The National Academies

NCHRP 22-26 [Active]

Factors Related to Serious Injury and Fatal Motorcycle Crashes with Traffic Barriers

  Project Data
Funds: $500,000
Staff Responsibility: Mark S. Bush
Research Agency: Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Principal Investigator: H. Clay Gabler
Effective Date: 4/21/2009
Completion Date: 12/31/2017



Although limited, research appears to indicate that motorcycle riders are dramatically overrepresented in the number of serious injuries and fatalities resulting from guardrail impacts.  Not much is known about impacts with other types of traffic barriers (e.g., concrete barriers, cable barriers, bridge rails, crash cushions, and end terminals).  Many factors related to motorcycle crashes make analysis difficult, for example:


  • Motorcycle usage, roadway design, and crash data collection practices differ among states.
  • Typical coding on crash reports may not reflect the actual sequence of events and cause of injury. It may be unclear if both the motorcycle and the motorcyclist impacted the barrier or if the motorcyclist separated from the motorcycle prior to striking the barrier.
  • Impact with the barrier may not have been the most harmful event.

There is virtually no in-depth analysis of data describing motorcycle crashes involving traffic barriers in the United States.  This lack of crash data analysis prevents an understanding of injury mechanisms in motorcycle-barrier crashes.  As such, an in-depth investigation is needed of serious injury and fatal motorcycle crashes involving traffic barriers.


The objective of this research is to identify factors contributing to serious injury and fatal motorcycle collisions with traffic barriers.

Accomplishment of the project objective will require at least the following tasks.


Phase I (1) Conduct a relevant literature review including current and ongoing international research in the European Union, New Zealand, and Australia. (2) Develop a list of crash characteristics for all reportable crashes (may include all severity levels - property damage, injury, and fatal crashes) involving motorcycles and/or motorcyclists and traffic barriers.  For each characteristic, identify potential data source(s). (3) Develop a revised work plan for Phase II that will quantify the factors contributing to serious injury and fatal motorcycle collisions with traffic barriers.  The revised work plan should include:  (a) Proposed data collection efforts based on relevance, availability, and quality of the information identified in Tasks 1 and 2. (b) Methods to use the collected data to establish a sequence of events leading to each crash to identify causal factors. (c) Process for tabulation and analysis of the crashes. (d) Description of anticipated results. (4) Submit an interim report that provides the results of Tasks 1 through 3. (5) Meet with the NCHRP panel to review the Task 4 interim report approximately 1 month after its submittal.  Submit a revised interim report addressing the panel’s review comments.

Phase II (6) Execute the approved Phase II work plan to quantify the factors contributing to serious injury and fatal motorcycle collisions with traffic barriers. Quarterly progress reports shall include incremental reports of technical progress. (7) Submit a final report documenting the entire research effort.  The final report should document limitations on analysis and sources of data.  It should also suggest recommended injury mitigating strategies and cite needs for future research. 

Status: Research in progress; added additional driving season for added crash records; draft final report pending

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