April 24, 2005
#05NR07 - MRF Response to Preliminary FARS Data
The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) has reviewed the preliminary report released yesterday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NCSA) entitled, "2004 Projections - Motor Vehicle Traffic Crash Fatalities and Injuries Based on The Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and The National Automotive Sampling System (NASS) General Estimates System (GES)." The preliminary report indicates that the number of motorcycle fatalities increased once again in 2004.
"Once you get past all the initials and the fancy color presentation and begin to review the data presented in this preliminary study and the responses by certain government officials, it is obvious that motorcycle accidents will once again be their focus," states MRF President Karen Bolin. "Studies of this type are only as good as the data upon which they are based, and unfortunately (as always) there are inaccuracies, misrepresentations and inconsistencies in the data presented, the proposed preventative measures, and the subsequent reactions."
Motorcyclist fatalities have, in fact, increased from 1997 to 2004, rising from 2116 to 3927. This represents an 85 percent increase in raw numbers according to the preliminary 2004 FARS data. Motorcycle registrations have also increased significantly since 1997, rising over 40 percent through 2003. Naturally, as motorcycle registrations increase, so will motorcycle accidents and fatalities. No one cares about motorcycle safety more than motorcyclists themselves, and the MRF is very concerned about the upward trend in accidents, injuries and fatalities.
Interestingly, according to the figures released in this study, motorcycle vehicle miles traveled have DECREASED 5.4 percent from 1997 to 2003 – the same time period during which motorcycle registrations INCREASED over 40 percent. MRF representatives have been told on more than one occasion by NHTSA, the Federal Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) that the annual vehicle miles traveled reported by individual states are either inaccurate or counted as zero because they were not reportable at all. There is a significant contradiction in the figures published in this report that reflects those inaccuracies. Therefore, MRF is preparing a letter to NHTSA asking why they would report, publish and distribute figures and statistics that they admit are absolutely inaccurate. The MRF takes the position that the validity of the entire report can be called into question if significant figures included are known to be misrepresented.
Although NHTSA continues to highlight the significant increase in motorcycle fatalities, they have yet to release their Best Practices Study despite numerous calls from rider education professionals and motorcycle organizations. They have indicated however a pending release of phase one of the Best Practices Study. In addition, the National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety has been essentially ignored due to an alleged lack of funding required to implement its recommendations.
Press releases issued on April 21, 2005 by NHTSA and the Governors Highway Safety Administration (GHSA) both point to helmet laws as a solution to the increased motorcycle fatality rate. The MRF has always considered helmet laws a state issue and, more importantly, a matter of choice – particularly since we all know that helmets neither reduce nor prevent accidents. Perhaps these two organizations should be focusing their attention on programs that do prevent and reduce accidents, such as motorcycle safety, training and awareness programs. Instead, several states such as Illinois, Michigan and Massachusetts have raided, and are attempting, to raid motorcycle safety funds, diverting those funds into their general budgets.
Focused on a more proactive approach, the MRF and motorcyclists nationwide continue to lobby for increased funding and incentives for motorcycle training and awareness programs, including a comprehensive safety package contained in both the House and Senate versions of the pending highway bill.
The NHTSA FARS data can be viewed in its entirety (PDF 850K) on the MRF website at http://www.mrf.org/pdf/2004EARelease.pdf