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Motorcycle Safety and Enforcement Training

We Stole the Instructors' Training Manual

From Rogue, Bikernet Bad Cop Investigator, with images courtesy of the Bob T. collection

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Editor's Note: Rogue, our Bikernet Bad Cop Investigator supplied us with this law enforcement training manual. It's interesting to note how they twisted the statistical facts to present a case for additional enforcement and restrictive measures. Did you know that we currently have twice as many riders on the road since 1983, yet our accident rate is equal to that era.
This document harps on helmets as a major lifesaver, yet someday they will discover how many helmets cause accidents and factor that against the protective nature. In fact, they will prove that DOT approved helmets cause more accidents than novelty helmets.
Finally, you'll notice the most important statistic is not investigated enough. Some two thirds of all motorcycle accidents and deaths are caused by motorists, mostly turning left in front of us. All the helmets in the world won't help us with that issue or distracted (cell phones) drivers. They want to stop us more often, wrap us in more protective attire, while they chit-chat on their phones. I tried to cut the fluff outta this so you could get to the basics quick. --Bandit

This training was developed by police officers for police officers. The information provided is meant to enhance officer knowledge and safety in the realm of motorcycle laws through enforcement and public education of those motor vehicle/motorcycle laws, and give officers the information to help reduce the number of motorcyclist killed or injured in traffic crashes.

The International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training (IADLEST) would like to thank the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for their help in making this training possible.
Particular thanks go to Earl Hardy and William Cosby of NHTSA for their on-going guidance. We also must
extend our thanks to the following individuals who participated in the curriculum development. Their
knowledge and experience helped to define the content of the materials for the lesson modules and critical
information was covered for law enforcement. The individuals who helped make this training a reality include
the following: Mr. Richard Davis, Arkansas State Police; Lt. Jim Halvorsen, New York State Police; Lt.
Michael Turcott, Washington State Police; and Mr. John Young, Texas Department of Public Safety. Special
thanks to Inspector Patrick McManamon, Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles and Mr. Albert Liebno,
Maryland Police & Correctional Training Commissions for their feedback on improving the presentations.

The information contained in this program by no means reflects the opinions of all the individuals listed.
June F. Kelly, Project Manager, IADLEST
Assistant Director, Vermont Police Academy

TITLE: Motorcycle Safety and Enforcement Training for LE (Law Enforcement)

Lesson Purpose: To understand why the enforcement of motorcycle laws, support of national motorcycle safety enforcement efforts and best practices are critical to reduce motorcycle fatalities and injuries.

Date Prepared: May 1, 2009

This training manual developed by IADLEST is intended to assist law enforcement in the enforcement of motorcycle laws. Its purpose is to share existing motorcycle laws knowledge, discuss motorcycle safety issues, the scope of problems involving enforcement of motorcycle
laws, and present best practices in the realm of enforcement of motorcycle laws, sharing of safety practices for law enforcement, the motorcyclist and the public, prevention of motorcycle accidents and fill an existing gap in law enforcement training. The goal of this training is to have
all police officers trained through their Police Academies or POST1 Programs.

We propose to act on the knowledge gained in this course to promote “enforcement of motorcycle laws” and reduce the problem of unlicensed motorcyclists, motorcycle DUI, non-
compliant helmets, and speed related crashes.

P.O.S.T. is the acronym for Police Officer Standards and Training

TITLE: Training for the Enforcement of Motorcycle Laws

Opening Statement
This training will look at situations unique to the enforcement of motorcycle laws such as the following:
?? Why so many motorcycles injuries and fatalities and what can law enforcement do through public education and enforcement?
?? Motorcycle Types and Characteristics
?? Safety Laws Related to Equipment and Operation
?? Motorcycle licensing and speeding issues
?? Officer and Motorcyclist Safety
Consider “distracted driver” issues and how critical it is to operating a motorcycle.
Driver talking to passenger
Cell phone use (yes, in a car and even on a motorcycle)
Talking to another motorcyclist, riding two or three abreast
?? Strategies for traffic stops
?? Strategies to avoid pursuit situations
?? Crash Investigation
?? Detection of impaired motorcyclists
?? Detection of non-compliant helmets
?? Latest on enforcement & public relations campaigns

Specific course objectives.

1. Why this course? Explain national statistics bulleted on slide.

2. Review motorcycle laws related to critical areas.
?? Equipment
?? Licensing requirements
?? Alcohol-related/impaired behavior of motorcyclists
?? Speed Enforcement
Helmets - FMVSS 218 and what are the pending revisions

3. Officer Safety concerns
?? Explain and share strategies for stopping motorcycles and
?? Strategies to avoid pursuits.

4. Motorcycle Crash Investigation awareness
?? First Responder Safety and Motorcyclist First Aid Pointers
?? What are some motorcycle crash investigation pointers to consider for crash
?? Does your state have standardized data gathering and reporting for motorcycle

5. Encourage motorcycle safety and education.

National Statistics 2

Injuries & Fatalities

*According to US DOT, Motorcycle fatalities have more than doubled since 1998, increasing
130 percent over a ten year period.

Registration trends

*Motorcycles account for 3 percent of all registered vehicles; however motorcycle fatalities
represent 13 percent of traffic fatalities in the United States.

Unlicensed motorcycle drivers

*1 out 4 motorcycle riders (25%) involved in fatal crashes in 2008 were not properly licensed.

DUI is a factor in fatalities

*Alcohol is a significant factor in far too many motorcycle fatal crashes. In 2008, 29 percent of
all fatally injured motorcycle operators had BAC levels of .08 or higher, and 43 percent of those
killed in single-vehicle crashes were over .08 BAC, and that number jumps to 64 percent on
weekend nights.

Helmet Use Nationally - Helmet Laws from State to State

• 20 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico require helmet use by all;
• Other States have “partial helmet” laws based on age or no laws requiring helmet use.

Enforcement Issues
• There is limited training on enforcement of motorcycle laws because most police academies across the country do not have courses on the topic or only provide brief coverage on motorcycle laws in their basic motor vehicle law classes.
• Training on motorcycle law enforcement is often specialized and appeals to those that ride.
• Most law enforcement officers do not ride motorcycles so they do not know what to look for regarding motorcycle equipment, helmets and the laws.

Motorcycle Risks

Motorcyclists Are at Risk from Other Drivers.
• Drivers of passenger vehicles and all types of vehicles need to be alert of motorcycles.
• Motorcycles are small and may be difficult for drivers of other vehicles to see.
• Motorcycles have a much smaller profile than other vehicles.
• Due to the smaller profile it can be difficult to judge the speed and distance of an
approaching motorcycle.
• After a crash, the drivers of other vehicles involved often say they never saw the motorcyclist and were unable to respond in time.
• In the event of a crash, a motorcyclist is much more vulnerable and in much greater danger physically than other vehicle occupants.
• In fact, “Per vehicle mile traveled in 2007, motorcyclists are about 37 times more likely than
passenger car occupants to die in a traffic crash and 9 times more likely to be injured.”

National Statistics

Motorcyclist Deaths are Rising.
• In 2008, motorcycle rider fatalities increased for the tenth straight year.
• During 2008, 5,290 motorcyclists lost their lives in fatal highway crashes, an increase of 2 percent over the 5,174 motorcyclists killed in 2007.
• Motorcycle riders were involved in more than one out of nine of all U.S. roadway fatalities.
• 47 percent of all fatalities in motorcycle crashes in 2008 involved another vehicle in addition to the motorcycle in the crash.
• 77 percent of all two-vehicle crashes involving a motorcycle were struck in the front with only 7 percent struck in the rear.
• In 41 percent of the crashes involving a motorcycle and another type of vehicle, the other vehicle was turning left when the motorcycle was going straight, passing, or overtaking the vehicle.
• In 2008, 35 percent of all motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were speeding.

Law Enforcement

Law enforcement has a special contribution to make in the prevention of motorcycle crashes. Some of these contributions are simple and some are very difficult: dirt bikes in traffic are an obvious hazard; unlicensed motorcyclists are difficult to detect, and according to the Hurt study impaired motorcycle riders are far more difficult to detect than impaired automobile drivers. The
increases involvement of the unlicensed rider in all crashes, and the impaired rider in fatal crashes, demands enforcement action, but legal requirements of due cause for a traffic stop may limit this action.

These edited comments are a part of the Hurt Study released in 1981, which tried to research motorcycle crash cause factors and identify countermeasures to use in the idea of providing the basis of "due cause" for preliminary enforcement action and screening of traffic for unlicensed
riders. One fundamental rider communication measure suggested in the study was enforcement action by ticketing for a for a traffic violation. The data of this research shows...that driver improvement is vital to those motorcycle
riders who have had traffic violations or crashes, and experience has shown that a special motorcycle "traffic school" is an effective alternative to the payment of a fine for a citation. Advantage should be made of this contact opportunity to require a special motorcycle traffic school for motorcycle riders with traffic citations so that critical
information can be given to these likely crash candidates.

The Hurt study was cited in many references about
motorcycle crash cause studies and countermeasures over
the years. This study is now 30 years old. A new study
is currently under commission through the Motorcycle
Safety Foundation to the Oklahoma Transportation
Center for the “new Motorcycle Crash Causation Study”.
The hope is that this study will shed new light on the
causes of crashes and update the old data.

HURT STUDY – Highlights - Key Points Learned

?? 75% M/C crashes involve another vehicle
?? 2/3 of those crashes other vehicle failed to yield right of way to M/C
?? Failure of motorist to recognize M/C is predominate cause of crash
?? Crash configuration—M/C traveling straight other vehicle turning maneuver
?? Riders 16 and 24 of age are over-represented in these crashes (96% male)
?? 92% of the riders we self taught without any “formal” training
?? 50% of fatal M/C riders had alcohol usage
?? Motorcyclist had significant collision avoidance problems, i.e., over/under braking, poor
ability to counter steer and swerve, etc.
?? Typically less than 2 seconds for motorcyclist to react
?? Motorcycles equipped with fairings and windshields low crash involvement – maybe related
to conspicuity (more frontal surface)
?? High number of M/C riders had no M/C license , no license of any type or were
?? <10% had insurance of any kind
?? Likelihood of injury—98% multiple vehicle, 96% single vehicle—45% more than minor
?? Crash bars are not an effective injury countermeasure
?? Most Serious injuries--to the chest and head
?? 60% were not wearing safety helmets -- 26% did not wear helmets because they were uncomfortable and inconvenient -- 53% no expectation of accident involvement
Injury severity increases with speed, alcohol involvement and motorcycle size

Background: Motorcycle Types & Characteristics
Until the 1950s, there was just one kind of motorcycle available. This all-purpose type of machine was designed for street use and was modified for more specialized applications. As motorcycles became more popular, new configurations were created to address certain interests
and needs. Initially, special models were designed for off-highway riding. However, the range and variety of models have grown as manufacturers identified and addressed new market niches.

By the 1980s, several distinct types of street-legal motorcycles had emerged. The characteristics
and capabilities of current street motorcycles vary with their style. Different categories have different strengths and weaknesses, which may be helpful to recognize. Although some machines blur the distinctions, in general, current street-legal motorcycles fit into the following

Traditional motorcycles designed as practical transportation, with few styling frills or amenities. This category falls in the middle of the spectrum in most areas of ergonomics and performance, including power, handling response, and braking. Although they were once almost universal, traditional-style motorcycles have declined in popularity as more specialized types have become available.


Currently the most popular category of the market, centered on traditional or classic American styling. Once dominated almost exclusively by Harley-Davidson, the cruiser category has attracted competition from all major manufacturers and is the entry category for new American manufacturers. The profile is long with a low saddle height. The emphasis in the cruiser category is on appearance, style, and sound, with less emphasis on performance. Owners frequently customize these machines.

Sport bike

Styled and constructed in the manner of road-racing
motorcycles with streamlined bodywork, front-end weight
bias, and forward-leaning riding positions, the emphasis is
on handling, acceleration, top speed, braking, and cornering
prowess. Performance handling and braking systems are the
rule on sport bikes, which tend to be lighter and more
technologically advanced than other types of motorcycles.
Often less comfortable than other types, they are favored
for riding on twisting roads.


Large motorcycles with luggage, wind protection
and other amenities (stereo, two-way
communication, cruise control, etc.) designed to
transport rider and passenger in comfort. Touring
bikes are heavy with moderate power outputs.
Their intended purpose is comfortable, long-
distance travel.


These motorcycles combine the comfort and some of the
luggage capacity of touring motorcycles with the
responsive handling of sport bikes. Usually powerful with
relatively responsive handling, and high-performance
brakes, sport-touring motorcycles offer fewer amenities
than touring bikes. The ideal mission of a sport-touring
machine is medium- and long-distance travel via curving


Machines designed to be used both on- and off-road. They
are typically lightweight, tall and narrow with single-cylinder
engines, long suspension travel and tires suitable for on- and
off-highway use.

Dirt Bike

Machines designed to be used off-road. They are typically
lightweight, tall and narrow with single-cylinder engines, long
suspension travel and tires suitable for off-highway use. They are not street legal as they are missing lighting, signals, and road worthy equipment.

These two-wheeled vehicles are small, mostly low-power
designs with small-diameter wheels suitable primarily for use
at low and medium speeds on surface streets in urban
environments. Their appearance differs significantly from
motorcycles’ because of their bodywork and the “step-
through” frame design. Most are not suitable or legal for use
on high-speed or controlled-access roadways, though some
do have sufficient power and other capabilities to allow such

Lightweight, very low-powered two-wheelers
designed for cheap urban transportation. Their
bicycle-like design, slow acceleration, and limited
top speed (30 miles per hour) make them
unsuitable for use on high-speed roadways and
create unique traffic issues for their users.

A third wheel can be added to the side of a motorcycle to create a motorcycle/sidecar combination. These devices attach to the frame of the host motorcycle and provide additional passenger or cargo capacity. These accessories strongly affect all aspects of handling and control
by essentially creating an entirely different kind of vehicle, which in some ways is more like an automobile than a motorcycle.


These machines are created by either grafting the front of a motorcycle to the back of an automobile or adding an automobile-type rear axle to the rear of a motorcycle to create a three- wheeled vehicle. Although they are usually licensed as motorcycles, these vehicles are dramatically different in many ways and do not handle or steer like motorcycles.


What should you check/inspect?

In this module we will cover the enforcement of motorcycle equipment laws. Our goal is to have a direct impact on motorcyclist safety through education of police officers so they have the knowledge to participate in education, enforcement and ultimately crash prevention efforts.

Motorcycle safety enforcement efforts and safety inspections are one way law enforcement can help to reduce motorcycle fatalities and injures.

This module covers an outline of major equipment and operational laws related to motorcycles. It is in no way meant to cover all laws as every state is different, but there are many similarities related to safety issues and enforcement. We hope to be able to highlight those and ask that you consult your motor vehicle law instructor, motor vehicle law book or code book from your state
for specific laws and requirements.

Make certain as you inspect a motorcycle that you always remain aware of your safety,
along with fellow officers and the motorcyclist.


One out of four motorcycle operators (25%) involved in fatal crashes in 2008 were operating their vehicles with an invalid licenses at the time of the collision, while only 12 percent of
drivers of passenger vehicle in fatal crashes did not have a valid license. Motorcycle riders involved in fatal traffic crashes were 1.4 times more likely than passenger vehicle drivers to have a previous license suspension or revocation (18% and 13%, respectively).21 All 50 states require
a proper license and/or endorsement to operate a motorcycle.

*1 out 4 motorcycle operators involved in fatal crashed are not properly licensed.
Motorcyclists are required to have proper license and motorcycle endorsement to
operate. (examples - T. 23 VSA § 615. Endorsement & DMV Rule 9)


All motorcycles operated on a public highway must be properly registered and insured. Some states also require annual inspection certificate (sticker).
Numbers on registration plate must match the registration certificate.

Inspection of registered vehicles, (examples - T. 23 VSA § 1222).

•Note inspection sticker number
•This will determine which inspection station conducted the inspection if needed.

Is it attached to a structural member of the left from side of the motorcycle?
For example,
Left outer side front lower windshield so it does not interfere with the vision of
the operator.
Front left fork leg/tube so it is easily visible.
Metal tag securely attached to the left front frame / structural member of
What does your state have for an Inspection Manual? Does it spell out the
placement of the inspection sticker?


•Maintenance of financial responsibility (Title 23 VSA § 800)
Insurance required - establishes state insurance limits.
Must proof of insurance be produce before MV inspections


A great resource for checking vehicle identification number (VIN) structure is with a National Insurance Crime Bureau, 2009 Passenger Vehicle Identification Manual. The manual contains a section at the back on motorcycles and checking motorcycle VIN structure by each (resource for ordering ID Manuals on their web site) – www.nicb.org


Check for any unsafe conditions
Check tires for tread
Tie tread must be at least 2/32 of an inch, check your particular state requirements as
some states require 1/32 of an inch minimum.


Check for any defective part or unsafe parts projecting from the motorcycle.


. (What does your state require if at all?)


Motorcycles designed to carry more than one person must in most states be equipped
with handgrips and footrests for passengers.


Many states have a maximum height requirement
A good gauge is no higher than the operator’s shoulders. (NY)
No higher than 15 inches above the operator’s seat height. (VT - T. 23 VSA § 1117
- Footrests and handlebars)


Check registration plate is secure and how does your state allow display?
Is the plate secure and mounted horizontally or vertically?
Some states only allow the registration plate to be mounted horizontally. (VT)
The registration plate must be clean and clearly visible in required position in order to be
illuminated by the plate light.
Does your state require the plate to be illuminated?
A white plate light is required and visible at night fifty (50) feet to the rear. (VT)

Check front light
Signal lights
Rear tail light
Illumination required on motorcycles – Some states mention distance light must
light up an area in front of the motorcycle.
Example: The light from the front lamp of a motorcycle shall render any substantial object on
the ground clearly visible at least 100 feet ahead of such motorcycle. (VT)


Motorcycle Modulating Headlights
Modulating headlamps are permitted by FMVSS
Vermont State Inspection Manual was updated in 2004 covering modulating
Motorcycle headlamp modulation systems are allowed under FMVSS 108.

An awareness issue for law enforcement officers because some were giving motorcycle rider tickets for this. Please no ticket to be issued for modulating headlight as allowed by law.


If equipped, check windscreen/windshield and make sure it does not obstruct the driver’s
line of vision.
Is the windshield secure?


Many State’s require both mirrors, so check your state’s requirements (i.e.

Are one or two mirrors, required and does the mirror permit a clear view to the rear of the


Exhaust in many State’s must be original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or equivalent.
(NY & VT),

Many states restrict altered or what is called “straight” pipes in which the baffles are removed or the exhaust is an after market exhaust manufactured without baffles.
Some States also have noise restrictions on exhaust pipes.


The horn button is located on the left handlebar.
It must work and be audible under normal conditions.

What are some laws pertaining to the motorcyclist…

What is your State’s law?
Motorcycle helmets that meet DOT Standard FMVSS No. 218.
Compliant versus non-compliant.
We’ll cover helmets more in detail in the future.

Check for required eye protection

Is eye protection of some kind required?
Does your state law, require a windshield or screen, or if not, does the operator need to wear either eye glasses, goggles, or a protective face shield?

Is there a requirement that the glasses, goggles, or face shield shall have colorless lenses when operated at dusk to dawn or any other time when due to insufficient light.

What are some laws pertaining to safe operation…


Most states address seating position stating the rider must be seated astride the seat.
Some laws spell out additional requirements, such as…
The seat must be attached and if carrying a passenger it must be designed to carry
more than one person, and must be a permanent and regular seat designed for two persons, or attached at the rear or side of the operator.
Operator must sit astride the seat, facing forward, with one leg on each side of the
motorcycle or moped.
Do not carry any package, bundle, or other article which prevents operator from keeping both hands on the handlebars.
Do not carry any person, nor shall any person ride, in a position that will interfere with the operation or control of the motorcycle or moped or the view of the

LANE SPLITTING – What does your State permit when it comes to lane use?

Operation of motorcycles and mopeds on roadways laned for traffic

Entitled to full use of an entire lane.
Can not overtake and pass in the same lane occupied by the vehicle being overtaken.
No person shall operate between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.
May not be operated in the same lane with, and along side of or closer than ten feet ahead of, or ten feet behind another motorcycle, moped, or other motor vehicle. This section shall not apply to police officers in the performance of their official duties.

Motorists must realize that lane position for a motorcyclist is constantly changing (in their lane) so they can make themselves more conspicuous to other motorists.


Clinging to other vehicles states that no person riding a motorcycle of moped shall attach himself or herself or the motorcycle or moped to any other vehicle on a roadway.

Now that you’re familiar with what to look for on the motorcycle…What are some safety
concerns and strategies for stopping motorcycles?


Motorcycle Gangs Versus Clubs
Strategies for Stopping Motorcycles
Strategies for Avoiding Pursuits

Motorcycle Clubs vs. Gangs
•Motorcycle Clubs
A motorcycle club (MC) is a group of people that ride motorcycles in organized
activities. They may wear distinctive clothing to identify their club. Their primary activities involve the sport of motorcycling. Many motorcycle clubs are organized,
have dues, and enjoy the camaraderie, education, rider training and socialization.

Motorcycle Clubs vs. Gangs
Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMGs) in the U.S.
OMGs are organizations whose members use their motorcycle clubs as conduits for criminal enterprises.
There are more than 300 active OMGs in the United States (U.S.)

They range in size from single chapters with 5 or 6 members to hundreds of chapters
with thousands of members worldwide.
The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, the Bandidos Motorcycle Club and the Outlaws Motorcycle Club are involved in the majority of criminal activity linked to OMGs, i.e. especially activity relating to drug-trafficking and cross-border drug smuggling.
Global scope

Motorcycle Operator Profiling Awareness:
The popularity of the motorcycle as a primary means of transportation has grown in the past
decade. More and more people are buying and riding motorcycles and they represent all facets of society. All races, genders and occupations are represented in this area. There is no such thing as “the typical biker” no more so than trying to describe “the typical criminal type” or “the
typical Texan”. As an officer, remember that, “Violators” are defined by their actions not how they look.

Differences Between a Motorcycle Club and a Criminal Street Gang: As mentioned, a motorcycle club is a group of people that ride motorcycles in organized activities. They may wear distinctive clothing to identify their club. Their primary activities involve the experience of motorcycling.

Criminal Street Gang (PC 71.01(d)): Three or more persons having a common identifying sign or symbol or an identifiable leadership who continuously or regularly participate in the commission of criminal activities.

Common misconceptions and beliefs associated with various motorcyclists:
• Sport Bike riders are speeders that ride dangerously.
• Bikers (general term) use narcotics, drink, raise hell and probably have outstanding warrants.
• Cruiser Class riders are the “station wagon” set of the motorcycle world. These “mom & pop” riders generally pose no threat.
• Motorcycle Clubs that “fly their colors” (wear their club jackets) are “outlaw bikers” are disrespecting law enforcement and are in effect “claiming new turf” by showing the colors.
• Depending on your state’s laws, “Any biker not wearing a helmet is breaking the law.”
• Bikers are generally lower income to middle class laborers, juvenile delinquents and troublemakers.

Strategies for stopping motorcycles

Before engaging in the stop…
Obtain registration plate number and run the plate to see if it matches motorcycle
Check registered owner
Call in full description of motorcycle, i.e. make, model, color, etc.
Call in description of motorcyclist
Utilize your in vehicle camera
Be aware that motorcyclists keep their registration and insurance certification paperwork stored sometimes under their seat, in a saddlebag or in a side
compartment panel.

Concepts for stopping Motorcycle Operators:

Be sure that the reason for the stop is an identified violation of the law and not due to
Follow your departments established or trained standardized procedure for making a
traffic stop.
Some officers prefer that the side stand be down and the rider is off the bike stepping to the right side of the motorcycle away from traffic.
Some police agencies have the rider remain astride the motorcycle with the kickstand up
(this keeps the operator occupied with balancing the motorcycle and reduces the
possibility of attempting anything with the officer).
Remain professional and deal with the violation and not the appearance of the operator or perceived prejudices or attitudes.


Note: According to NHTSA, in 2008, 35 percent of all motorcycle crash fatalities cited speeding
as a factor.

Recent Safety Issues:

Modulating Headlamps & HOV Lanes

The two motorcycle-related issues that have recent motorcyclist and law enforcement concern
are compliant modulating headlamps and HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lane access. While
they are not large problems in the day to day law enforcement community, let’s discuss them to
avoid an unnecessary traffic stop, an inconvenience to officer and rider, and sometimes dangerous situation to a motorcyclist and the law enforcement officer.

With regard to compliant modulating headlamps on motorcycles, the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) provide for their use. The particular FMVSS cite is referenced as 49CFR571.108; compliant headlamp modulators. Headlamp modulators are provided for in
S7.9.4 Motorcycle headlamp modulation system, beginning on page 263 in the standard.

According to the Office of Chief Counsel at NHTSA, regarding the use of compliant motorcycle headlamp modulators are permissible in all fifty states. [States may not preempt their use.]
There are guidance letters from the Office of Chief Counsel at NHTSA available online at
http://isearch.nhtsa.gov, home of the NHTSA’s Interpretation Files.

Finally, HOV lane use has become a bigger issue for motorcyclists, following the New York
City episode in which a motorcyclist was issued a citation for riding her motorcycle in an HOV lane. An administrative law judge found her guilty, despite evidence the rider provided during her hearing. The rider appealed her conviction to the state of New York and eighteen months later, her conviction was overturned. While Karen Perrine vindicated herself and all motorcyclists using HOV lanes in New York City, it came at a significant cost. You can read more about Ms. Perrine’s case in the appendix article dated March 24, 2008 from the New York Daily News.

Authorization for motorcyclists to use HOV lanes comes from 23USC166; see

Further supporting the use by motorcycles of all lanes on roadways planned, designed, constructed or maintained using federal funds can be found in 23UCS102; see


Motorcycle Involvement in Crashes

According to NHTSA, the number of motorcyclists injured in crashes have increased each year since 1998, representing a 110 % increase from 1998 to 2007. In 2008, 5,290
motorcyclists were killed – an increase of 2 percent over the 5,174 motorcyclists killed in
2007. There were 96,000 motorcyclists injured during 2008.

The same year (2008), 2,554 (47%) of all motorcycles involved in fatal crashes collided
with another type of motor vehicle in transport. In two-vehicle crashes, 77 percent of the
motorcycles involved were impacted in the front. Only 7 percent were struck in the rear.
Motorcycles are more likely to be involved in a fatal collision with a fixed object than are
other vehicles.

In 2008, Motorcycles in fatal crashes had the highest proportion of collisions with fixed
objects at 25 percent, compared to 19 percent for passenger cars, 14 percent for light
trucks, and large trucks in fatal crashes had the lowest proportion, 4 percent.

In 2008, there were 2,387 two-vehicle fatal crashes involving a motorcycle and another type of vehicle. In 41 percent (985) of these crashes the other vehicle was turning left
while the motorcycle was going straight, passing, or overtaking the vehicle. Both vehicles were going straight in 666 crashes (28%).

NHTSA considers a crash to be speeding-related if the driver was charged with a speeding-related offense or if an officer indicated that racing, driving too fast for conditions, or exceeding the posted speed limit was a contributing factor in the crash.

“Per vehicle mile
traveled, motorcyclists
are about 37 times
more likely than
passenger car
occupants to die in
a traffic crash.”

In 2008, 35 percent of all motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes were speeding, compared to 23 percent for passenger car drivers, 19 percent for light-truck drivers, and 8 percent for large-truck drivers.

Law Enforcement’s Response during Crash Investigation

One impression developed during…[the HURT Study]…research, and encountered in many motorcycle accident investigations throughout the various states, was the lack of punitive action for the culpable driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident with the motorcycle. The outward appearance is that the offending driver is rarely faced with effective prosecution of right-of-way violation, negligent or reckless driving causing injury, or even vehicular manslaughter. Often there is the incorrect impression of excess speed or recklessness of the motorcycle rider. In most cases there is not an adequate collection of evidence and accurate reconstruction of the accident because of the police traffic accident investigator's unfamiliarity with motorcycle accident analysis. Many times there is simply the impression that "this was just another motorcycle accident."
This lack of effective punitive action needs research for a more precise definition of the problem and evaluation for accident countermeasures.

Currently this study is being redone by NHTSA and the University of Oklahoma. There is the MAIDS In-depth Investigation of Accidents Involving Powered Two Wheelers Report, which is a motorcycle crash causation study during the period of 1999-2000, similar to the Hurt study
conducted by the Association of European Motorcycle Manufacturers and other partners which replicated the Hurt Study methodology in Europe looking at over 900 motorcycle accidents and their cause(s). According to the MAIDS report, the most frequent cause of a crash was human
error and that being failure to see the powered two wheeler (PTW) due to traffic environment, temporary view obstructions or the low conspicuity of the PTW. Remember a thorough crash investigation results in swift enforcement against the causing driver.

Based on the research, some of the top causes of crashes are as follows:
Human error - Perception Failure on the part of the Other Vehicle
Failing to negotiate a corner
Riding under the influence
Inexperience (unlicensed or no endorsement)

Motorcycle Investigation Tips

Document/photograph erasure marks and/or flat spots on the tires in an effort to
determine front, rear or full braking.
If sprockets are involved, need to count teeth on both front and rear to determine speed
based on gear ratios.
Compare the type of gouge marks on ground to wear on pegs/panels for determining how
motorcycle landed and/or lost control.
High speed wobble – be careful not to misinterpret tire scuff marks made by the front
wheel as it skids. Clues for high speed wobble are alternating “eyebrow” like tire marks that generally last for 10 to 15 feet before the bike goes down. Supporting physical
evidence on the motorcycle itself would be damage by the violent flopping, or wobbling of the handlebars back and forth. This usually occurs at speeds in excess of 80 mph.

Conspicuity is always a concern with motorcycles.
Filament lamp exam – the very nature of motorcycle design and its construction generally causes premature age sag downward of the light filaments. This is most prevalent in the brake and tail lights. When an examination is done, special note must be taken of the bulb position to determine if the stretching of the filament is in the direction of the force,
or the result of age sag.

New motorcycles sold in the USA since 1978 have the headlamps on automatically when running. There are studies that show a motorcycle with its headlamp on during the day is twice as likely to be noticed.

Headlamps must be examined in every case to determine if it was working. They are always supposed to be turned “ON” feature and some have an automatic feature. Don’t
make an assumption.

It is important to note what gear the motorcycle was in during the impact and the radius of the bike’s rear wheel. Calculate speeds from the gear-ratio information and the
ranges of RPM (revolutions per minute) values for each gear. You will find this information from the manufacturer’s data.

What research exists about motorcyclists’ attitudes and behavior and how they affect crash involvement?

Rider training
Rider experience
Motorcycle size

Are there appropriate sanctions that should be applied to those found guilty of contributing to motorcycle crashes? Are there suggested sanctions, such as mandatory
attendance at a motorcycle awareness course? Can an awareness class be designed to expand knowledge of motorcycle issues?

Vehicle data

• Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), manufacturer, model, and cubic displacement

• Mechanical factors data, motorcycle and other vehicles.
Is the motorcycle mechanically sound? Does the motorcycle have the required safety features, mirrors, turn signals, reflectors, etc?

Check the tires – Did the motorcycle have under-inflated tires that could have caused the accident?

Determine if the tires were deflated before or after the crash. Check to make sure they have proper tread.
Are the tires the proper tire for the motorcycle?

What is the condition of other vehicles involved?
Crash or injury related cause factors
The body of the person riding the motorcycle gives many clues.
The type of markings on the individual can help determine speed, if the rider went airborne and the direction the person traveled during the crash.

Associated vehicle injury sources
Design or maintenance defects as contributing factors to crash or injury causation

Vehicle speed for motorcycle or other vehicle
Motorcycle lighting; headlamps, running lights, etc.
Lights, Signals
Crash fire causes and burn injuries

Crash scene, environment

Crash scene data
Legal Responsibility
Motorcycle crashes tend to cover a larger area.
Debris and evidence are usually spread over a larger area.
The investigator must expand the scope of the investigation.
Roadway motorcycle was traveling
Check the road conditions leading to the crash site.
How could the road conditions affect motorcycle operator/operation?
What road hazards exist if any?
Roadway other vehicle was traveling
Traffic and controls
Crash cause factors – there are two week courses offered in motorcycle crash investigations. These courses delve into a much more extensive investigation.


More skill is required to safely operate a motorcycle than a car. What are examples of unique alcohol-related behavior of motorcyclists? There is a belief among people who drink and ride that law enforcement could not tell if a motorcyclist has been drinking. How do we identify and
stop impaired motorcycle operation?


In fatal crashes in 2008 a higher percentage of motorcycle riders had blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) of .08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher than any other type of
motor vehicle driver. The percentages for vehicle riders involved in fatal crashes were 29 percent for motorcycles, 23 percent for passenger cars, 23 percent for light trucks, and 2
percent for large trucks.

In 2008, 30 percent of all fatally injured motorcycle riders had BAC levels of .08 g/dL or higher. An additional 7 percent had lower alcohol levels (BAC .01 to .07 g/dL).

The percentage with BAC .08 g/dL or above was highest for fatally injured motorcycle riders among two age groups, 45-49 (41%) and 40-44 (41%) followed by ages 35-39

[Why are we seeing the older age groups involved in fatalities? The suggested reasoning is that we are seeing a person getting into motorcycling later in life and the fatality rate was mirroring this trend along with the baby-boomer population age spike.]


Next, we will cover the specific of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 49 CFR 571.218, also known as FMVSS 218 on helmets… What do you look for to determine the difference between a non-compliant helmet and a compliant helmet?

Helmet Use and Effectiveness

All motorcycle helmets sold in the United States are required to meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218, the performance standard which establishes the minimum level of protection helmets must afford each user. Some motorcycle riders use “novelty” helmets to
circumvent FMVSS 218’s requirements.

The 2006 National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) survey, a probability-based observational survey of motorcycle helmet use in the United States, found that 14 percent of motorcycle riders use helmets that do not comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard
(FMVSS) No. 218, Motorcycle Helmets.31

The concern is that noncompliant helmets provide little or no protection. Motorcyclists should know the facts about noncompliant helmets and be able to determine if a helmet is compliant or not. Many States have laws which require helmets that comply with FMVSS 218.
As law enforcement officers we need to be able to detect and identify noncompliant helmets and cite noncompliant helmet wearers in States requiring FMVSS 218-compliant helmets. If we know what to look for we can communicate to motorcyclists the benefits of a compliant helmet and that unsafe helmets need to be taken out of service and destroyed.

Even with scientific evidence that wearing compliant helmets prevent death and injuries some will wear noncompliant helmets in an attempt to circumvent the law. They assume that the odds are that most officers do not know what to look for.

Helmet Use and Effectiveness statistics

NHTSA estimates that helmets saved the lives of 1,829 motorcyclists in 2008. If all motorcyclists had worn helmets, an additional 823 lives could have been saved.

Helmets are estimated to be 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcyclists. This means for every 100 motorcyclists killed in crashes while not
wearing a helmet, 37 of them could have been saved had all 100 worn helmets.

According to NHTSA’s National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), helmet use declined from 71 percent in 2000 to 63 percent in 2008. This drop is statistically significant and corresponds to a striking increase in nonuse.

Reported helmet use rates for fatally injured motorcyclists in 2008 indicated 59 percent for riders and 49 percent for passengers, compared with 59 percent and 47 percent,
respectively, in 2007.

In 2008, 20 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico required helmet use by all motorcycle operators and passengers. In other states, only persons under a specific age, usually 18, were required to wear helmets or had no laws requiring helmet use.

*The states without helmet laws are New Hampshire, Illinois, and Iowa.
NHTSA is amending FMVSS 218 to make it easier to confirm that a helmet complies with the standard by making “DOT” stickers more difficult to counterfeit. The new stickers will be required to be clear coated into the paint of the helmet. Motorcycle rider & passenger personal protective gear:

Motorcycle safety organizations recommend minimum equipment to keep riders and passengers
safer while riding. While protective gear, other than a helmet, is recommended in many states it
is not required by law. The recommended personal protection gear is as follows:
• A Motorcycle helmet that meets DOT Standard FMVSS No. 218
• Full fingered gloves
• Over the ankle boots
• Long pants
• A durable long-sleeved jacket
• Eye or face protection

For those having investigated a crash where a motorcyclist is only wearing shorts and a t-shirt, it is not a welcome experience to witness the injuries that result even at low speeds.

FMVSS No. 218 requires specific HELMET LABELING
Helmet interior should be labeled with the following:

(a) Manufacturer's name or identification.
(b) Precise model designation.
(c) Size.
(d) Month and year of manufacture. This may be spelled out or abbreviated.
– June 2008 or 6/08
(e) The symbol DOT sticker displayed on exterior rear of helmet.
And a label with Instructions to the purchaser

Compliant and Non-Complaint Helmets
How do you make sure a motorcycle helmet meets the safety standard?

•Determine if non-compliant helmet
•Check for counterfeit DOT symbols affixed to them.
•DOT standard - sticker/symbol details size, location, and contrasting color, the sticker
can easily be made by anyone.
•Does the motorcycle rider know the difference between compliant and non-compliant
head protection?
Importance of wearing a compliant helmet and other protective gear.

The Snell Memorial Foundation (SMF) was founded in 1957, is a not-for-profit organization that has been dedicated to research, education, testing and development of helmet safety standards. The “SNELL” helmet safety sticker is seen on helmets in addition to the “DOT” sticker representing SMF testing for helmet safety in the United States.

What is the SNELL rating currently?
You’ll still see the M2005 stickers along with the newer M2010 stickers on helmets.

Snell Memorial Foundation information is located at web site link: (http://www.smf.org/)


Encourage motorcycle safety, education and enforcement.

Motorcycle & Rider – Concept of Conspicuity
Conspicuity is defined as the quality of being conspicuous; obviousness.

Encouraging riders and passengers to wear bright and visible clothing.
Compliant modulating headlamps and daytime running lights
Motorist awareness

Motorcycle Training

Rider Education programs
What motorcycle safety programs exist for those who need or are seeking training?
What are some ways states are merging rider education, training and licensing?
Enforcement Awareness Education

Sharing Safety messages to motorists and motorcyclists on…

Encourage motorcycle safety and education.
Motorcyclist visibility
Motorcyclist Personal Protection Equipment
Motorist developing motorcyclist awareness
Motorcyclist awareness education to encourage motorist to see motorcyclists.
Encourage motorcyclists to enhance their conspicuity.
Suggestions for motorcycle lighting that includes safe modification to lighting systems.
Prohibit or educate about lane splitting.
Post specific warnings for motorcyclists where unavoidable hazards exist.

What every officer should know about the National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety & NAMS
Implementation Guide recommendations? They include:
Resources and suggestions on rider education programs;
Campaigns to increase the proportion of motorcyclists who are properly licensed;
Expand motorcycle safety programs to accommodate all who need or seek
Merge rider education and training and licensing functions to form one-stop
Do licensing tests measure skill required for size of motorcycle purchased?
Do motorcyclists test on the motorcycle they will be riding?
How do rider skills and experience effect motorcycle operation and hazard
Identify and remove barriers to obtaining a motorcycle endorsement.

Does you state allow your state’s motorcycle safety program to issue motorcycle endorsements immediately upon successful completion of rider training courses.

Partnerships and Stakeholder campaigns to reduce the number of motorcyclists riding
while impaired; Campaigns and strategies to increase motorcyclists’ visibility;
Enforcement and education efforts to increase helmet usage; and Education to increase other motorists’ awareness of motorcyclists.

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Reader Comments

The previous four have absolutely nothing to do with Motorcycle safety. They are specifically designed for government to control a portion of it citizens that it believes do not fit it's profile.
5. MOTORCYCLE HELMETS, this one is just pure B.S.!!!!!

What is this rag turning into a voice for the government endorsed line of crap???

Joseph Guarino
Tombstone, AZ
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Editor Response No, we're the opposite, completely against regulation. I just thought riders need to know with the Man is thinking. Hopefully, it will encourage riders to join their state motorcycle rights groups. We need to step up or get run over.

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