The bikes crashed. The data was collected. And the information from the 53 accidents investigated in the Southern California pilot phase of the U.S. motorcycle crash causation study are now sitting -- waiting for an assessment of its efficacy and, more importantly, a huge infusion of cash.
The long-awaited follow-up to the 1981 Hurt Study is short at least $2 million, and it's unclear whether that funding will come through any time soon. Or ever.
Filling the void is MAIDS 2.0. An update of the Motorcycle Accident In-Depth Study conducted in five European countries a decade ago, MAIDS 2.0 is a drilling-down of the data for the 921 crashes included in that report, specifically the 100 crashes that resulted in death -- 25 of which occurred on bikes under 50 cc and 75 of which happened on motorcycles 50 cc and larger.
Of the under-50 cc bikes, step-through scooters had a higher fatality rate than swing-a-leg-over models, such as mopeds. Riders of either type of under-50 cc machine who were aged 41 and older were 8-1/2 times more likely to die in a crash than younger riders. The rider, not another vehicle, was responsible for his or her own death in 64% of the fatal crashes; most often, the rider failed to perceive a road hazard and, as a result, failed to react to avoid that hazard. Most of the fatalities occurred in urban areas.
For motorcycles 50 cc and up, the most fatality-prone class was sport bikes. A bike's displacement and maximum velocity were not significant factors in predicting a rider's death, nor was the rider's age -- unless the irder was 22 to 25 years old and speeding. The highest incidence of death occurred in the 26-to-40 age range. As with bikes under 50 cc, the rider, not another vehicle, was at fault in most crashes that ended in death. The most common rider error for motorcyclists was making the wrong decision in reaction to a road hazard; 44% of motorcyclists also lost control in their avoidance maneuver. Most of the fatalities occurred in rural areas.
How applicable the MAIDS 2.0 data is to the American market is a subject of debate, not only because the study is dated and traffic patterns change over time, but because the European market is so different. Its riders are more commuter-oriented than those in the leisure-minded U.S. and the bikes are, on average, smaller. Still, the MAIDS update points to some intriguing findings that, at the very least, could serve as cautionary advice as the U.S. motorcycle market becomes more transportation-oriented.
Some of the more relevant takeaway messages for riders of bikes both big and small:
- Nighttime riding can be deadly. While most accidents in the MAIDS report happened during the day, fatal accidents were significantly higher at night.
- Major roads are hazardous. The majority of fatalities occurred on straight roadways and "major arterials."
- Get a license. Riders who weren't properly licensed were more likely to crash.
- Wear protective gear. The 921 accidents in the study resulted in 3,417 injuries -- 31.8% of which were to the lower extremities, 24.3% to the upper extremities and 18.4% to the head.
-- Susan Carpenter
Photo: Deputies investigating a motorcycle crash. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times