For more than 40 years, researchers from around the world have been looking at this same issue. All seem to come to the same basic conclusion; the basic design of highways and highway safety equipment can be dangerous to motorcyclists. Many factors in the basic design of roadways can be a key factor in motorcycle crashes, as has been shown previously. Add to this the findings that many of the safety devices designed to keep other motor vehicles on the roadway and safe in the event of a crash, are a significant factor in serious injury and fatality among motorcyclists during a crash.
The Governor has set his 'Target Zero' and the bureaucracies of Washington State have set out to reach the goal of zero traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030. Yet it seems the only way the bureaucrats can envision this happening is by creating new laws and regulations. Many of which seem aimed more at restricting the motoring public's choices while promoting the use of public transportation, than actually making the roadways safer. Highway design features such as; rumble strips, recessed reflectors, grooved pavement, and even the types of paving on a roadway can all lead to loss of stability and control leading to a crash for a motorcycle. Yet they all continue to be used to this day, and touted as 'safety features'. Even cable barriers, and guardrails have been shown to contribute directly to serious injuries and fatalities for motorcyclists involved in collisions with these "safety features".
In 2006 Norway actually banned all cable barriers from their roadway systems. Simply because of the danger they have been shown to expose motorcyclists to during collisions with the barriers. All across Europe and even in Australia and New Zealand, efforts are being made to reduce the risk of serious or fatal injuries due to collisions with the classic "W Beam" guardrails and especially their posts. These efforts have now been going on for a couple of decades, and have been shown to be effective. Yet here in America, and most definitely in Washington State, the evolution of highway pavement design as well as that of safety barriers has changed little since the 1960's.
With the House proposed Transportation Budget for Highway Maintenance of $471,595,000 for the 2017-2019 biennium, it does not appear that Washington State's highways will be evolving into safer highways in the foreseeable future. While that may seem a great deal of money for road maintenance; and it is, that amount is only a small fraction of the billions of dollars in the Transportation budget proposed by the Washington State House of Representatives. More money is going to the ferry budget, which serves predominantly the Puget Sound region, than to highway maintenance across the entire state ($512,839,000 proposed for ferries versus the $471,595,000 for highway maintenance). While these are not the final budget figures, there isn't much of a likelihood of great drastic changes.
It is high time that the members of the legislature, and those leading the transportation bureaucracies in Washington State, begin to put their money where their political mouths have been for years on saving motorcyclists lives. Stop worrying about legislation that might put riders at risk; and do something about what has repeatedly to actually contribute to the deaths of motorcyclists in Washington State, poor roads and outdated safety barriers. Then watch the fatality numbers fall, and feel proud you actually practice what you preach.
Catch you on the road sometime...