Engineering – General
NMI takes the position that motorcycles are one type of vehicle using the public roadway. To reduce danger, a motorcycle should meet vehicle codes and be operated legally at speeds, accelerations, and positioning/placement as required of other vehicles. To reduce danger, motorcycle drivers should follow the laws in a similar manner as drivers of passenger vehicles. We do not support exceptions to road rules just for motorcycles. This means that we do not support motorcycle-specific tactics such as lane-sharing or the commandeering of the roadway by a large group. When anyone is intending to move a large group of vehicles (including motorcycles) together in formation on a public road, the group leaders should take steps to minimize the impact on other traffic, including informing local law enforcement, securing proper permits, and arranging for legal traffic control. Another example of not making exceptions for motorcycles is the “Dead Red” traffic light. When a traffic signal does not detect a motorcycle (the “Dead Red” traffic light), the traffic signal should be fixed, not the traffic law.
When evaluating engineering solutions to reduce the danger of motorcycling, it is important to recognize that motorcycle use and exposure is dramatically less than that of other vehicles. For example, annually there are more than 150 other vehicles on the road for every single motorcycle! Considering that motorcycles are such a small minority of vehicles on public roads, motorcyclists should understand that the transportation system is designed primarily for other users. Sharing the road means operating a motorcycle at speeds, accelerations, and lane positions compatible with both road design and traffic. Public roads are for transportation, not recreation. Another important fact to know while evaluating engineering solutions to reduce the danger of motorcycling is that in almost all fatal motorcycle crashes, the motorcycle is the striking vehicle.
<-- Please Read! This reference is prerequisite reading for this Engineering Page and provides background information to help with understanding the difficulty in reducing the danger of operating motorcycles on mixed modal public roadway: Nobody Told Me That Motorcycles Are So Dangerous
Great strides have been made in passenger vehicle design and manufacture, resulting in a measurable reduction in danger. Seat Belts, safety glass, air-bags, seat design, crumple zones, traction control, lane assist, collision avoidance, and other systems have led to dramatic reductions in passenger vehicle fatalities.
Some automobile technology can be applied to motorcycle engineering, including tire air-pressure monitoring systems, traction control (wheel spin control or stability control and anti-lock brake systems (ABS)), and lane-assist. However, motorcycles generally cannot be engineered to prevent occupant injuries during crashes. And the autonomous evasive maneuvers that can be programmed into automobiles may even increase the danger if applied to two-wheeled motorcycles.
The type, configuration, and performance of a motorcycle can have great influence on the potential danger. For instance, great skill is required to drive a high-powered two-wheeled motorcycle at appropriate acceleration, speed, and positioning when sharing the road with other vehicles. The configuration of the wheels on a motorcycle has a great influence on the danger of operating the motorcycle. For beginners and other less skillful drivers, NMI recommends a motorcycle with two front wheels. A motorcycle with a sidecar attached is not recommended, because the asymmetrical layout demands higher driver skill than any other type of motorcycle. We suggest that, for purposes of discussing danger, it is appropriate to separate three-wheeled motorcycles into categories based on difficulty to control.
Improvements to road engineering have helped reduce collisions for all vehicles. Typically, road engineering improvements that reduce the danger of operating any vehicle will reduce danger for motorcycles. For example, efficient rainwater drainage improves traction for all vehicles, including motorcycles. Improved lane markings (that do not degrade traction) and road signage help all drivers, including motorcycle drivers. Laws prohibiting loose loads are helpful to all motorists. Roadways could be better engineered to promote law compliance and enforcement, such as having observation areas for law enforcement vehicles to allow safe standing and quick deployment.
Vehicle Engineering, Intelligent Vehicles, and Road Engineering can all be improved to provide law enforcement with better tools to encourage drivers to operate legally and responsibly. Speeding increases the chance of experiencing a crash, and provides much greater energies for more injury and damage. See “At Suggested SPeed Limit All The Time (ASSPLATT) We acknowledge that currently a skilled motorcycle driver operating a high-performance motorcycle is nearly impossible for law enforcement officers to intercept. The thoughtful application of technology could help develop more efficient ways to intercept scofflaw drivers without unnecessarily endangering other drivers. This will improve the sense of “fairness” for drivers who operate at the posted and advisory speeds and who use appropriate accelerations. And this “fairness that everyone is following the rules” is expected to encourage more drivers to voluntarily comply with and operate at the posted and advisory speeds.
Cell phone and Texting Distracted Driving:
Recent research suggests that a driver distracted by in-vehicle technology is as dangerous as a driver intoxicated by alcohol. Humans cannot focus on multiple tasks simultaneously; humans deal with cognitively-demanding tasks sequentially. When a driver is focused on a conversation, he/she cannot be simultaneously focused on the traffic situation. Both vehicles and “smart” devices are cognitively demanding. When a driver is using any “smart” device while the vehicle is in motion, they are distracted from the tasks of operating the vehicle.
This issue isn’t just limited to hand-held smart phones, or texting and social apps. Today’s vehicles are increasingly using in-dash displays to control functions such as temperature control and navigation, plus communication and entertainment applications. For people who are in the habit of communicating frequently through texting and social media apps, it is difficult to control the urge to read and respond to notifications, even while driving. There are applications that can automatically detect when a smartphone is in a moving vehicle and divert the call. For example, the phone can automatically respond to the sender that the person is currently driving and that a notification will be sent when the person is again available. We support making such applications mandatory.
Although motorcyclists may commonly believe that other drivers being distracted is a primary cause of motorcycle collisions, in fact, in almost all fatal motorcycle crashes the motorcycle is the striking vehicle. Therefore, if distraction is an issue of concern, the focus needs to be on motorcyclist distractions. The addition of distracting technology by motorcycle manufacturers and owners increases the danger. Due to the greater number and complexity of cognitive tasks needed to operate a motorcycle, distracting devices should be limited. We suggest that motorcycle manufacturers should be encouraged to reduce any devices requiring observation or manipulation of an electronic display, either as original equipment or as a factory accessory.
“Please do not use our public roadways for recreation.”
“Please respect all roadway users.”
“The road is designed and built to have a minimum danger to vehicle occupants when all vehicles are operated at the posted and advisory speeds.”
“Warning: Motorcycling on public roads may lead to Serious Injury or Death.”