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Why miles traveled is a more accurate measure for motorcycle fatalities

April 10, 2015 by Steven M. Gursten

Motorcycle safety advocate Dan Petterson of SMARTER discusses a better way to measure motorcycle accidents than registrations

measuring motorcycle miles traveled

Today’s post is from Dan Petterson, president of the motorcycle safety group SMARTER. As a leading motorcycle safety advocate in Michigan, Dan’s  goal is to help motorcycle owners and enthusiasts stay safe and informed.  He and I met when we were both working against the motorcycle helmet repeal law, and we’ve shared safety tips for motorcycle enthusiasts – both from a legal and safety standpoint – on the pages of this blog.  Today, Dan says truly understanding motorcycle accident, injury and death statistics is the key to stopping preventable wrecks.

Dan previously discussed fatalities per registered motorcycles. Lawmakers and safety engineers have sometimes erroneously assumed one fatality goes for one registered motorcycle. Today, he’s reviewing motorcycle fatalities per miles traveled, and why this is a better measure to prevent future crashes:

“Fatalities per Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) is theoretically a better measurement rate than fatalities per registration, because it factors in use of the vehicle, not simply ownership. Rather reliable methods are available for calculating VMT for automobiles.

The rate is typically fatalities per 100 Million VMT.  The problem is coming up with reliable formulas to compute motorcycle VMT.  Motorcycle VMT is very tricky to measure but it is likely that VMT will be the fatality base used by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the future.

If there is a way to get motorcycle VMT data that is relatively accurate, it would be a lot more meaningful than registrations. Apparently, the method NHTSA is working on for gathering VMT for motorcycles is to use pressure strips, with algorithms to determine which type of vehicle has just crossed, combined with occasional roadside observations to verify the electronic counts. A report providing an overview of this subject titled “Methodologies for Estimating Motorcycle VMT” can be found in the library presentation/white paper section of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation website.

Next week, Dan will cover a better way to calculate motorcycle accident and fatality rates.

Related information:

How understanding MI motorcycle fatalities is the key to prevention

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