Stillwater News Press

OSU Update

June 9, 2011

Oklahoma State University study examines causes behind motorcycle crashes

STILLWATER, Okla. — Although hard data may be years in the offing, the American motorcyclist community is pinning its hopes on an Oklahoma State University study of the causes behind motorcycle crashes.

Researchers from OSU’s Oklahoma Transportation Center are  leading the federally funded study. Lead researcher Samir Ahmed, a professor in OSU’s school of civil and environmental engineering, said results of the study are still years away.

OSU announced the study in October 2009. Ahmed said researchers spent a good deal of time after the grant was announced dealing with various permits and navigating a sea of red tape. But work is now beginning in earnest on the study, he said.

“It’s progressing,” he said.

The motorcycle crash fatality picture has been a dire one in recent decades. Between 1997 and 2008, fatalities nationwide jumped 150 percent, rising from 2,116 to 5,290, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

Data released by the Governors Highway Safety Association, a nonprofit association that represents state highway safety offices nationwide, paints a more encouraging picture. Studies released by the association show motorcycle crash fatalities dropped in 2009 and 2010, with 4,465 deaths in 2009 and 4,376 in 2010.

However, the association’s 2010 study indicates that fatalities climbed at the end of the year, causing concerns that the two-year decline in deaths was more of an anomaly than the beginning of longer a trend.

Ahmed returned this week from California, where he spent a week working with crash investigators who are participating in the study. While there, he trained the investigators in a number of skills involved with the study, including photographing crash sites, reconstruction of a crash scenario and documentation.

Researchers are coordinating their efforts with a number of agencies in southern California, primarily in Orange and Los Angeles counties, Ahmed said. Following a motorcycle crash, law enforcement agencies notify investigators, who then arrive on scene after police have finished their investigation.

If a rider who was involved in the crash is on scene, Ahmed said, the research investigators will interview that person. If the rider is hospitalized, he said, investigators may wait until he or she is in good enough condition to speak with them.

Although investigators use information from police reports, Ahmed said, researchers look for information that the police might not seek. Whereas police mainly try to determine fault, the study’s investigators look at a number of other factors, including how long the rider has been licensed and what kind of training he or she has had. Investigators also record data on the road itself, as well as any other vehicles that were involved in the crash.

For more, read Thursday's Stillwater NewsPress.

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