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MAIDS - Motorcycle Accident In Depth Study

The first complete European in-depth study of motorcycle accidents

Executive Summary:

The increasing role of Powered Two Wheelers (PTWs) in transport policy for sustainable mobility, particularly their potential benefits for congestion and cost of urban transport require solutions for reducing PTW's riders fatalities in Western Europe.

PTW riders form one of the most vulnerable groups of road users and road accidents involving injuries to them are a major social concern. It is therefore essential that all parties work together to understand and further improve the safety of this valuable mode of transport.

In order to better understand the nature and causes of PTW accidents, the Association of European Motorcycle Manufacturers (ACEM) with the support of the European Commission and other partners conducted an extensive in-depth study of motorcycle and moped accidents during the period 1999-2000 in five sampling areas located in France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Spain.

The methodology developed by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for on-scene in-depth motorcycle accident investigations was used by all five research groups in order to maintain consistency in the data collected in each sampling area.

A total of 921 accidents were investigated in detail, resulting in approximately 2000 variables being coded for each accident. The investigation included a full reconstruction of the accident; vehicles were inspected; witnesses to the accident were interviewed; and, subject to the applicable privacy laws, with the full cooperation and consent of both the injured person and the local authorities, pertinent medical records for the injured riders and passengers were collected. From these data, all the human, environmental and vehicle factors, which contributed to the outcome of the accident were identified.

To provide comparative information on riders and PTWs that were not involved in accidents in the same sample areas, data was collected in a further 923 cases. The collection technique was specifically developed to meet the circumstances of this study and is commonly referred to as an exposure or case-control study. This exposure information on non-accident involved PTW riders was essential for establishing the significance of the data collected from the accident cases and the identification of potential risk factors in PTW accidents. For example, if 20% of non-accident involved PTWs in the sampling area were red, it would be significant if 60% of those PTWs involved in an accident were reported to be red, suggesting that there is an increased risk of riding a red PTW. On the other hand, if none of the PTWs in the accident sample were red, it would be an interesting finding, needing further study.

Findings In Brief

The PTW accident data collected in this study indicated that the object most frequently struck in an accident was a passenger car. The second most frequently struck object was the roadway itself, either as the result of a single vehicle accident or of an attempt to avoid a collision with an OV. Whilst each sampling area contained both urban and rural areas, the majority of the accidents took place in an urban environment.

Traveling and impact speeds for all PTW categories were found to be quite low, most often below 50 km/h. There were relatively few cases in which excess speed was an issue related to accident causation.

The cause of the majority of PTW accidents collected in this study was found to be human error. The most frequent human error was a failure to see the PTW within the traffic environment, due to lack of driver attention, temporary view obstructions or the low conspicuity of the PTW.

Once all the data had been collected, it was entered into a database for each sampling area and compared with the exposure data referred to above. Statistical analysis identified PTW accident risk factors by comparing the accident data to the exposure data.

Thus, for example, the exposure data indicated that whilst scooters represented the majority of accident cases, scooters were not over-represented in accidents in comparison with their presence in the sampling area (i.e., their exposure).

When the accident riders were compared to the exposure population, the data demonstrated that the use of alcohol increased the risk of being in an accident, although the percentage was lower than in other studies.

Unlicensed PTW operators who were illegally riding PTWs that required a licence, were also found to be at greater risk of being involved in an accident when compared to licensed PTW riders.

The data collected during this study represents the most comprehensive in-depth data currently available for PTW accidents in Europe. It is expected that this data will provide much needed information for developing future research in relation to public policy issues. Recommendations for future countermeasures and investigations are provided.

Major Findings:

1. In 37% of cases, the primary accident contributing factor was a human error on the part of the PTW rider. In some situations, the human errors that occurred involved skills that were beyond those that typical drivers or operators might currently have. This is often due to the extreme circumstances of some of the accident cases, including an insufficient amount of time available to complete collision avoidance. (Sources: Tables 4.1, 5.23). In 13% of all cases, there was a decision failure on the part of the PTW rider. (Sources: Figure 4.1, Table C.5)

2. Among the secondary contributing factors, PTW riders failed to see the other vehicle (OV) and they also made a large number of faulty decisions, i.e., they chose a poor or incorrect collision avoidance strategy.

3. The number of cases involving alcohol use among the PTW riders was less than 5%, which is low in comparison to other studies, but such riders were more likely to be involved in an accident. (Source: Table 7.9)

4. In comparison to the exposure data, Unlicensed PTW riders, illegally operating a PTW for which a licence is required, have a significantly increased risk of being involved in an accident. (Source: Table 7.5)

5. PTW riders between 41 and 55 years of age were found to be under-represented, suggesting that they may have a lower risk of being involved in an accident when compared to other rider age categories. (Source: Figure 7.1)

6. When compared with the exposure data, 18 to 25 year old riders were found to be over-represented. (Source: Figure 7.1)

7. In 50% of cases, the primary accident contributing factor was a human error on the part of the OV driver. (Source: Table 4.1)

8. OV drivers holding PTW licenses were less likely to commit a perception failure than those without a PTW licence, i.e., they did not see the PTW or its rider. (Sources: Figure 7.8, Table C.17)

9. In about 1/3 of accidents PTW riders and OV drivers failed to account for visual obstructions and engaged in faulty traffic strategies. (Sources: Tables 4.11, 4.12, 8.3, 8.4, 8.5, 8.6)

10. Traffic control violations were frequently reported, in 8% of the cases for PTW riders and in 18% for OV drivers. (Sources: Tables 6.10, 6.12)

11. Amongst the wide diversity of PTW accident and collision configurations that were observed in this study, not one configuration dominated. (Sources: Figure 3.4, Table C.4)

12. 90% of all risks to the PTW rider, both vehicular and environmental, were in front of the PTW rider prior to the accident. (Source: Figure 5.6)

13. Among the primary contributing factors, over 70% of the OV driver errors were due to the failure to perceive the PTW. (Sources: Figure 4.1, Table C.5)

14. The roadway and OVs were the most frequently reported collision partner. In 60.0% of accidents, the collision partner was a passenger car. (Source: Table 3.4)

15. Tampering in order to increase performance was observed by visual inspection in 17.8% of all moped cases. This value is lower than those reported in other studies. The exposure study only shows 12.3% of tampering. (Source: Table 5.30)

16. Only modified conventional street motorcycles were found to be over-represented in the accident data. There was no evidence of an increased risk associated with riding any other PTW style. (Sources: Figure 5.1, Table C.6)

17. There were PTW technical problems in less than 1% of the accidents. Most of these were related to the tires, illustrating the need for regular PTW inspections by the owner. There were no cases found by the teams in which an accident was caused by PTW design or manufacture. (Sources: Tables 4.1, 4.25, 4.26)

18. In over 70% of the cases the PTW impact speeds were below 50 km/h. (Source: Table 5.14)

19. In 18% of all cases, PTW traveling speeds were greater than or less than the surrounding traffic and this speed difference was considered to be a contributing factor. (Source: Table 4.13)

20. 71.2% of all PTW riders attempted some form of collision avoidance immediately prior to impact. Of these, 32% experienced some type of loss of control during the maneuver. (Source: Table 5.20 and 5.21)

21. 90.4% of the PTW riders wore helmets. However, 9.1% of these helmets came off the wearer's head at some time during the accident, due to improper fastening or helmet damage during the accident. Overall, helmets were found to be an effective protective device to reduce the severity of head injuries. (Sources: Tables 9.5, 9.8, 9.11, 9.12)

22. 55.7% of PTW rider and passenger injuries were to the upper and lower extremities. The majority of these were minor injuries, e.g. abrasions, lacerations and contusions. Appropriate clothing was found to reduce, but not completely eliminate, many of these minor injuries. (Source: Figures 9.3, 9.13)

23. Roadside barriers presented an infrequent but substantial danger to PTW riders, causing serious lower extremity and spinal injuries as well as serious head injuries. (Source: Figure 6.1, Table C.9)

24. For PTW riders, a roadway maintenance defect caused the accident or was a contributing factor in 3.6% of all cases. (Source: Table 4.17)

25. For PTW riders, a traffic hazard caused the accident or was a contributing factor in 3.8% of all cases. (Source: Table 4.19)

26. Weather-related problems either caused the accident or contributed to accident causation in 7.4% of PTW accidents in the study. (Source:Table 4.23)

Aims & Objectives : a need for a common methodology

European statistical coverage of motorcycle accidents is insufficient and not harmonized, and causation data and analysis of a full range of standardized parameters are lacking. Specific research studies of PTWs use different data collection criteria and different data collection methodologies, thereby limiting the ability to compare the different studies and to develop a comprehensive European strategy for the reduction of PTW accidents.

Previous in-depth research into PTW accidents has been conducted in North America (Hurt et al., 1981, Newman et al., 1974) as well as in the United Kingdom and Europe (Pedder et al., 1979, Otte et al., 1998). All of these studies have shown the need for in-depth investigations in order to provide a clear, detailed and objective analysis of the causes and consequences of PTW accidents. This in-depth PTW research has also shown the need to collect information regarding the non-accident PTW/rider population (i.e., a control population) in order to determine the relative risk of a given PTW/rider factor.

With the support of the European Commission and other partners, the Association of European Motorcycle Manufacturers (ACEM) conducted this extensive in-depth study of motorcycle and moped accidents in five European countries: France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain and Italy.
The objectives were as follows:

1. To identify and indicate the causes and consequences of PTW accidents in a well-defined sampling area.

2. To compare the accident data to a control population in order to determine the risk associated with certain factors (e.g., alcohol).

3. To apply this comprehensive and reliable data source in the development of proper counter-measures that will reduce the frequency and severity of PTW accidents.

The same methodology for on-scene in-depth motorcycle accident investigations, developed by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), was used by all five research groups in order to maintain consistency in the data collected in each region. A complete description of this methodology is presented in the ACEM report titled "MAIDS Report on Methodology and Process" (ACEM, 2003).

View the complete report here

Download or view the PDF version (1.25 MB)

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