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Discussion Starter · #1 ·

Another reason I wear a full face!

The "Hurt" Study

Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of

Countermeasures, Volume 1: Technical Report, Hurt, H.H., Ouellet, J.V.

and Thom, D.R., Traffic Safety Center, University of Southern California,

Los Angeles, California 90007, Contract No. DOT HS-5-01160, January 1981

(Final Report)

The Hurt study, published in 1981, was a ground-breaking report on the causes

and effects of motorcycle accidents. Although more than 15 years old at this

time, the study still offers riders insight into the statistics regarding

motorcycle accidents and tips on safer riding.

With funds from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, researcher Harry Hurt (from which the study gets its common name) of the University of Southern California,

investigated almost every aspect of 900 motorcycle accidents in the Los Angeles

area. Additionally, Hurt and his staff analyzed 3,600 motorcycle traffic

accident reports in the same geographic area.

This is the same study that is frequently quoted in the MSF rider safety


A complete non-summarized version of this document is available

from the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) by ordering document

number PB81-206443/LL. The cost is $84.00 each per document plus $5.00 handling

per order. For more information, call the NTIS Sales Desk at 1-800-553-NTIS or


Summary of Findings

Throughout the accident and exposure data there are special

observations which relate to accident and injury causation and characteristics

of the motorcycle accidents studied. These findings are summarized as follows:


Approximately three-fourths of these motorcycle accidents involved

collision with another vehicle, which was most usually a passenger



Approximately one-fourth of these motorcycle accidents were single vehicle

accidents involving the motorcycle colliding with the roadway or some fixed

object in the environment.


Vehicle failure accounted for less than 3% of these motorcycle accidents,

and most of those were single vehicle accidents where control was lost due

to a puncture flat.


In the single vehicle accidents, motorcycle rider error was present as the

accident precipitating factor in about two-thirds of the cases, with the

typical error being a slide-out and fall due to over-braking or running wide

on a curve due to excess speed or under-cornering.


Roadway defects (pavement ridges, potholes, etc.) were the accident cause

in 2% of the accidents; animal involvement was 1% of the accidents.


In the multiple vehicle accidents, the driver of the other vehicle

violated the motorcycle right-of-way and caused the accident in two-thirds

of those accidents.


The failure of motorists to detect and recognize motorcycles in traffic is

the predominating cause of motorcycle accidents. The driver of the other

vehicle involved in collision with the motorcycle did not see the motorcycle

before the collision, or did not see the motorcycle until too late to avoid

the collision.


Deliberate hostile action by a motorist against a motorcycle rider is a

rare accident cause. The most frequent accident configuration is the

motorcycle proceeding straight then the automobile makes a left turn in

front of the oncoming motorcycle.


Intersections are the most likely place for the motorcycle accident, with

the other vehicle violating the motorcycle right-of-way, and often violating

traffic controls.


Weather is not a factor in 98% of motorcycle accidents.


Most motorcycle accidents involve a short trip associated with shopping,

errands, friends, entertainment or recreation, and the accident is likely to

happen in a very short time close to the trip origin.


The view of the motorcycle or the other vehicle involved in the accident

is limited by glare or obstructed by other vehicles in almost half of the

multiple vehicle accidents.


Conspicuity of the motorcycle is a critical factor in the multiple vehicle

accidents, and accident involvement is significantly reduced by the use of

motorcycle headlamps (on in daylight) and the wearing of high visibility

yellow, orange or bright red jackets.


Fuel system leaks and spills were present in 62% of the motorcycle

accidents in the post-crash phase. This represents an undue hazard for fire.


The median pre-crash speed was 29.8 mph, and the median crash speed was

21.5 mph, and the one-in-a-thousand crash speed is approximately 86 mph.


The typical motorcycle pre-crash lines-of-sight to the traffic hazard

portray no contribution of the limits of peripheral vision; more than

three-fourths of all accident hazards are within 45deg of either side of

straight ahead.


Conspicuity of the motorcycle is most critical for the frontal surfaces of

the motorcycle and rider.


Vehicle defects related to accident causation are rare and likely to be

due to deficient or defective maintenance.


Motorcycle riders between the ages of 16 and 24 are significantly

overrepresented in accidents; motorcycle riders between the ages of 30 and

50 are significantly underrepresented. Although the majority of the

accident-involved motorcycle riders are male (96%), the female motorcycles

riders are significantly overrepresented in the accident data.


Craftsmen, laborers, and students comprise most of the accident-involved

motorcycle riders. Professionals, sales workers, and craftsmen are

underrepresented and laborers, students and unemployed are overrepresented

in the accidents.


Motorcycle riders with previous recent traffic citations and accidents are

overrepresented in the accident data.


The motorcycle riders involved in accidents are essentially without

training; 92% were self-taught or learned from family or friends. Motorcycle

rider training experience reduces accident involvement and is related to

reduced injuries in the event of accidents.


More than half of the accident-involved motorcycle riders had less than 5

months experience on the accident motorcycle, although the total street

riding experience was almost 3 years. Motorcycle riders with dirt bike

experience are significantly underrepresented in the accident data.


Lack of attention to the driving task is a common factor for the

motorcyclist in an accident.


Almost half of the fatal accidents show alcohol involvement.


Motorcycle riders in these accidents showed significant collision

avoidance problems. Most riders would over-brake and skid the rear wheel, and

under-brake the front wheel greatly reducing collision avoidance

deceleration. The ability to countersteer and swerve was essentially absent.


The typical motorcycle accident allows the motorcyclist just less than 2

seconds to complete all collision avoidance action.


Passenger-carrying motorcycles are not overrepresented in the accident



The driver of the other vehicles involved in collision with the motorcycle

are not distinguished from other accident populations except that the ages

of 20 to 29, and beyond 65 are overrepresented. Also, these drivers are

generally unfamiliar with motorcycles.


The large displacement motorcycles are underrepresented in accidents but

they are associated with higher injury severity when involved in accidents.


Any effect of motorcycle color on accident involvement is not determinable

from these data, but is expected to be insignificant because the frontal

surfaces are most often presented to the other vehicle involved in the



Motorcycles equipped with fairings and windshields are underrepresented in

accidents, most likely because of the contribution to conspicuity and the

association with more experienced and trained riders.


Motorcycle riders in these accidents were significantly without motorcycle

license, without any license, or with license revoked.


Motorcycle modifications such as those associated with the semi-chopper or

cafe racer are definitely overrepresented in accidents.


The likelihood of injury is extremely high in these motorcycle

accidents-98% of the multiple vehicle collisions and 96% of the single

vehicle accidents resulted in some kind of injury to the motorcycle rider;

45% resulted in more than a minor injury.


Half of the injuries to the somatic regions were to the ankle-foot, lower

leg, knee, and thigh-upper leg.


Crash bars are not an effective injury countermeasure; the reduction of

injury to the ankle-foot is balanced by increase of injury to the

thigh-upper leg, knee, and lower leg.


The use of heavy boots, jacket, gloves, etc., is effective in preventing

or reducing abrasions and lacerations, which are frequent but rarely severe



Groin injuries were sustained by the motorcyclist in at least 13% of the

accidents, which typified by multiple vehicle collision in frontal impact at

higher than average speed.


Injury severity increases with speed, alcohol involvement and motorcycle



Seventy-three percent of the accident-involved motorcycle riders used no

eye protection, and it is likely that the wind on the unprotected eyes

contributed in impairment of vision which delayed hazard detection.


Approximately 50% of the motorcycle riders in traffic were using safety

helmets but only 40% of the accident-involved motorcycle riders were wearing

helmets at the time of the accident.


Voluntary safety helmet use by those accident-involved motorcycle riders

was lowest for untrained, uneducated, young motorcycle riders on hot days

and short trips.


The most deadly injuries to the accident victims were injuries to the

chest and head.


The use of the safety helmet is the single critical factor in the

prevention of reduction of head injury; the safety helmet which complies

with FMVSS 218 is a significantly effective injury countermeasure.


Safety helmet use caused no attenuation of critical traffic sounds, no

limitation of precrash visual field, and no fatigue or loss of attention; no

element of accident causation was related to helmet use.


FMVSS 218 provides a high level of protection in traffic accidents, and

needs modification only to increase coverage at the back of the head and

demonstrate impact protection of the front of full facial coverage helmets,

and insure all adult sizes for traffic use are covered by the standard.


Helmeted riders and passengers showed significantly lower head and neck

injury for all types of injury, at all levels of injury severity.


The increased coverage of the full facial coverage helmet increases

protection, and significantly reduces face injuries.


There is not liability for neck injury by wearing a safety helmet;

helmeted riders had less neck injuries than unhelmeted riders. Only four

minor injuries were attributable to helmet use, and in each case the helmet

prevented possible critical or fatal head injury.


Sixty percent of the motorcyclists were not wearing safety helmets at the

time of the accident. Of this group, 26% said they did not wear helmets

because they were uncomfortable and inconvenient, and 53% simply had no

expectation of accident involvement.


Valid motorcycle exposure data can be obtained only from collection at the

traffic site. Motor vehicle or driver license data presents information

which is completely unrelated to actual use.


Less than 10% of the motorcycle riders involved in these accidents had

insurance of any kind to provide medical care or replace property.

10,664 Posts
Although the majority of the accident-involved motorcycle riders are male (96%), the female motorcycles riders are significantly overrepresented in the accident data.

Wow. Is there really data that indicates women tend to be crappy riders?

590 Posts
Another reason I wear a full face!

Here's mine after my accident last fall:

7. The failure of motorists to detect and recognize motorcycles in traffic is

the predominating cause of motorcycle accidents. The driver of the other

vehicle involved in collision with the motorcycle did not see the motorcycle

before the collision, or did not see the motorcycle until too late to avoid

the collision.

Because of this I wear a hi-viz vest, at least for commuting in traffic. Seems to make a big difference.

The most deadly injuries to the accident victims were injuries to the

chest and head.

Because of this the vest is the airbag type, with a CO2 cartridge. I hit the ground really hard last Sept, and my regular armor was not enough. Could just lay in my hospital bed helplessly the first day, broke shoulder blade, ribs, collarbone.

7,369 Posts
I'd just like to point out that these are 1981 stats. Don't take them verbatim. Look what we learned from them, then take another look and see how many are no longer as valid as a result.

Cali had no helmet law, nor mandatory insurance. Rider education beyond what was in the Driver's Handbook was practically nonexistent, as was streetable body armor. As I recall the thinking in the Driver's Handbok back then was "in the event of an impending broadside, lay the bike down in an effort to scrub off speed". I'm not kidding. The most useful info you learned by studying for the Cali test was to stay out of the grease slick in the rain.

Female riders were probably 1 in 10,000 at the time, er sumpin. Seemed like it to me, anyway. Here in southern California I meet more chicks on bikes in a day now than I did in ten years back then. College girls commuting on scooters occasionally, but almost never on motorcycles. While still a fraction of the total motorcycling public I'd venture that they're statistically fairly safe riders just because they're not GUYS about it. They actually GO to an MSF course. Girls are dopey like that. I wonder how "over represented" they'd be today.

Choppers and cafe racers were still being built with owner-modified stock parts for the most part, rather than "boutique" parts, which at least have some negligible effort given to safety nowadays for liability reasons. We still thought spools were cool. Cafe racers were smarter but still had drums on one or both ends, as did 99% of production bikes in 1981. We had 11 second bikes that wouldn't stop in a week from those speeds. A modern boutique chopper is arguably more rideable and light years safer than it's 1981 counterpart. I know that ain't sayin much, but, hey.

Brands like Shoei were for "ten dollar heads". You bought them to wear in winter. If you actually cared about your noggin you scrimped and saved for a U.S.-made lid, like a Bell. After the helmet law went into effect we hauled ass to the swap meet to buy anything with a DOT sticker on it. A lot of the offshore brands that are state-of-the-art today were complete junk back then, but they somehow squeaked through testing. Swap meet Shoei: 25 bucks. Bell Star: $100+. Those were our choices.

I disagree with the neck injury statistics. Study after study proved That the helmets of 30 years ago were just as likely to snap your neck as they were to save your life. This in part was why Cali and a lot of other states took so long in passing the helmet law. Helmet technology advanced considerably and quickly until either the argument no longer held up, or the insurance lobby bought enough martinis. I think the latter was the case initially, and it was actually many years later before helmets actually caught up with the claims.

Most commercially available lids were either 3/4 or full face jobs, though. I wonder how the popularity of half helmets has skewed the statistics backwards.

Anyway, thanks for bringing it up. I got something different out of it.

Super Moderator
662 Posts
There's always some thinking that needs to be done when you read these reports. And the thinking is important. Whether you agree or disagree, each of us takes away something, hopefully something to make us safer. Even if its just one small reminder, like "be careful at intersections" or "don't leave the gear off because it's just a short jaunt to the corner store". Thanks for sharing.

1,706 Posts
Its been said before but not in the new and "improved" forum which undoubtedly has new members.

David Houghs book "Proficient Motorcycling" The ultimate guide to riding well is something I have read and read again. It is good reading and discusses a lot of the info from the Hurt report. Hough's book was apparently first written in 2000 and updated in 2008 and undoubtedly has new info. Better yet he talks about strategies, alternatives, and consequences on many aspects of riding, outfitting, etc. I know I learned that I had some bad habits that deserved attention. Its pretty cheap when you consider the consequences of a spill or accident. Tom

10,664 Posts
Thr Hurt Report is 29 years old, and the demographics in motorcycling have changed. The proportion of "semi-chopper" and "cafe" bikes have changed dramatically. In 1981 if you wanted a bike of those types you had to build it yourself. Today those are the two most popular types of motorcycles, accounting for what seems like 85 or 90% of all new bike sales. In 1981 it seems 85 to 90% of motorcycles were standards. They still seem over-represented in the crash statistics. These days I drive a wrecker and I've never been called to pick up a wreck of any other type. I think the recliner-style ergonomics of a cruiser are not conducive to maintaining control in emergency situations, and the performance potential of modern crotch rockets is way beyond the ability levels of the vast majority of riders.

Dualsports had only been manufactured for about 10 years in 1981, and were still a relatively small part of motorcycling. I think many people buy small dualsports today for the comfortable, confidence inspiring standard ergonomics, light weight, and easy handling, attributes hard to find in a small or mid-size street bike, and never touch a tire to dirt. I think all the questions about dropping small dualsports are reflections of their intended street use.

Honda has discontinued the 250 Nighthawk. As of late, though, it seems the pendulum is swinging back to smaller standard motorcycles--Suzuki has the Gladiator, and is coming out with a new TU250 standard with fuel injection. The TU250 will be the only small Japanese standard on the market. The next smallest standard naked motorcycle from any of the Japanese manufacturers is 650cc. I think most potential new riders, and a large number of current and ex riders, don't want to move up to a 450-pound motorcycle. Many people don't like the high center of gravity of most dualsports, either. Think of the KLR and V-strom 650s. Neither of these bikes exhibit confidence inspiring slow speed handling. Hardly good introductions to motorcycling, are they?

I think the market is ripe for conservatively styled, smaller, standard motorcycles with modern systems. i think an aging population is outgrowing the cruiser and transformer design fads. I think if older folks are going to continue to ride, they will be looking for smaller, lighter, and nicely equipped motorcycles with a modicum of comfort. Face it, neither rolling barcoloungers or crotchrockets are comfortable to ride.

There has not been such a bike marketed since the 1970s, and with modern technologies a small standard could be so much better than the 1970s UJMs. I'd love to have a low to mid-20s horsepower, water-cooled, counterbalanced EFI 250cc single, 6-speed trans with even spacing, in a lightweight frame with progressive springs, adjustable dampning, discs on both ends with tubeless tires with 150-160 cross section on the rear and 110-120 on the front, a luggage rack, and 275 to 300 pounds wet with 4 to 5 gallons of gas. Yamaha sells something almost as good in Europe, the YBR250.
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4,970 Posts
I'd like to see them bring back something along the lines of an up dated SR-500 or Honda's FT-500 Ascot. Light and simple with enough grunt to haul my rear up a hill. Also if I were king of the world anyone who wanted a motorcycle permit would first have to ride a dirt bike for at least two years and pass a skills test. Auto permit? Two years in a rally car! Hey I've berm shot a curb on my GPz-750 to save myself. If I had not of done it countless times on my dirt bikes who knows?

1,544 Posts
Nothing scientific about this, just my personal observation. I see by my estimate, 85% of riders in Idaho not wearing helmets (where we have no helmet law). It is also my observation that the people on the big Harleys and other road bikes are less apt to be wearing helmets than are the folks on the smaller bikes. Interestingly enough, it would seem that scooter riders might have the highest incidence of helmet use, (though they typically have the little half-helmets that IMHO are more about fashion than protection). Interestingly enough, the couple of times I've gone trail riding I've yet to come across a rider without a helmet.

I wear a full-face helment with face shield. These last few summer weeks it's been hot and sitting at a long stoplight with that bucket on my head isn't much fun. But I've grown fond of this brain, my "second favorite organ" to quote an old line from a Woody Allen movie, and figure as long as I'm riding motorcycles as helmet isn't optional for me. There's a name for motorcyclists who don't wear helmets -- "Organ donors."

The survey bears out all of those things we've heard about the dangers inherent in motorcycle riding. I love it and plan to keep at it, but will make myself as visible as possible, ride like I'm invisible to other drivers, continually practice my riding skills, and wear protective gear, most importantly, my helmet. Here's wishing safe riding to all who frequent our forum!
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