Although motorcyclists make up only 3 percent of all registered vehicles, in 2020, motorcyclists accounted for 14 percent of all traffic fatalities in the United States. As these numbers have risen over the years, several state DOTs are taking matters into their own hands to address these issues.
In partnership with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) is participating in the Development and Evaluation of Roadside Safety Systems for Motorcyclists Pooled Fund Study to address the significant safety issues in the roadside environment associated with motorcyclist impacts. Currently, the study involves the contribution and collaboration of 7 states.
“Motorcycle roadside safety in the United States is an issue that has gone unaddressed for a long time,” explained TTI Research Scientist Chiara Silvestri Dobrovolny. “With this pooled fund, what we are trying to do is fill the gaps in these safety standards to reduce the loss of life that occurs each year as a result of motorcycle roadway departure crashes. Essentially, we are asking ‘how can we develop consistent methods for evaluating motorcyclist-friendly solutions?’”
A gap that is seen in roadside safety testing today is the lack of testing standards aimed towards addressing motorcyclist safety relative to roadside barriers. While other international crash testing standards include consideration of motorcyclists in barrier design, the AASHTO Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware (MASH) used in the United States lacks protocols for these matters. Roadside safety barriers in the United States are not designed, tested or evaluated with motorcyclists in mind, although impacts against roadside safety systems represent a higher risk of fatality for motorcyclists.
Due to the magnitude of this safety issue, several state DOTs have taken independent action towards addressing the problem by coming together through the pooled fund. One of the first motorcyclist-focused projects in the United States to address roadside safety barriers, the motorcycle pooled fund provides a cooperative approach to conducting research about these issues. The three-year long study aims to analyze data and best practices demonstrated in other countries, investigate methods to reduce crashes and impacts and develop guidelines for the implementation of motorcyclist-friendly roadside safety treatments.
“One thing that we have been trying to do so far in our research has been to find what is and isn’t working through reviewing data, precedents and examples in areas that have already developed solutions to this growing issue. Fortunately, there are solutions out there, and in the future, we hope to be able to develop uniform methods that can be adopted and implemented by state DOTs.”
Phase I of the first project in the motorcycle pooled fund was recently completed. This involved a review of best practices being conducted along with a data investigation to address potential roadway design countermeasures to limit the encroachment of motorcyclists. There are four projects upcoming for the 2023 fiscal year under the Motorcyclists Pooled Fund Study:
- Investigation of Available Data towards the Development of Hardware Installation guidance for Motorcycle Roadside Safety.
- Evaluation of a Prioritized Design of a Lower Rail Element for Installation to the MGS System to Address Motorcycle Safety.
- Investigation of Roadway Design Methods to Decrease Likelihood of Roadway Departures for Motorcyclists – Phase 2.
- Development and Full-Scale Crash Testing of an Improved Railing System for Use on Top of Barriers.
“The 7 states with extensive experience in motorcyclist safety coupled with the research capabilities and experience of TTI in roadside safety and roadside safety hardware will provide a synergy in the development of approaches to reduce motorcyclist fatalities,” noted TxDOT Roadway Design Section Director Kenneth Mora. “This study is a huge steppingstone in United States that will give the public nationwide guidance and roadside safety hardware to improve safety for motorcyclists and all users of the roadways.”
For more information, contact Chiara Silvestri Dobrovolny at email@example.com.
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