According to the 2016 Traffic Safety Conference presentation by Texas A&M's Transportation Institute there has been; "Limited research to address riders safety when impacting roadside safety hardware." In the presentation made at the June, 2016 conference Texas A&M also stated that there is no US testing standards for motorcycle riders safety when impacting roadside safety devices, and no world standard for testing when impacting in an upright position. This is significant in that several studies done around the world show that roughly half of these types of impacts occur with the rider in the upright position. For decades, studies in the US and other countries have reported that motorcycles and their riders often experience 'lane departure' and impact 'a fixed object'. Yet the primary focus has long been whether the motorcyclist was wearing a helmet or not, and if the collision was fatal or not.
The Texas A&M report also states that since 1975, passenger vehicle deaths have been reduced significantly while motorcycle fatality rates have remained relatively flat. Could this be that safety efforts have tended to be focused on the motorcyclist wearing a helmet and their ability to be seen by other vehicles, and not items that have been seen to cause serious and fatal injury? While it's true that motorcycle safety training, similar to that of Total Control Training in California, has been shown to help reduce the fatality rate. Helping to prevent serious injuries by looking at ways to reduce the risk of those 'fixed objects' along the roadways could drastically reduce the rate of fatal motorcycle collisions.
While many in Washington State government seem to find data from other countries irrelevant, or for some other reason tend to disregard them, it is important to realize that other nations have been looking into these same issues due to a more pressing need, while American researchers have rarely even considered studying motorcycle issues effectively. For example; in Europe between 2001 and 2009 62,000 people were killed in collisions involving powered two-wheelers (motorcycles, scooters and mopeds). That is nearly twice the average yearly total in the US. Australia is another country that has done extensive research into motorcycle safety beyond helmet usage and visibility.
In the 2013 study 'The Protective Effect of Roadside Barriers for Motorcyclists' by the University of New South Wales, in Australia; sums up the issues with roadside safety barriers and motorcycle fatalities quite nicely in its opening paragraph; "The United States and Australian Roadside Design Guides do not consider motorcyclists in the risk-based decision process for the deployment of a barrier, because the severity indices for barriers and fixed hazards were developed for passenger vehicles." In other words, these barriers, and roadside safety features were designed to protect passengers in vehicles weighing several thousand pounds, with the body and chassis of the vehicle around them, as well as air bags and passenger restraints. None of which are a protection for a motorcyclist. In many cases it is the motorcyclist who impacts the fixed safety feature or guard rail. Resulting in serious, if not fatal injuries. In this Australian study, it was found that 71% of motorcycle casualty collisions were speed related; 78.9 percent occurred on a curve; 69.6 percent occurred in a rural location; and the majority of casualty collisions involved helmeted motorcyclists and occurred on dry, sealed roadways, in speed zones of less than 60 mph, in the daytime, and not on highways/freeways or at intersections. In other words, helmeted motorcyclists riding in good weather, on good rural roads, going over the speed for a curve. Sounds perfectly logical doesn't it?
In the 2011 report for the Washington State Department of Transportation, the researchers found that a 23% increase in crashes involving "fatal & serious injury" following installation of rumble strips were "skewing portions of the CLRS analysis". So what did the researchers do? The "exempted" all the data from all the motorcycle crashes completely from the final findings of the report. Because motorcycle crashes were affecting the data in a way the researchers didn't want, they ignored it. Whereas in other countries motorcycles are beginning to be considered a viable alternative mode of transportation, in Washington State they are being "exempted" and ignored in official transportation reports.
The 2016 WSDOT report "Two-Lane Rural Highways Safety Performance Functions" is another example of the difference between the rest of the world and Washington State when it comes to transportation policy planning. Within the 406 pages of the report; pedestrians are mentioned 33 times, bicycles are mentioned 29 times, while motorcycles are mentioned 0 times. In 406 pages of a report on rural two-lane highway safety, the same sort of roads that 2013 Australian study found such strong motorcycle data involved, the Washington State Dept. of Transportation didn't even mention motorcycles at all. It
would appear that motorcycles were not even a consideration in safety performance by the WSDOT. This continuing complete
While researchers in other states, and around the world, study the effects of roadway infrastructure during impacts by motorcycles, the effects of "run off" the lane crashes, and other safety issues related to motorcycles, the WSDOT appears to be effectively excluding motorcycles completely in favor of pedestrians and bicyclists. WSDOT, and some of those in the legislature who oversee Transportation policy do not seem to see motorcycles as a serious and viable mode of transportation. So apparently, they ignore them. In an age of increasing congestion and transportation policy failures, perhaps that may have begun to be an inappropriate manner of thought.
Catch you on the road sometime...