AMA exposes Insurance Institute errors
August 1, 2002
PICKERINGTON, OHIO -- The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), responding to
a July 30 press release issued by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
(IIHS), has pointed out significant errors in the IIHS's arguments concerning
crashes involving older motorcyclists.
In its release, the IIHS claimed that the annual Black Hills Rally & Races in
Sturgis, South Dakota, serves as a case-in-point illustration of the increase in
motorcycle-related fatalities in recent years, notably among riders over age 40.
Specifically, the IIHS said that 36 of the 69 motorcycle-related fatalities in
South Dakota between 1995 and 2000 occurred in the month of August, when the
Sturgis event is held.
However, the IIHS neglected to take into account the enormous increase in the
motorcycling population of South Dakota as a result of the rally, leading the
group to erroneous conclusions, the AMA noted.
According to figures from the IIHS release, there were six motorcyclists killed
in South Dakota during the month of April over the six-year period, four in May,
seven in June, eight in July, four in September and four in October. No
motorcycle-related fatalities were recorded from November through March. The
IIHS then said that the 36 motorcyclist fatalities in the month of August during
the six-year period made it clear that older motorcyclists at the rally were
raising overall fatality numbers in the state.
An AMA analysis of the data, however, shows that the IIHS's conclusion is
unsupported by the facts. The AMA pointed out that figures from the Motorcycle
Industry Council for 1998, the middle of the time period cited by the IIHS, show
there were 19,600 motorcycles licensed for street use in South Dakota. But
during August, when the Black Hills Rally and Races attract riders from across
the country, the motorcycling population of the state surges to more than
"That's a 2,000 percent increase in the number of motorcyclists riding South
Dakota's roads," noted Edward Moreland, AMA vice president for government
relations, "while the fatalities reported by the IIHS amount to a 360 percent
increase over the monthly average during the riding season in the state."
"Failing to make the connection between that enormous increase in the state's
motorcycling population and the much more modest increase in motorcycle
accidents indicates that the IIHS either doesn't understand this situation or
chose not to reveal the full story," Moreland said.
The AMA also disputed the IIHS's contention that recent increases in the median
age of motorcyclists who were victims of fatal accidents "isn't because of the
aging of the population." In fact, according to figures from the MIC quoted by
the IIHS, the average age of a motorcycle owner in America has risen from 24 in
1980 to 38 today. As a result, a much-larger percentage of the motorcycles on
the road are being ridden by riders over 40, and that trend is reflected in
In addition, the IIHS stated that changes in helmet laws in some states "are
contributing to the increases in motorcycle deaths." But the group failed to
note that motorcycle sales have increased by approximately 20 percent in each of
the last four years, meaning that the number of motorcycles on the road has
grown enormously. Meanwhile, fatalities have increased by about a third during
the entire four-year period and were actually down by 11 percent in the period
from 1990 through 2000 and down by nearly 50 percent since 1980, a better safety
record than any other type of highway transportation.
"For the IIHS to issue its opinions in the guise of a 'news release' is
embarrassing," said Moreland. "Not only is this release full of old news and
misused statistics, it once again exposes that the IIHS is willing to say
virtually anything to support its preconceived conclusions."
"We're concerned, of course, about even one motorcycle-related fatality,"
Moreland continued. "The AMA encourages anyone who's truly interested in
reducing motorcycling fatalities, and not simply promoting a political agenda,
to join us in calling for a comprehensive, independent, nationwide study of
motorcycle accident data."
Moreland recently testified before a U.S. House subcommittee asking Congress to
fund comprehensive research to determine the causes of motorcycle crashes.
In 2000, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and the
Motorcycle Safety Foundation released a National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety to
serve as a blueprint for improving motorcycling safety in the future.
Representatives of the AMA and other industry groups were part of a team that
helped shape the plan, which calls for more research into the causes of
motorcycle accidents and potential ways to reduce them.
The most recent comprehensive federal study of motorcycle accident data was
published in 1980, and sampled accident data only in Southern California. NHTSA
officials have said they hope to begin work on a new study in the near future.