McCartt, Anne T.; Blanar, Laura; Teoh, Eric R.; Strouse, Laura M.
Journal of Safety Research
Motorcycle registrations have risen in recent years. Although motorcyclist crash fatalities in 2009 were 16% lower than in 2008, they were double the number of deaths in 1997. The present study examined current motorcyclists' travel patterns and views of motorcycle helmets and other safety topics.
Motorcycle drivers were interviewed in a national telephone survey conducted in 2009. A weighted sample of 1,606 motorcyclists resulted from adjusting for the oversampling of those younger than 40 and those in the three states without a motorcycle helmet use law (Illinois, Iowa, New Hampshire). All analyses were based on the weighted sample, which was intended to result in a nationally representative sample of motorcyclists.
About one-quarter of respondents said they did not always wear helmets. Of these respondents, 57% said a law requiring helmet use would persuade them to do so, and 27% said nothing would. Ninety-four percent of respondents in states with universal helmet laws said they always ride helmeted, compared with about half of respondents in other states. About half of all respondents favored these laws. About three-quarters said they believe helmets keep riders safer, including two-thirds of respondents who oppose universal laws and almost half of drivers who rarely/never wear helmets. Drivers ages 18-29 and drivers of sport/unclad sport, sport touring, and super sport motorcycles were more likely to always wear helmets, support universal helmet laws, and believe helmets keep riders safer. About half of respondents said antilock braking systems (ABS) enhance safety and that they would get ABS on their next motorcycle. Less than one-quarter thought an airbag would protect a motorcyclist in a crash, and even fewer would consider getting one on their next motorcycle. Forty-three percent of motorcyclists said they had crashed at least once; 62% of the most recent crashes involved no vehicles besides the motorcycle. Respondents reported riding their motorcycles about 5,400 miles, on average, during the past year. Drivers ages 18-29 reported riding fewer miles, on average, than older drivers and more often rode at night and to/from work or school. Drivers of touring and sport touring motorcycles traveled more miles and took more long trips.
Motorcyclists' travel patterns and views vary widely, but there are distinct patterns by driver age and motorcycle type. Drivers who believe helmets keep riders safer are more likely to always wear them, but this belief appears insufficient to motivate some drivers to wear them. However, universal helmet laws appear effective in increasing helmet use. Many drivers are receptive to purchasing ABS on their next motorcycle.
Impact on industry:
States should be encouraged to enact universal helmet laws, and motorcycle manufacturers should be encouraged to offer ABS.