The University of Tennessee, Knoxville


Towards Zero Deaths (TZD) - Safer Motorcyclists and Highway Workers

by Airton Kohls based on Towards Zero Deaths: A National Strategy on Highway Safety

As we enjoy this beautiful time of the year it is paramount to remind ourselves of the importance of road safety. As I was revisiting the document Towards Zero Deaths: A National Strategy on Highway Safety (, I focused on the key area of vulnerable users. We have discussed frequently how pedestrians and bicyclists are susceptible to severe injuries or death when involved in a traffic crash. We should also pinpoint our efforts on the safety of motorcyclists and highway workers. Here are some facts from the aforementioned document.


Motorcycles are an increasingly popular and economic transportation choice — the number of registered motorcycles practically doubled in the last 10 years. Based on registered vehicles, motorcyclists have a fatality rate six times that of passenger car occupants. Per mile traveled, motorcyclists are almost 30 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a traffic crash and five times more likely to be injured (NHTSA - Traffic Safety Facts 2011). Motorcyclists represent a unique population of the motoring public — they are the only type of road users who can travel at high speeds and on all road types, without the benefit of a vehicle body surrounding them, leaving riders more susceptible to injury in a crash. Enforcement and education campaigns that target motorcyclists can raise awareness of risk-taking behaviors and reduce their occurrence. Speeding, impaired riding and helmet use are common safety issues addressed in these types of campaigns. In 2012, a study from NHTSA demonstrated the need for these types of programs:

Highway Workers

Those who work in the roadway environment are exposed to greater risk of being killed or seriously injured in traffic crashes just by being out on the road longer than most people. In 2014, 669 people, including road users and construction, maintenance, and other highway workers, were killed in work zone traffic crashes according to the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse. Because police, incident response, and road construction and maintenance activities vary and are intermittent, road users are typically less accustomed to traveling through these types of situations. A multidisciplinary approach aimed at multiple audiences is necessary to reduce fatalities among both workers and road users. Strategies include educating drivers on safe driving practices in roadway work zones and around other incidents, as well as educating those working in or near the roadway on safety practices. Transportation agencies have a key role in designing work zones to reduce the risk of crashes as much as possible, and in ensuring staff and contractors are adequately trained on appropriate set up and operation of work zones. Similar to many strategies that reduce crashes, long-term efforts to improve our traffic safety culture will also support vulnerable road user strategies by changing the way people make decisions about how they use the roads and interact with other road users.

Therefore, as we push forward "Towards Zero Deaths", let us remind ourselves to slow down in work zones and pay extra attention for motorcyclists on our roads. As transportation agents, let us remind ourselves to continuously strive for excellence on all facets of our work, from engineering to education, enforcement and emergency services.


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