07-03-2001

01NR23 - NHTSA REPORT ON FATALITIES -- A GLOOMY PICTURE -- OR IS IT?

Motorcycle Riders Foundation -- E-MAIL NEWS RELEASE
PO BOX 1808, Washington, DC 20013-1808
202-546-0983 (voice) 202-546-0986 (fax)
wyld@mrf.org (e-mail) http://www.mrf.org (website)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Tom Wyld
July 3, 2001 #01-23 Phone: 202-546-0983

01NR23 - NHTSA REPORT ON FATALITIES -- A GLOOMY PICTURE -- OR IS IT?

Washington, D.C. … Motorcycle sales are up, sober riding is up and licensing is up. So also is helmet use (albeit among fatally injured riders), engine size, even vehicle miles traveled.

So why are motorcyclist fatalities up? No one seems to have an answer, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

One thing is clear: rider training and awareness programs to curb impaired riding are working -- because, despite the tragic increases in the past two years, motorcyclist fatalities over the period 1990 to 1999 are down sharply.

The NHTSA report -- “Recent Trends in Fatal Motorcycle Crashes” -- can be found at the NHTSA website, www.nhtsa.dot.gov, by clicking on “What’s New.”

Among the report’s primary conclusions:
Is It Getting Worse? Overall motorcyclist fatalities increased from 1997 to 1998 by 8.4 percent (2116 in 1997 to 2294 in 1998) and again from 1998 to 1999 by 7.8 percent (2472 in 1999). The report also states that the “fatality rate per 100,000 registered motorcycles [went from] 55.3 in 1997 (historic low) [to] 59.5 in 1999.”
But, Overall, Is It Getting Better? There has been a tragic spike in fatalities from 1997 to 1999. However, over the decade, have fatalities increased or decreased? They have decreased. When expressed as a function of the number of motorcycles in use at the time, have fatalities increased or decreased? Answer: They’ve decreased. In short, it is getting better. And, depending on the figures you use in the NHTSA report, it is getting much better.

Using figures in the report (page 10), there were 3,650,000 “on-highway motorcycles in use” in 1990, according to information provided NHTSA by the Motorcycle Industry Council. In 1998, there were 4,809,000 in use. Adding to the 1998 figure the number of motorcycles sold in 1999 (listed elsewhere in the report) yields a total motorcycle population of 5,181,000 street bikes in 1999. Motorcycle fatalities were 3,244 in 1990 and 2,472 in 1999. Fatalities, expressed as a percentage of bikes in use in 1990, were 0.089 percent. Fatalities in 1999 was 0.048 percent. Over the decade, then, motorcyclist fatalities, as a percentage of bikes registered at the time, have been cut almost in half.

Different figures for motorcycle registrations, however, appear on page 8 of the report courtesy of the Federal Highway Administration. The 1997 1999 spike in fatalities (the very reason for the report) appears, as do “fatality rates per 100,000 registered motorcycles.” Again, comparing 1990 with 1999, the rate is down across the decade, from 76.16 per 100,000 registered motorcycles in 1990 to 59.53 in 1999.

After an initial review of the report, MRF finds the following:
1. Training Works, but More is Necessary. The report states, “More motorcyclists are properly licensed....From 1990 to 1999 a steadily increasing percent of fatally injured motorcycle operators were properly licensed. This number hit an all time high of 71 percent in 1999 compared to 55 percent in 1990.”
2. Impaired Rider Awareness Programs are Working, but More are Necessary. At a time when states like Minnesota and Missouri and others have been busiest in implementing innovative programs to discourage impaired riding, “alcohol involvement in motorcycle fatalities is declining,” the report states. “Forty-five percent of all motorcycle operator fatalities between 1990 and 1999 were associated with operator BAC of 0.01+ and 33 percent were in the intoxicated category (BAC 0.10+), Although the percentage of drinking-operator fatalities has decreased from 52 percent in 1990 to 39 percent in 1999, alcohol is still a major problem, especially among motorcyclists over the age of 30...”

Local and national press will doubtless make much of this report and its major findings that there has been an “increase in motorcyclist fatalities.” Motorcyclists are urged to watch this coverage and correct the public record when necessary -- by calling radio and TV stations and writing to newspapers.

Clearly, the safety agenda of the MRF and State Motorcyclists’ Rights Organizations nationwide has never been more timely: a no-strings resource injection to state rider safety programs, and a national program to enhance Motorist Awareness of Motorcycles. Just as timely is the work by SMROs from Massachusetts to Washington state to educate motorists and get tough with those who recklessly and negligently injure motorcyclists.

Regardless of the way the press spins it, motorcycle riding may just be safer than the press or the government is willing to admit, and a large measure of the credit goes to SMROs and motorcyclists themselves. The spike in fatalities in recent years is more than enough reason to keep pushing the joint MRF-SMRO safety agenda.
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MRF: My Ride is Freedom --- For further information contact Tom Wyld at 202-546-0983 or by e-mail at wyld@mrf.org
The first motorcyclists’ rights organization to establish a full-time presence in Washington, the Motorcycle Riders Foundation is the only Washington voice devoted exclusively to the street rider. MRF established MRFPAC in the early 1990s to advocate the election of candidates who would champion the cause of rider safety and rider freedom. MRF proudly claims state motorcyclists’ rights organizations and the very founders of the American rider rights movement among its leading members. YOU CAN JOIN THEM TODAY at http://www.mrf.org/join.php or call 800-MRF-JOIN. Various membership options are available.
All information contained in this release is copyrighted. Reproduction permitted with attribution. The Motorcycle Riders Foundation, incorporated in 1987, is a membership based national motorcyclists' rights organization headquartered in Washington D.C. The MRF is involved in federal and state legislation and regulations, motorcycling safety education, training, licensing and public awareness. The MRF provides members and state motorcyclists' rights organizations with direction and information to protect motorcyclists' rights and motorcycling. The MRF sponsors annual regional and national educational seminars for motorcyclists' rights activists and publishes a bi-monthly newsletter,
THE MRF REPORTS. Voice: 202-546-0983, Fax: 202-546-0986, E-Mail: wyld@mrf.org, website: http://www.mrf.org
- MRF: My Ride is Freedom -

The first motorcyclists' rights organization to establish a full-time legislative advocacy presence in Washington. The Motorcycle Riders Foundation is the only Washington voice devoted exclusively to the street rider. MRF established MRFPAC in the early 1990s to advocate the election of candidates who would champion the cause of rider safety and rider freedom. MRF proudly claims state motorcyclists' rights organizations and the very founders of the American rider rights movement among its leading members. Motorcyclists worldwide can thumb-start their search for rider rights and safety on the web at www.mrf.org.

All information contained in this release is copyrighted. Reproduction permitted with attribution. The Motorcycle Riders Foundation, incorporated in 1987, is an independent, membership-based national motorcyclists' rights organization headquartered in Washington D.C. which operates in co-partnership with State Motorcyclists' Rights Organizations nationwide. The MRF is involved in federal and state legislation and regulation, motorcycling safety education, training, licensing and public awareness. The MRF provides individual and SMRO member-volunteers with guidance, support and information to protect motorcyclists' rights and advance motorcycling and its associated lifestyle. The MRF sponsors annual regional and national educational seminars for motorcyclists' rights activists and publishes a bi-monthly newsletter, THE MRF REPORTS.

Voice: 202-546-0983, Fax: 202-546-0986, E-Mail: wyld@mrf.org, website: http://www.mrf.org


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