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Asad Khattak, Beaman Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, thinks a lot about how to mitigate fatal crashes and injuries for motorcyclists on US roads.

Because motorcyclist fatalities are 25 to 30 times those of other drivers—after accounting for miles traveled—Khattak is seeking to understand the variables that correlate with motorcycle crashes and injuries. Funding from the Collaborative Sciences Center for Road Safety aids Khattak’s research in UT’s Tickle College of Engineering—research that may provide a basis for policymakers and others to improve motorcycle safety.

“Almost no evidence exists in the transportation literature about comprehensively measuring the harm sustained by motorcycle riders,” Khattak said. “This study provides reliable metrics to examine multiple injuries sustained by motorcycle riders and suggests innovative mitigation strategies to reduce such crashes and associated harm. The results are helpful to not only the US Department of Transportation but also for technology developers and motorcycle and vehicle manufacturers.”

Asad Khattak, Beaman professor and transportation program coordinator
Asad Khattak, Beaman professor and transportation program coordinator

Khattak’s research uses the Injury Severity Score, an established medical score that rates injury trauma, and applies it to data collected from the federally sponsored Motorcycle Crash Causation Study. The goal is to parse out key risk factors within different contexts such as driving conditions.

In particular, the project addresses three critical safety issues related to motorcyclists: crash risk factors, especially how brightly colored or reflective clothing relates to crash involvement; helmet type and fit; and motorcycle training and education programs.

The results of the study pinpoint key factors that have substantial correlations with crashes and injuries. Riders who lacked bright or reflective clothing had a significantly higher risk of crash injury than other riders.

Motorcycle-oriented shoes were another measure improving the risk of injury, as was recent training or education on motorcycle safety. Helmets providing partial coverage were associated with higher rates of injury compared to full-face helmets, presenting an opportunity to design helmets that provide more coverage while allowing riders to hear and see well.

Khattak said that when connected and automated vehicle technology is widely adopted, researchers will be able to simultaneously model the injuries sustained by different body parts of the same motorcycle rider to fully capture severity and compare the outcomes of crashes.


Élan Young (865-974-8786,