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NHTSA mc pilot study number

October 15, 2009

So far, data from 53 crashes have been gathered as part of the study’s
pilot, which kicked off in L.A. last December to test data collection
procedures and which concluded earlier this year. That crash data will
be included in the official study of 300 crashes, which is also taking
place in Los Angeles.

Why the surge in motorcycle deaths? Federally funded L.A. study seeks answers

October 14, 2009 | 5:14 pm

The first major study of motorcycle crashes in nearly 30 years is
underway in Los Angeles, as researchers attempt to pinpoint why
resultant fatalities have soared over the last decade to constitute 14%
of all roadway deaths, despite the fact that motorcycles account for
less than 1% of vehicle miles traveled.

There are plenty of theories to explain the increase: The number of
motorcycles on the road increased from 3.9 million in 1998 to 7.1
million in 2007; motorcycles are more powerful than they used to be;
riders are older, now averaging 41 years of age; and many states have
repealed their helmet laws.

But there are no clear answers.

The last in-depth investigation of motorcycle crashes in the U.S. – the
Hurt study – was conducted through USC and released in 1981. Efforts to
update that information have been stymied by funding issues.
Earlier this month, a new study was greenlighted by the U.S. Department
of Transportation, but it’s a scaled-down version of what was originally
planned, and a leading industry-backed safety group says the sample size
will be too small to properly resolve the questions.

The National Transportation Safety Board originally recommended that the
study include a sample size of 900 to 1,200 crashes. The Hurt study
examined 900 crashes. But researchers at Oklahoma State University,
tapped to conduct the new study, said use of such a large sample would
cost $10 million to $12 million, far exceeding the federal government’s
$4.2-million estimate.

As of Oct. 1, the study was moving forward with a sample size of 300
crashes.

“The motorcycle crash rate for injuries and deaths has increased every
year for the past 10 years, so it was critical to get this study
underway,” said Cathy St. Denis, spokeswoman for the Federal Highway
Administration. “It will be one of the most comprehensive studies to be
done in years and will help prevent future crashes.”

The $3.1-million study includes $2 million from the highway
reauthorization bill, $500,000 from the National Highway Traffic and
Safety Administration, $500,000 from individual states and $100,000 from
the American Motorcyclist Assn.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation, a nonprofit group that develops rider
training courses used by most states and is funded by major
manufacturers such as Honda and Harley-Davidson, had offered $2.8
million in 2007 for a study if it included a sample size of 900 crashes.

The group refused to contribute to the scaled-down study because it
“will not provide adequate sampling to achieve appropriate statistical
significance and may not provide new insights,” the organization said in
a statement Tuesday. “This limited study will likely lend only a minimal
degree of validation to the major, already known contributing motorcycle
crash factors.”

There are about 100,000 motorcycle crashes in the U.S. each year, 5,290
of which resulted in death in 2008, according to the National Highway
Traffic Safety Administration. According to the Motorcycle Safety
Foundation, which draws heavily on findings from the 1981 Hurt study,
major crash factors include rider error, such as overbraking and running
wide in a curve; and alcohol involvement.

So far, data from 53 crashes have been gathered as part of the study’s
pilot, which kicked off in L.A. last December to test data collection
procedures and which concluded earlier this year. That crash data will
be included in the official study of 300 crashes, which is also taking
place in Los Angeles.

Preliminary results from the study will be available in a year,
according to Oklahoma State’s Alan Tree. Final results won’t be
available until at least 2013.

— Susan Carpenter

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