HSRC Directions
Fall 08
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New approaches to motorcycle safety

Fatalities involving motorcyclists in 2008 continued to increase for the eleventh year in a row. At the same time, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is reporting that overall traffic fatalities in 2008 reached their lowest level since 1961, and that the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled continues to drop every year. Government and industry are serious about confronting these conflicting trends, and are laying the foundation to improve motorcycle safety with the help of the UNC Highway Safety Research Center (HSRC).

In June 2009, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) announced the extension of its contract with HSRC to continue the MSF Discovery Project through November 2011. The landmark research study was launched in 2006 through a cooperative agreement between the MSF and NHTSA to jointly fund the $1.3 million research effort.

Officially called "The Longitudinal Study to Improve Crash Avoidance Skills," the Discovery Project's objective is to determine the effects of sustained involvement in a rider education and training system on risk management and safe riding habits.

"The Discovery Project is the first motorcycle study to objectively evaluate the benefits of rider training based upon the principles of safety renewal," said MSF Director of Quality Assurance and Research Dr. Sherry Williams. "Extending the study, enrolling more participants, and working with a respected, independent university-based research team will ensure the continuing integrity of the project. The results could very well chart the course of motorcycle rider education for decades, and most importantly, help reduce the number of motorcycle crashes."

The research is being conducted in California, where motorcyclists must take a beginning rider skills course before obtaining an operator's license. Three additional advanced skills modules are also taught at the California Motorcyclist Safety Program rider training facility in Long Beach, CA. The study enrolls motorcyclists taking this additional training.

The Center's team for this project, led by Senior Research Scientist Rob Foss, Ph.D., provides independent evaluation of research that takes a comprehensive, field-based look at the benefits of the riders' ongoing participation in the education and training system, and its subsequent affect on crash avoidance skills and real-world outcomes. "Data collection has been under way for almost a year now and is going smoothly. This extension will enable us to obtain information on more riders and to track their success in avoiding crashes after they have completed the series of classroom and practice range courses," said Dr. Foss. "Both mean that the statistical analyses will be more robust and the results of the study more conclusive."

The University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center
730 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Suite 300  |  Campus Box 3430  |  Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3430
Phone: 919.962.2203  |  Fax: 919.962.8710