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Saving Lives of Those Who Live to Ride and Ride to Live

Person sits on a motorcycle and looks at a winding river.

Harley-Davidson, photo courtesy of Unsplash

CEE Professor Asad Khattak has spent much of his time thinking deeply about how to mitigate fatal crashes and injuries for motorists on the US roads and highways.

Because fatalities of motorcyclists are 25 to 30 times that of other drivers—after accounting for vehicle miles traveled—he has sought to understand the variables that correlate with motorcycle crashes and injuries. With funding from the Collaborative Sciences Center for Road Safety, Khattak’s research can help create frameworks for policymakers and others to improve safety for this segment of the driving public.

Asad Khattak.

Asad Khattak

“Almost no evidence exists in the transportation literature about comprehensively measuring the harm sustained by motorcycle riders,” said Khattak. “This study provides reliable metrics to examine multiple injuries sustained by motorcycle riders and suggests innovative mitigation strategies to reduce such crashes and associated harm. The results are helpful to not only the US Department of Transportation, but also for technology developers, and motorcycle and vehicle manufacturers.”

Khattak’s research utilizes the Injury Severity Score, an established medical score used to rate injury trauma, and applies it to data collected from the federally sponsored Motorcycle Crash Causation Study. The goal is to parse out key risk factors within different contexts, such as the driving conditions in which travel took place.

In particular, the project addresses three critical safety issues related to motorcyclists, including 1) crash risk factors, especially how bright-colored or reflective clothing relates to crash involvement; 2) how helmet type and fit impact motorcyclists; and 3) how motorcycle training and education programs relate to outcomes.

The results of the study pinpoint key factors that have substantial correlations with crashes and injuries. Riders who lacked conspicuity (bright or reflective clothing) had a significantly higher risk of crash injury than their counterparts.

Motorcycle-oriented shoes presented another added safety measure, as did recent training and education on motorcycle safety. Partial helmet coverage was associated with higher injury compared with full-face helmets, presenting an opportunity to design helmets that have more coverage while allowing riders to hear and see well.

Khattak says that in the future, researchers can simultaneously model the injury sustained by different body parts of the same rider to fully capture severity and compare the outcomes of motorcycle crashes once connected and automated vehicle technology is widely adopted.