2018 Research Project

Investigating the Vulnerability of Motorcyclists to Crashes and Injury

Principal Investigator 
Asad J. Khattak
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
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Arthur Goodwin
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
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Project Slide Deck


Motorcyclists represent a segment of vulnerable road users that have very high levels of risk mostly because of their lack of protection when involved in a crash. Motorcyclist fatalities in the U.S. increased by 257 from 2015 to 2016, a 5.1% increase. This study will focus on analyzing a unique database of motorcycle crashes, exploring how key risk factors vary by demographics and from one context to another, i.e., the settings in which motorcycle travel takes place.

The project will be organized into the following tasks:

Task A: Review current literature: As part of our literature review, we will systematically synthesize previous studies and the methodologies used. Gaps in the relevant literature will be identified along with methodological limitations and how they may influence the study findings. Likewise, we will produce a discussion on how ignoring important methodological issues such as omitted variable biases and unobserved heterogeneity can influence the magnitude of relative risks (or odds ratios) and final inferences.

Task B: Access and prepare the motorcycle crash causation study data and propose analysis framework: This study will focus on a new database that provides very detailed and highly relevant data about motorcycle crashes as well as similarly-at-risk control group. Collected by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the database is known as the Motorcycle Crash Causation Study (MCCS) (FHWA, 2017).

Task C: Evaluate risks associated with motorcyclists’ conspicuity-apparel type, apparel conspicuity and helmets: The study will explore the relationship between motorcyclist conspicuity and crash risk. To do this, we will focus on separating out the daytime vs. nighttime gear, and how it relates to crash propensity.

Task D: Investigate how rider inexperience and age are related to crash outcomes, especially injury crashes: Previous studies have documented the crash “risk curve” for novice drivers (of automobiles) well. The study will establish such a curve for motorcyclists.

Task E: Explore how training & education programs are related to crash outcomes: The effectiveness of different types of recent training programs will be explored. Note that education and training alone cannot eliminate motorcycle crashes. However, quantifying the effects of education and training programs in reducing motorcycle crashes is regarded as a “high-priority” area in the recent US DOT’s National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety (NHTSA, 2013).

Task F: Explore how automation may eliminate errors: Given the increasing interest in automation, an exploratory and interesting aspect of the study will be to determine how automation may eliminate some of the errors in the future as drivers and motorcyclists relinquish control of their vehicles.

Task G: Consolidate the findings, write a final report, and disseminate the results to stakeholders: The study will extract valuable information from the data using the appropriate methods for study design. Using technically rigorous methods, this study will quantify how different factors of interest are associated with motorcycle crash risk, while controlling for rider-specific, psycho-physiological, and other observed/unobserved factors.


Project Details

Project Type: Research
Project Status: Active
Start Date: 5-1-2018
End Date: 1-31-2021
Contract Year: Year 2
Total Funding from CSCRS: $76,988
Co-sponsor: Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security; NC Department of Transportation
Collaborating Organizations: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill