02NR14 - NHTSA Releases Preliminary 2001 Motorcycle Fatality Statistics

Motorcycle Riders Foundation
P.O. Box 1808
Washington, DC 20013-1808
202-546-0983 (voice)
202-546-0986 (fax)
wyld@mrf.org (e-mail)
http://www.mrf.org (website)

Contact: Tom Wyld
Phone: 202-546-0983
April 23, 2002
#02-NR-14 - NHTSA Releases Preliminary 2001 Motorcycle Fatality Statistics

The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF), the nation's foremost advocacy organization for the rights and safety of street motorcyclists, was not surprised to hear that motorcycle fatalities reported for calendar year 2001 exceeded those reported for 2000. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a preliminary report yesterday indicating that motorcycle fatalities increased approximately 7% and motorcycle occupants injured increased approximately 2% in 2001.

"For months, the MRF has predicted that motorcycle injuries and fatalities would show another tragic increase," said Tom Wyld, Vice President for Government Relations with the MRF. "Riders know the causes and the cure. The causes? First, state-run rider training is in trouble - and has been for years. Second, federal motorcycle safety policy is fatally flawed, because it is built on 'safer crashing,' not 'safer riding.' The cure? Rescue rider training and urge the federal government to embrace accident prevention as the guiding principle for motorcycle safety. The prognosis? Injuries will be thwarted and lives will be saved."

For more than a year and a half, the MRF and State Motorcyclists' Rights Organizations (SMROs) nationwide have called on the 107th Congress to aim a resource injection to rescue state-run rider training. Today, motorcyclists nationwide repeat this urgent appeal.

Preliminary motorcycle accident fatalities and injuries for the previous year are routinely reported in April or May by NHTSA, with the final numbers typically being release in June. Researchers at the Transportation Research Board meetings in Washington DC earlier this year were sharply critical of NHTSA's misleading approach in reporting the increase in motorcycle accident fatalities and injuries for the year 2000 as absolute numbers without reporting important comparisons to contributing factors such as motorcycle registrations or vehicle miles traveled, which have also both increased.

Once again this year, although NHTSA reported preliminary data for vehicle registrations and vehicle miles traveled in other categories, they only reported the 2001 numbers for motorcycle fatalities and injuries without comparing them to any data for motorcycle registrations or vehicle miles traveled.

Reasons for the predicted spike in motorcycle fatalities:

First, the waiting period for rider training was upwards of a year through the late 1990s, with many states turning away as many riders as they trained. It is worse now, with new motorcycle sales having soared in the past few years (from some 300,000 new units sold in 1990 to 710,000 in 2000).

Second, states have backed down from their commitment to motorcycle safety by sharply cutting or totally eliminating rider training funds. Meanwhile, riders do more than their share, from paying extra fees on registration (thought to be "protected" and "earmarked" for rider training) to volunteering to teach Motorist Awareness of Motorcycles in drivers' education courses.

Third, NHTSA continues to promote "safer crashing" - that is, policies it hopes will reduce injury severity AFTER an accident has occurred. For example, the agency's draft Motorcycle Safety Improvement Program (McSIP), released in May 2001, was roundly criticized for its "injury reduction" approach to motorcycle safety, and its lack of attention to dangerous car drivers (responsible for the majority of multiple-vehicle crashes). NHTSA's "passive safety" approach was probed last year in a highly critical analysis by the New Yorker Magazine (see "Wrong Turn," archived at www.gladwell.com).

According to Wyld, "In May 2001, the MRF called on NHTSA to shelve its 'safer crashing' mentality and help us get a federal resource injection to the states to rebuild rider training, prevent accidents, thwart injuries and save lives. That was nearly one year ago, and NHTSA has NOT responded."

Meanwhile, Wyld said, riders are acting. A federal resource injection for state-run rider training is the cornerstone of the MRF's four-part agenda for the reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). "The legislation is written and ready to pass," Wyld said. "NHTSA should get into the passing lane and help, or it should pull off to the shoulder and stay out of the way. Congress is ready, and riders are waiting."

For motorcyclists nationwide: MRF recommends you e-mail a copy of this release to your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators as soon as possible. For U.S. Representatives' email addresses, go to www.house.gov. For U.S. Senators, go to www.senate.gov.

- 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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