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Measuring motorcycle accident fatalities based on general population numbers offers a better way to prevent crashes

Michigan-based motorcycle safety advocate Dan Petterson of SMARTER offers an alternative measure to calculate motorcycle crash death rate

My friend Dan Petterson, president of motorcycle safety and advocacy group SMARTERcontinues today with a look at how we can better measure motorcycle accident fatalities based on the general population, and then use this information to help us better protect those who ride.

Dan is a leading voice in the motorcycle safety movement in Michigan, and his goal is to prevent motorcycle crashes by educating both bikers and lawmakers. He wrote this as a way for us to take a closer look at the motorcycle accident death and injury statistics and interpret them as a way to prevent more accidents.

Last week, Dan reviewed a new way to calculate motorcycle deaths.

Fatalities based on general population of motorcyclists 

“The National Motorcycle Training Institute (NMCTI), a nonprofit/public benefit organization incorporated in Oregon in 2009, ( proposes another way to measure the motorcyclist fatality/injury rate – compare motorcyclist fatalities/injuries to the general population.

David Hough, national motorcyclist safety author and expert, says the whole idea of using population as the base for the motorcyclist fatality rate is to make it simple and reliable. According to Mr. Hough, this method is extremely reliable because both fatalities and population are well documented and trustworthy and no correction formulas are needed. This rate allows a state to evaluate progress (or lack thereof) over time, allows one state to be compared to others, and allows the U.S. to be compared to other countries.

When looking at the population numbers, and computing the rate, it’s typically calculated as fatalities per million population. Mr. Hough says he finds it helpful to think of the population in millions and reduce it to three decimal places.

For example, Michigan’s 2012 population of 9,882,519 would be 9.883 million. Then simply divide the number of MC fatalities by 9.883 to get the fatality rate per million population. Total Michigan motorcyclist fatalities in 2012 were 138. Divide 138 by 9.883 and the rate per million is 13.96 (see below for chart and data source).”

motorcycle accident death statistcs by population PM

Data source – fatalities: Traffic Safety Facts – Michigan. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

*Fatalities for 2014 from MI OHSP

Data source – population: US Census Bureau, 2014 estimate

Next week, Dan concludes the series with how we can judge dangers and the effectiveness of motorcyclists safety programs.

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