While highway safety experts are celebrating record seat belt use and improved safety performance by drivers of passenger vehicles, the number and rate of motorcyclist deaths on U.S. roads are rising dramatically. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), motorcycle rider fatalities rose 115 percent between 1997 and 2005. During the same time, fatality numbers and rates for passenger car crashes dropped. In just one year, 2005, motorcycle crash-related fatalities increased by 13 percent (to 4,553), making motorcycle rider fatalities a significant contributor to the slight overall increase that year in the national highway fatality rate.
Trends accompanying the rising motorcyclist death toll that are cited by FHWA include a dramatic increase in motorcycle ownership, particularly by riders over 40, along with changes in other factors such as motorcycle size and rider experience. The rate of increase in fatalities has outpaced the rate of increase in motorcycle registrations among middle-aged riders. Per-vehicle-mile traveled in 2004, motorcyclists were about 34 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a motor vehicle traffic crash and 8 times more likely to be injured.
To reaffirm its commitment to motorcycle safety as a major component in comprehensive highway safety programs at the state and federal levels, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has partnered with the National Traffic Safety Division of the Transportation Safety Institute (TSI) to develop and deliver a Motorcycle Safety Program Coordination training course.
This course is intended to provide training to state highway safety office (SHSO) program personnel and NHTSA Regional Program Managers to enable them to better facilitate and support comprehensive motorcycle safety programs in their states or regions. Coordination of motorcycle safety programs requires a multipronged approach to reduce motorcycle-related crashes, injuries, and fatalities. Going beyond rider training and motorist awareness initiatives, this training delivers information on how to integrate and implement NHTSA's Uniform Guidelines for State Highway Safety Programs, Highway Safety Program Guideline #3: Motorcycle Safety.
Course content covers various aspects of motorcycle safety programming, such as a history of motorcycle safety in the United States, a discussion of NHTSA's Highway Safety Program Guideline #3 dealing with motorcycle safety, discussions of problem identification in highway safety programs, identifying program resources and stakeholders, and proper implementation and coordination of comprehensive motorcycle safety programs.
The first pilot offerings of the course took place July 22–24, 2008, and during the first week of September at TSI in Oklahoma City. The pilot course participants stated emphatically this course meets the needs of the people who are eager to establish motorcycle safety programs. As a result of these two successful pilot courses, TSI will offer this course four times to state and NHTSA highway safety program managers and four times to U.S. Air Force traffic safety managers in Oklahoma City during fiscal year 2009. Please contact National Traffic Safety Division at (405) 954-3112 for dates.
Michael Jordan, of NHTSA's Safety Countermeasures Division, was the lead developer for the course, working in conjunction with Alyson Coyle, course manager for TSI's Traffic Safety Division. Jordan and Coyle are both avid motorcycle enthusiasts and bring years of riding experience to the development of this course.