Publication Date



In 2020, there were 5,579 motorcyclist fatalities in the U.S., which is the highest on record. Despite accounting for only 3% of registered vehicles, motorcycles are involved in 42% of fatal guardrail impacts. Roadside safety hardware testing guidelines are outlined in the Manual for Assessing Safety Hardware (MASH) for passenger vehicles and large trucks but these procedures do not include any motorcycle impacts. Although international test procedures for roadside hardware prescribe motorcycle crash tests, it is not known if the prescribed test conditions reflect the conditions at which motorcycles depart the roadway in the U.S. A better understanding of the characteristics of motorcycles departing the roadway in the U.S. is needed before the development of motorcycle crash tests. This study used the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) 17-88 database to compare the encroachment and impact characteristics of motorcycles, passenger vehicles, single-unit trucks, and tractor-trailer trucks. Motorcycles were found to have a similar distribution of impact angles to passenger vehicles, with an 85th percentile of 24 degrees. The median and 85th percentile impact angle was found to be shallower for tractor-trailer trucks compared with motorcycles and passenger vehicles. Additionally, large trucks and motorcycles were found to roll over at a higher frequency than passenger vehicles. During the first event, almost 80% of motorcycles were upright. By the second event, almost 50% of motorcyclists were separated from the motorcycle. This indicates that a large percentage of riders lose contact with the motorcycle during the first event and are separated during any subsequent events. Based on these results, future motorcycle-barrier tests should consider an upright configuration and an impact angle of 24 degrees.


Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board


Civil and Environmental Engineering