorcycle-friendly roadway design, traffic control, construction, and main- tenance policies and practices · Reduce the number of motorcycle crashes due to rider impairment · Reduce the number of motorcycle crashes due to unlicensed or untrained motorcycle riders · Increase the visibility of motorcyclists · Reduce the severity of motorcycle crashes · Increase motorcycle rider safety awareness · Increase safety enhancements for motorcyclists · Improve motorcycle safety research, data and analysis Explanation of Objectives Considering the needs of motorcyclists during the planning and construction of roadways can reduce the likelihood of motorcycle crashes. Creating a motorcycle-friendly environment goes beyond providing a gentle alignment of traffic lanes, but also entails such things as keeping the roadway free of foreign debris, providing a safe roadside free of objects or obstacles to motorcyclists, maintaining safe roadway surfaces during maintenance projects, I-2
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SECTION I--SUMMARY and providing sufficient warning devices to motorcyclists prior to encountering potentially dangerous zones. As with all types of motor vehicle traffic, alcohol use by motorcycle operators continues to be a problem. Research shows that alcohol-related fatalities among motorcyclists are higher than in any other motor vehicle group. A NHTSA study in 2003 indicated that 30 percent of all fatally injured motorcycle operators were riding while under the influence of alcohol (NHTSA, 2004). Strategies that effectively reduce the incidence of motorcycle rider impairment should greatly reduce the number of motorcycle fatalities. A preemptive strategy to reduce the number of motorcycle crashes is to ensure proper training and licensing of motorcyclists before they reach the roadways. Even though all 50 states require separate license endorsements to operate a motorcycle and 47 states sponsor rider education courses (with 18 of those states having mandatory training programs), it was estimated that during the mid-1990's, 20 percent of the motorcycle population was either unlicensed or improperly licensed. Even more alarming was that more than 40 percent of motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes were improperly licensed (TRB, 1994). A common complaint of many motorcyclists is that other vehicle drivers often do not see them and, as a result, violate the motorcyclists' right-of-way. The Hurt Study, Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures (Hurt et al., 1981), found that riders who wore camouflage or other hard-to-see apparel were over-represented in right-of- way crashes, suggesting that conspicuity plays an important role in crash avoidance. The predominant color of motorcycle apparel is black: black leather jackets, black gloves and boots, and black helmets. The problem with black garments is that they are inconspicuous in the day and, in the absence of any retro-reflective material, invisible at night or in low-light conditions. Motorcyclists can immediately and inexpensively improve conspicuity, and thus their safety, by wearing retro-reflective material on their clothes and helmets. A study by Sosin and Sacks (1992) found more than 50 percent of all motorcycle-related fatalities were mainly attributed to head injuries. This study--along with many others--has indicated that helmets are the single most important piece of protective equipment that a motorcyclist has at his or her disposal. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that from 1986 through 1996 more than 7,900 motorcyclist fatalities have been prevented by motorcycle helmet use, with an estimated health cost savings of more than $10 billion. Increasing the usage of effective, FMVSS 218 compliant helmets is universally accepted as a key motorcycle safety goal. Implementing such a strategy on a widespread basis has proven challenging. Initial efforts to promote effective helmet usage involved outreach to the motorcycle riding community. NHTSA discovered the benefit of collaborating with a diverse stakeholder community when it launched the National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety (NAMS). Developing the framework for NAMS involved participation from experts in industry, research, training, and rider communities, as well as health care, media, insurance and law enforcement. The result was a collaborative document that gained broad-based support. However, consensus on the most effective means of achieving widespread helmet usage was not and has not been reached. To date the only proven approaches to increasing helmet usage and saving lives--legislation and enforcement of mandated helmet usage--have not been supported by most people in the motorcycle-riding community. New developments are rapidly being integrated into transportation systems and, too often, these new Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) I-3