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Just how effective are motorcyclist safety programs today?

June 13, 2015 by Steven M. Gursten

Motorcycle safety advocate Dan Petterson of SMARTER wraps up this guest series on motorcycle accident deaths in Michigan with a look at current safety programs

Motorcycle safety

This is the last post by Dan Petterson, president of motorcycle safety group SMARTER.  Dan has been delving into motorcycle crashes, injury and death statistics, in efforts to help enthusiasts and public safety officials use the crash data to reduce future accidents.

Dan previously wrote about measuring motorcycle accident deaths based on general population numbers. Today, he wraps up with his thoughts on whether the motorcycle safety programs we have today are really effective in preventing motorcycle accidents and what can be done to reduce future crashes:

“Danger or exposure to harm is quantified by the magnitude of the fatality rate. According to the data posted by NMCTI and prepared in December of 2011, Michigan ranks No. 11.  Ten states are less dangerous and 39 are more dangerous. That makes Michigan look rather decent.

But a bigger picture tells us currently every state is more dangerous for motorcyclists than during the “safe” years of the mid-1990s.  Motorcycling is getting more dangerous — not less — and compared to the positive progress for other road users, motorcycling is getting worse.

Motorcyclist safety program effectiveness can be judged positively if the interventions prevent or slow the increase in fatality rate or better yet, decrease the rate. To gain a bigger picture, we can use both fatalities (injuries) per 100,000 registrations and fatalities (injuries) per 1 million general population.

How bad is it?

Again, according to NMCTI, on a national basis, the danger of driving motorcycles went from 23 times the danger of driving passenger vehicles in the 1990s to 34 times the danger of driving passenger vehicles in the 2000s.

In Michigan, during the “good/safe” years between 1993 and 1999 (according to NMCTI) Michigan had an average fatality rate per million population of 6.1. A low of just 4.9 fatalities per million population occurred in 1992 and 1993. In 1999 the fatalities per million population took a dramatic jump to 7.5 and hung in that range for six years (1999 to 2004 range 7.2 to 8.4). Another dramatic jump occurred in 2005, when the fatality rate per million population hit an astounding 11.2. Therefore, from 2008 to 2014, the fatalities per million population in Michigan averaged 12.47. In Michigan, in 2012 and 2013 more motorcyclists died per million population than ever before.

Judging effectiveness

While this data reveals some slight ups and downs during the most recent decade, Michigan’s motorcyclist safety situation is obviously worse than the early 2000s and way worse than during the good years of the mid to late 1990s. The fatality rates are at all-time highs.

While the 104 fatalities and the fatality rate per million population of 10.50  and 40.63 per 100,000 registrations for 2014 looks a bit hopeful, the averages for both types of fatality rates for the last three years is worse than the averages for the three years before that.


We might be:

  • Training more riders.
  • Reducing the number of un-endorsed riders.
  • Sending out thousands of flyers, reminders and brochures.
  • Campaigning for wearing high-visibility gear.
  • Shortening the wait time to get into training.
  • Offering advanced training opportunities.
  • Encouraging riders to wear all the gear including a quality helmet.
  • Expanding the number of training sites.
  • Completing any number of other positive program activities.

And all of these activities are important.

However, the facts remain:

  • Motorcyclists are dying in record numbers.
  • We continue to do the same things we have always done.”

Related information:

Michigan motorcycle accident resource center

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