How Safe Is A Motorcycle?
There are over 4 million motorcycles registered in the United States. The popularity of this mode of transportation is attributed to the low initial cost of a motorcycle, its use as a pleasure vehicle and, for some models, the good fuel efficiency. Motorcycle fatalities represent approximately five percent of all highway fatalities each year, yet motorcycles represent just two percent of all registered vehicles in the United States. One of the main reasons motorcyclists are killed in crashes is because the motorcycle itself provides virtually no protection in a crash. For example, approximately 80 percent of reported motor- cycle crashes result in injury or death; a comparable figure for automobiles is about 20 percent.
An automobile has more weight and bulk than a motorcycle. It has door beams and a roof to provide some measure of protection from impact or rollover. It has cushioning and airbags to soften impact and safety belts to hold passengers in their seats. It has windshield washers and wipers to assist visibility in the rain and snow. An automobile has more stability because it’s on four wheels, and because of its size, it is easier to see. A motorcycle suffers in comparison when considering vehicle characteristics that directly contribute to occupant safety. What a motorcycle sacrifices in weight, bulk, and other crashworthiness characteristics is somewhat offset by its agility, maneuverability, ability to stop quickly, and ability to swerve quickly when necessary.
A motorcyclist should attend a motorcycle rider-training course to learn how to safely and skillfully operate a motorcycle. A motorcyclist has to be more careful and aware at intersections, where most motorcycle -vehicle collisions occur. Motorcyclists must remain visible to other motorists at all times. Don’t ride in a car’s “No Zone” (blind spot). Anticipate what may happen more than other vehicle drivers may. For example, anticipate that drivers backing their cars out of driveways may not see you; and place greater emphasis on defensive driving. Motorcyclists also must be more cautious when riding in inclement weather, on slippery surfaces, or when encountering obstacles on the roadway. They must place greater reliance on their helmet, eye protection and clothing to increase riding comfort and to reduce the severity of injury should they become involved in a crash.
Approximately half of all fatal single-vehicle motorcycle crashes involve alcohol. A motorcycle requires more skill and coordination to operate than a car. Riding a motorcycle while under the influence of any amount of alcohol significantly decreases an operator’s ability to operate the motorcycle safely. An estimated 33 percent of motorcycle operators killed in traffic crashes are not licensed or are improperly licensed to operate a motorcycle. By not obtaining a motorcycle operator license, riders are bypassing the only method they and state licensing agencies have to ensure they have the knowledge and skill needed to safely and skillfully operate a motorcycle.
Causes Of Motorcycle Crashes
The causes of many motorcycle crashes can be attributed to:
• lack of basic riding skills
• failure to appreciate the inherent operating characteristics
• failure to appreciate the limitations of the motorcycle
• failure to use special precautions while riding
• failure to use defensive driving techniques.
• lack of specific braking and cornering skills
• failure to follow speed limit
Buying The Right Motorcycle
A motorcycle should be selected for a comfortable fit and functional requirements.
• Select a motorcycle that fits. A motorcyclist should be able to touch the ground with both feet
when astride the vehicle.
• If you will be carrying a passenger, make sure the motorcycle you select has a passenger seat
as well as footrests (footpegs) for the passenger.
• Check the location of the controls. Make sure you can reach and operate them easily and
• Buy the power you need, but only as much as you can handle safely. Large motorcycles are
heavy, and you must be strong enough to push it, or pick it up if it falls over. But smaller bikes
(e.g., a 125cc machine) may not have the speed, performance and ride you’ll need if you plan to
travel long distances.
• Consider the primary use of your bike. Don’t buy a “trail” bike for highway use. Similarly, don’t
buy a “highway” bike if most of your riding will be off the road. Some motorcycles are built
especially for trail use, with special tires and suspension. Other motorcycles have special
characteristics for highway use, such as tires designed to grip pavement, and more powerful
braking systems. If you have dual requirements, combination cycles are available that make a
compromise between road and trail riding.
• The safe operation of a motorcycle requires different skill and knowledge than is needed for a
• Never ride without a certified motorcycle helmet and eye protection.
• Insist on a helmet that has a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) label.
• Read your owner’s manual thoroughly.
• Use it to get familiar with your motorcycle. Attend a motorcycle rider-training course. It is the
best way to learn how to operate a motorcycle safely and skillfully. Rider- training classes
provide unique knowledge and skills that you may not learn if a friend teaches you how to ride.
• For the location of an MSF approved rider-training course, call toll free, (800) 446-9227.
• Wear the right shoes, gloves and clothing.
• Thick, protective garb not only provides comfort against the elements, but also may be all there
is between you and the pavement in a crash.
• After completing a motorcycle training course, practice before going out on the street.
• Depending on what type of bike you have, find an off-highway area or vacant parking lot and
practice until use of all controls becomes automatic and you become thoroughly accustomed to
requirements for balance, making turns, stopping, and shifting.
Before Riding In The Street
• Remember that a motorcyclist must abide by the same traffic rules and regulations as other
motorists. Before taking your motorcycle on a public road, become familiar with traffic rules and
regulations and any special requirements for motorcycles.
• Be aware that riding with a passenger requires even more skill than
riding alone. Riding with a passenger should be delayed until you
have considerable solo riding time and are ready to take on the
responsibility of carrying a passenger.
• Obtain your learner’s permit or motorcycle endorsement on your
driver’s license before you venture onto the streets. You will be
required to display the knowledge and skill needed to operate a
motorcycle safely before being issued a motorcycle and ride. Alcohol
slows reflexes and greatly limits your ability to operate a motorcycle.
Even a very small amount of alcohol can reduce your ability to operate a motorcycle safely.
PROTECTIVE CLOTHING AND EQUIPMENT:
Studies show that the head, arms and legs are most often injured in a crash. Protective clothing and equipment serve a three-fold purpose for motorcyclists: comfort and protection from the elements; some measure of injury protection; and through use of color or reflective material, a means for other motorists to see the motorcyclist.
This is the most important piece of equipment. Safety helmets save lives by reducing the extent of head injuries in the event of a crash. Many good helmets are available. Make sure it fits comfortably and snugly, and is fastened for the ride. In choosing a helmet, look for the DOT label on the helmet. The DOT label on helmets constitutes the manufacturer’s certification that the helmet conforms to the federal standard. In many states, use of a helmet is required by law. Passengers should also wear a helmet.
A consumer information brochure on how to choose and care for a motorcycle helmet is available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 400 Seventh Street, SW, NTS-22, Washington, DC 20590.
Since many motorcycles don’t have windshields, riders must protect their eyes against insects, dirt, rocks or other airborne matter. Even the wind can cause the eyes to tear and blur vision, and good vision is imperative when riding. Choose good quality goggles, glasses with plastic or safety lenses, or a helmet equipped with a face shield. Goggles, glasses, and face shields should be scratch free, shatter proof, and well ventilated to prevent fog buildup. Only clear shields should be used at night since tinted shields reduce contrast and make it more difficult to see. Even if your motorcycle has a windshield, eye protection is recommended.
Jackets and Trousers:
Clothing worn when riding a motorcycle should provide some measure of protection from abrasion in the event of a spill. These should be of durable material (e.g., special synthetic material or leather). Jackets should have long sleeves. Trousers (not shorts) should not be baggy or flared at the bottom to prevent entanglement with the chain, kick starter, foot- pegs, or other protrusions on the sides of a motorcycle.
Durable gloves are recommended. They should be of the non-slip type to permit a firm grip on the controls. Leather gloves are excellent, as are special fabric gloves with leather palms and grip strips on the fingers. Gauntlet-type gloves keep air out of the rider’s sleeves. Appropriate gloves are available for all types of weather.
Proper footwear affords protection for the feet, ankles, and lower parts of the legs. Leather boots are best. Durable athletic shoes that cover the ankles are a good second choice. Sandals, sneakers, and similar footwear should not be used since they provide little protection from abrasion or a crushing impact. Avoid dangling laces that can get in the way.
Note: Upper body clothing should be brightly colored. Some riders wear lightweight reflective orange or yellow vests over their jackets. Retro-reflective material used on clothing, helmet, and the motorcycle helps to make the rider visible to other motorists, especially at night. A high percentage of car-vehicle crashes occur because the driver of the other vehicle “failed to see the rider in time to avoid the crash.”
Follow these rules:
• Treat other motorists with courtesy and respect.
• Avoid tailgating.
• Avoid riding between lanes of slow moving or stopped traffic.
• Know and obey traffic laws, including ordinances in your community.
• Avoid excessive noise by leaving the stock muffler in place or using a muffler of equivalent
• Use signals when appropriate.
• The practices of some riders are offensive to other motorists (e.g., weaving in and out of stalled
traffic, riding on shoulders). Being inconsiderate of other motorists creates a negative image for
all riders, and can cause crashes.
• Be especially alert at intersections because approximately 70 percent of motorcycle-vehicle
collisions occur there! Watch for vehicles that may unexpectedly turn in front of you or pull out
from a side street or driveway. At intersections where vision is limited by shrubbery, parked
vehicles, or buildings, slow down, make doubly sure of traffic, and be prepared to react quickly.
• Check the rear view mirrors before changing lanes or stopping. A quick stop without checking
rear traffic may result in a rear-end crash. When changing lanes, use signals and make a visual
check to assure that you can change lanes safely.
• Watch the road surface and traffic ahead to anticipate problems and road hazards. Road
hazards that are minor irritations for an automobile can be a major hazard for a rider. Hazards
include potholes, oil slicks, puddles, debris or other objects on the roadway, ruts, uneven
pavement, and railroad tracks. Painted roadway markings and manhole covers can be extremely
slippery when wet. Go around most hazards. To do so safely, you must be able to spot such
hazards from a distance. Slow down before reaching the obstacle and make sure you have
enough room before changing direction. Railroad tracks should be crossed at an angle as close
to 90 degrees as possible.
• Experienced motorcyclists often have this advice for new riders: “Assume that you are invisible to
other motorists and operate your motorcycle accordingly.” Position yourself to be seen. Ride in
the portion of the lane where it is most likely that you will be seen by other motorists. Avoid the
car’s “No Zone” (i.e., blind spot). Use your headlights, day and night. All motor vehicles have
blind spots where other vehicles cannot be seen with mirrors.
• These blind spots are to the left and right rear of the vehicle. Do not linger in motorists’ blind
spot. Wear brightly colored, preferably fluorescent, clothing. Use retro-reflective materials on
clothing and motorcycle, especially at night.
• Maintain a safe speed consistent with driving conditions and your capabilities. Gravel on the
road and slippery road surfaces can be hazardous. Avoid sudden braking or turning.
• When riding in the rain, riders find they get better traction by driving in the tracks of vehicles in
front of them. But avoid following too closely, and riding on painted lines and metal surfaces
such as manhole covers because they offer less traction. If caught in a sudden shower while
riding, pull off the highway under some shelter (e.g., overpass) and wait for the rain to stop. If you
must ride in the rain, remember that conditions are most dangerous during the first few minutes
of rainfall because of oil and other automobile droppings on the roadway. If possible, sit out the
beginning of a rain shower.
• Don’t tailgate, and don’t let other drivers tailgate you. Following too closely behind another
vehicle may make it difficult for you to brake suddenly. Further, you won’t have time to avoid road
hazards and traffic situations ahead. If another vehicle is following too closely, wave it off with a
hand signal or tap your brake pedal. If they continue to follow too closely, change lanes or pull off
the road, and let them pass.
• Pass only when it is safe to do so. Do not pass or ride on the shoulder. Pull over to the left third
of the lane before passing and make sure that you are at a safe following distance. Use turn
signals, and avoid crowding the other vehicle as you pass. Remember to make a head check
before changing lanes.
• Use brakes wisely. Use both brakes together. Brake firmly and progressively and bring the
motorcycle upright before stopping. Remember that driving through water can adversely affect
the brakes. After passing through water, look for following traffic, and when safe to do so check
your brakes by applying light pressure.
• Riders must ride aware, know their limits and ride within them. They
must also be aware of and understand their motorcycle’s limitations
and the environment in which they ride.
• Read the owner’s manual from cover to cover. It tells you how to
operate your motorcycle, maintain it, and diagnose problems.
• Carry the owner’s manual and recommended tools and spare parts on your motorcycle. Adhere
closely to the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule. Before each day’s riding,
perform a visual and operational check of the motorcycle and its operating systems. Check
lights, turn signals, tires, brakes, fuel and oil levels, mirrors, and control cables. Replace broken,
worn or frayed cables at once. Lubricate and adjust your chain as prescribed in your owner’s
Although tornadoes occur in many parts of the world, these destructive forces of nature are found most frequently in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains during the spring and summer months. In an average year, 800 tornadoes are reported nationwide, resulting in 80 deaths and over 1,500 injuries. A tornado is defined as a violently rotating column of air extending from a thunderstorm to the ground. The most violent tornadoes are capable of tremendous destruction with wind speeds of 250 mph or more. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long. Once a tornado in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, carried a motel sign 30 miles and dropped it in Arkansas!
What causes tornadoes?
Thunderstorms develop in warm, moist air in advance of eastward-moving cold fronts. These thunderstorms often produce large hail, strong winds, and tornadoes. Tornadoes in the winter and early spring are often associated with strong, frontal systems that form in the Central States and move east. Occasionally, large outbreaks of tornadoes occur with this type of weather pattern. Several states may be affected by numerous severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.
During the spring in the Central Plains, thunderstorms frequently develop along a “dryline,” which separates very warm, moist air to the east from hot, dry air to the west. Tornado-producing thunderstorms may form as the dryline moves east during the afternoon hours.
Along the front range of the Rocky Mountains, in the Texas panhandle, and in the southern High Plains, thunderstorms frequently form as air near the ground flows “upslope” toward higher terrain. If other favorable conditions exist, these thunderstorms can produce tornadoes.
Tornadoes occasionally accompany tropical storms and hurricanes that move over land. Tornadoes are most common to the right and ahead of the path of the storm center as it comes onshore.
• Some tornadoes may form during the early stages of
rapidly developing thunderstorms. This type of tornado is
tmost common along the front range of the Rocky
Mountains, the Plains, and the Western States.
• Tornadoes may appear nearly transparent until dust
tand debris are picked up.
• Occasionally, two or more tornadoes may occur at the
• Waterspouts are weak tornadoes that form over warm water.
• Waterspouts are most common along the Gulf Coast and
southeastern states. In the western United States, they occur with
cold late fall or late winter storms, during a time when you least
expect tornado development.
• Waterspouts occasionally move inland becoming tornadoes causing
damage and injuries.
How Do Tornadoes Form?
• Rising air within the thunderstorm updraft tilts the rotating air from horizontal to vertical.
• An area of rotation, 2-6 miles wide, now extends through much of the storm. Most strong and
violent tornadoes form within this area of strong rotation.
• A lower cloud base in the center of the photograph identifies an area of rotation known as a
rotating wall cloud. This area is often nearly rain-free. Note rain in the background.
• Moments later a strong tornado develops in this area. Softball-size hail and damaging
“straight-line” winds also occurred with this storm.
Tornadoes Take Many Shapes and Sizes
MYTH: Areas near rivers, lakes, and mountains are safe from tornadoes.
FACT: No place is safe from tornadoes. In the late 1980′s, a tornado swept through Yellowstone National Park leaving a path of destruction up and down a 10,000 ft. mountain.
MYTH: The low pressure with a tornado causes buildings to “explode” as the tornado passes overhead.
FACT: Violent winds and debris slamming into buildings cause most structural damage.
MYTH: Windows should be opened before a tornado approaches to equalize pressure and minimize damage.
FACT: Opening windows allows damaging winds to enter the structure. Leave the windows alone; instead, immediately go to a safe place.
Tornadoes Occur Anywhere
Weather Radar Watches the Sky
Meteorologists rely on weather radar to provide information on developing storms. The National Weather Service is strategically locating Doppler radars across the country which can detect air movement toward or away from the radar. Early detection of increasing rotation aloft within a thunderstorm can allow life-saving warnings to be issued before the tornado forms.
Frequency of Tornadoes
Tornadoes can occur at any time of the year.
• In the southern states, peak tornado occurrence is in March through May, while peak months
in the northern states are during the summer.
• Note, in some states, a secondary tornado maximum occurs in the fall.
• Tornadoes are most likely to occur between 3 and 9 p.m. but have been known to occur at all
hours of the day or night.
• The average tornado moves from southwest to northeast, but tornadoes have been known to
move in any direction. The average forward speed is 30 mph but may vary from nearly stationary
to 70 mph.
• The total number of tornadoes is probably higher than indicated in the western states. Sparce
population reduces the number reported.
STAY INFORMED ABOUT THE STORM
by listening to NOAA Weather Radio, commercial radio, and television for the latest tornado WATCHES and WARNINGS.
Weather Service personnel use information from weather radar, spotters, and other sources to issue severe thunderstorm and tornado WARNINGS for areas where severe weather is imminent.
Severe thunderstorm warnings are passed to local radio and television stations and are broadcast over local NOAA Weather Radio stations serving the warned areas. These warnings are also relayed to local emergency management and public safety officials who can activate local warning systems to alert communities.
NOAA WEATHER RADIO IS THE BEST MEANS TO RECEIVE WARNINGS FROM THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
The National Weather Service continuously broadcasts updated weather warnings and forecasts that can be received by NOAA Weather Radios sold in many stores. The average range is 40 miles, depending on topography. Your National Weather Service recommends purchasing a radio that has both a battery backup and a tone-alert feature which automatically alerts you when a watch or warning is issued.
What To Listen For…
TORNADO WATCH: Tornadoes are possible in your area. Remain alert for approaching storms.
TORNADO WARNING: A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar. If a tornado warning is issued for your area and the sky becomes threatening, move to your pre-designated place of safety.
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH: Severe thunderstorms are possible in your area.
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING: Severe thunderstorms are occurring.
Remember, tornadoes occasionally develop in areas in which a severe thunderstorm watch or warning is in effect. Remain alert to signs of an approaching tornado and seek shelter if threatening conditions exist.
Look out for:
• Dark, often greenish sky
• Wall cloud
• Large hail
• Loud roar; similar to a freight train
Other Thunderstorm Hazards
These dangers often accompany thunderstorms:
• Flash Floods: Number ONE weather killer – 146 deaths
• Lightning: Kills 75-100 people each year
• Damaging Straight-line Winds: Can reach 140 mph
• Large Hail: Can reach the size of a grapefruit – causes several hundred million dollars in damage annually to property and
Contact your local National Weather Service office, American Red Cross chapter, or Federal Emergency Management Agency office for a copy of the “Thunderstorms and Lightning…The Underrated Killers” brochure (NOAA PA 92053) and the “Flash Floods and Floods…The Awesome Power” brochure (NOAA PA 92050).
Tornado Safety – What YOU Can Do
Before the Storm:
• Have frequent drills.
• Know the county/parish in which you live, and keep a
highway map nearby to follow storm movement from
• Have a NOAA Weather Radio with a warning alarm tone
and battery back-up to receive warnings.
• Listen to radio and television for information.
• If planning a trip outdoors, listen to the latest forecasts
and take necessary action if threatening weather is
If a Warning is issued or if threatening weather approaches:
• In a home or building, move to a pre-designated shelter, such as a basement.
• If an underground shelter is not available, move to an interior room or hallway on the lowest floor
and get under a sturdy piece of furniture.
• Stay away from windows.
• Get out of automobiles.
• Do not try to outrun a tornado in your car; instead, leave it immediately.
• Mobile homes, even if tied down, offer little protection from tornadoes and should be
Occasionally, tornadoes develop so rapidly that advance warning is not possible. Remain alert for signs of an approaching tornado. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most deaths and injuries.
It’s Up To YOU!
Each year, many people are killed or seriously injured by tornadoes despite advance warning. Some did not hear the warning while others received the warning but did not believe a tornado would actually affect them. The preparedness information in this brochure, combined with timely severe weather watches and warnings, could save your life in the event a tornado threatens your area. After you have received the warning or observed threatening skies, YOU must make the decision to seek shelter before the storm arrives. It could be the most important decision you will ever make.
Who’s Most At Risk?
• People in automobiles
• The elderly, very young, and the physically or mentally impaired
• People in mobile homes
• People who may not understand the warning due to a language barrier
Tornado Safety in Schools
EVERY School Should Have A Plan!
• Each school should be inspected and tornado shelter areas designated by a registered
engineer or architect. Basements offer the best protection. Schools without basements should
use interior rooms and hallways on the lowest floor and away from windows.
• Those responsible for activating the plan should monitor weather information from
NOAA Weather Radio and local radio/television.
• If the school’s alarm system relies on electricity, have a compressed air horn or megaphone to
activate the alarm in case of power failure.
• Make special provisions for disabled students and those in portable classrooms.
• Make sure someone knows how to turn off electricity and gas in the event the school is
• Keep children at school beyond regular hours if threatening weather is expected. Children are
safer at school than in a bus or car. Students should not be sent home early if severe weather is
• Lunches or assemblies in large rooms should be delayed if severe weather is anticipated.
Gymnasiums, cafeterias, and auditoriums offer no protection from tornado-strength winds.
• Move students quickly into interior rooms or hallways on the lowest floor. Have them assume the
tornado protection position (shown at right).
Hospitals, nursing homes, and other institutions should develop a similar plan
Your National Weather Service, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and American Red Cross educate community officials and the public concerning the dangers posed by tornadoes. YOU can prepare for the possibility of a tornado by learning the safest places to seek shelter when at home, work, school, or outdoors. You should also understand basic weather terms and danger signs related to tornadoes. Your chances of staying safe during a tornado are greater if you have a plan for you and your family, and practice the plan frequently.
FAMILY DISASTER PLAN
Families should be prepared for all hazards that affect their area. NOAA’s National Weather Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the American Red Cross urge each family to develop a family disaster plan.
Where will your family be when disaster strikes? They could be anywhere – at work, at school, or in the car. How will you find each other? Will you know if your children are safe? Disasters may force you to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your home. What would you do if basic services – water, gas, electricity or telephones – were cut off?
Follow these basic steps to develop a family disaster plan…
I. Gather information about hazards.
Contact your local National Weather Service office, emergency management or civil defense office, and American Red Cross chapter. Find out what type of disasters could occur and how you should respond. Learn your community’s warning signals and evacuation plans.
II. Meet with your family to create a plan.
Discuss the information you have gathered. Pick two places to meet: a spot outside your home for an emergency, such as fire, and a place away from your neighborhood in case you can’t return home. Choose an out-of-state friend as your “family check-in contact” for everyone to call if the family gets separated. Discuss what you would do if advised to evacuate.
III. Implement your plan.
(1) Post emergency telephone numbers by phones; (2) Install safety features in your house, such as smoke detectors and fire extinguishers; (3) Inspect your home for potential hazards (such as items that can move, fall, break, or catch fire) and correct them; (4) Have your family learn basic safety measures, such as CPR and first aid; how to use a fire extinguisher; and how and when to turn off water, gas, and electricity in your home; (5) Teach children how and when to call 911 or your local Emergency Medical Services number; (6) Keep enough supplies in your home to meet your needs for at least three days. Assemble a disaster supplies kit with items you may need in case of an evacuation. Store these supplies in sturdy, easy-to-carry containers, such as backpacks or duffle bags. Keep important family documents in a waterproof container. Keep a smaller disaster supplies kit in the trunk of your car.
A DISASTER SUPPLIES KIT SHOULD INCLUDE:
A 3-day supply of water (one gallon per person per day) and food that won’t spoilitem one change of clothing and footwear per personitem one blanket or sleeping bag per personitem a first-aid kit, including prescription medicinesitem emergency tools, including a battery-powered NOAA Weather Radio and a portable radio, flashlight, and plenty of extra batteriesitem an extra set of car keys and a credit card or cashitem special items for infant, elderly, or disabled family members.
IV. Practice and maintain your plan.
Ask questions to make sure your family remembers meeting places, phone numbers, and safety rules. Conduct drills. Test your smoke detectors monthly and change the batteries at least once a year. Test and recharge your fire extinguisher(s) according to manufacturer’s instructions. Replace stored water and food every six months.
Older Adult Drivers: Fact Sheet
In 2007, there were 31 million licensed drivers ages 65 and older in the United States. Motor vehicles allow older adults to maintain mobility; but as age increases, so does older adults’ risk of being injured or killed in a motor vehicle crash. More than 500 older adults are injured every day as occupants of motor vehicles. Thankfully, there are steps that older adults can take to stay safer on the roads.
How big is the problem?
• More than 183,000 older adults were injured as occupants in motor vehicle crashes in 2008.
This amounts to 500 older adults being injured in a crash every day.1
• There were 31 million licensed older drivers in 2007, which is a 19–percent increase from
Who is most at risk?
• Motor vehicle crash deaths per capita among males and females begin to increase markedly
starting at ages 70-74.2
• Per mile traveled, fatal crash rates increase starting at age 75 and increase notably after age 80.
This is largely due to increased susceptibility to injury, particularly chest injuries, and medical
complications among older drivers rather than an increased tendency to get into crashes.2
• Age-related decreases in vision, cognitive functions, and physical impairments may affect some
older adults’ driving ability.3
• Across all age groups, males had substantially higher death rates than females.2
How can deaths and injuries be prevented?
Existing protective factors that may help improve older drivers’ safety include:
• High incidence of seat belt use: More than three in every four (77%) older motor vehicle
occupants (drivers and passengers) involved in fatal crashes were wearing seat belts at the
time of the crash, compared to 63 percent for other adult occupants (18 to 64 years of age).1
• Tendency to drive when conditions are the safest: Older drivers tend to limit their driving during
bad weather and at night and drive fewer miles than younger drivers.4
• Lower incidence of impaired driving: Older adult drivers are less likely to drink and drive than
other adult drivers.5 Only 5% of older drivers involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol
concentration (BAC) of 0.08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher, compared to 25% of drivers
between the ages of 21 and 64 years.1
What can older adults do?
• Exercise regularly to increase strength and flexibility.
• Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review medicines–both prescription and over-the counter–to
reduce side effects and interactions.
• Have eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year. Wear glasses and corrective lenses
• Drive during daylight and in good weather. Find the safest route with well-lit streets,
intersections with left turn arrows, and easy parking. Plan your route before you drive.
• Leave a large following distance, and keep distractions in the car to a minimum.
• Think about potential alternatives for getting around.
What are CDC’s research and program activities in this area?
Exploring the relationships between walking, driving and health
CDC collaborated with scientists at Group Health Cooperative to study the walking and driving ability of older adults. A health survey asking questions about driving and walking habits and abilities was linked to existing health data such as comorbidities, medication use, health care visits and cost of care. Data findings allow researchers to look at how adults restrict their driving, compare the health of drivers versus non-drivers, and evaluate how the fear of falling may limit transportation mode choice.
• Related article:
Naumann RB, Dellinger AM, Anderson ML, Bonomi AE, Rivara FP, Thompson RS. Preferred
modes of travel among older adults: what factors affect the choice to walk instead of drive?
Journal of Safety Research 2009; 40(5).
Developing an assessment battery for older driver capabilities
With CDC funding, researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute developed and pilot tested a comprehensive battery of assessment instruments for older drivers that was inexpensive and easy to administer. Results showed that the entire battery required less than one hour to complete. Subjective statements by participants showed that the battery was acceptable, free of problems, had tasks presented in a good order, and was not too long. The authors found that the assessment battery was low–cost, transportable, easy to administer, easy for participants to complete, provided a comprehensive assessment of a person’s physical health, mental health, and driving behaviors and would serve as a valuable data collection tool for a longitudinal study of older drivers.
• Related article:
Eby DW, Molnar LJ, Shope JT, Dellinger, AM. Development and pilot testing of an assessment
battery for older drivers. Journal of Safety Research 2007, Vol. 38(5):535-43.
Older adult falls while entering and exiting motor vehicles
Researchers studied the medical records of older people treated in emergency departments (ED) after being injured while getting into or out of motor vehicles. The research found that falls caused more than 41% of these injuries, which is more than any other cause.
• Related Article:
Dellinger AM, Boyd RM, Haileyesus T. Fall Injuries among Older Adults from an Unusual Source:
Entering and Exiting a Vehicle. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 2008; 56 (4): 609–14.
License renewal and crash risk among older drivers
With CDC funding, researchers at the University of Washington are investigating the relationship between older drivers’ crash risk and the time since their last license renewal. The interval between license renewals is an issue of public policy, and states must balance the crash risk caused by drivers who have become impaired against the cost and inconvenience of more frequent renewals. The results of this study will help decision makers determine the appropriate interval between license renewals for older drivers.
“This is one I go to a lot. It only takes 30 seconds. My eyes are on it pretty much the whole time. So I just fake locked it with my Kryptonite U-lock,” Horse said.
A surveillance video from a nearby building showed the thief riding away on Austin’s bike.
Thinking quickly Austin turned to Twitter, the social networking site on which, he says, messengers have a tight-knit community.
“I knew the word would get out. It was just a matter of getting the bike before someone stuffed it in a basement or shipped it out of the city or spray painted it,” Horse said.
So at 3:47 p.m., he posts, or “tweets,” this message: stolen bike! my orange gangsta just got stolen 28th & mad.
He also “tweeted” a photo of the bike.
Word spread like wildfire once it hit Twitter. Three hours after the bike was stolen it was discovered in another neighborhood.
“I got the tweet right on the BlackBerry,” Eddie Brannan said.
Brannan is a friend and fellow bike enthusiast, who just happened to be strolling when he spotted Austin’s distinctive orange bike.
“There was the bike upside down right outside, even with the blinking light still flashing,” Brannan said.
Not wanting to confront the thief, he quickly took off with the bike and didn’t look back.
“It got stolen twice in two hours on the same day,” Brannan said.
At 6:47 pm a relieved Austin “tweets:” eddie brannan is the man! stole my bike back and looks good in a suit.
Final score: Twitter 1, Thief 0
“It’s a technology that allows us to communicate,” Horse said.
“People will spread the word just like that,” Brannan added.
Austin is back at work and says he always locks his bike now no matter what.