A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute researcher is serving on a new federal advisory council focused on helping stem the rise in motorcyclist injuries and fatalities by making motorcycle riders and their bikes safer.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcyclist fatalities in the U.S. increased 8 percent from 2014 to 2015, accounting for 14 percent of all traffic deaths. 

Shane McLaughlin, director of the Center for Automated Vehicle Systems at the transportation institute and an expert on motorcycle safety research, has been appointed by the U.S. Department of Transportation to serve as a special government employee on the Motorcyclist Advisory Council to the Federal Highway Administration.

“I appreciate the department's initiative in assembling this advisory committee and am excited to work with the team to consider ways to improve motorcycle safety within the larger transportation system,” said McLaughlin.

McLaughlin, along with nine other experts from academia, government, and industry, will advise the Federal Highway Administration on infrastructure issues of concern to motorcyclists. These include road design, barrier design, construction, maintenance practices, and the implementation of intelligent transportation system technologies. He will serve a two-year term.

According to a letter from U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, the department selected McLaughlin for his expertise in automated-vehicle systems and application issues related to motorcycle safety. As director of the institute’s automated vehicle systems center, McLaughlin leads projects that provide guidance to automated vehicle developers and policymakers on vehicle design and deployment, as well as the incorporation of advanced technologies into the transportation system.

He also leads the institute’s Motorcycle Research Group, which recently completed two naturalistic driving studies of motorcycles—one for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and the other for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. For these studies, the group analyzed motorcycle crash causation from more than 700,000 miles of data to improve rider training and to develop crash countermeasures.

“Motorcycles are absolutely different from other vehicles, but riders still need to be able to arrive safely at their destination, just like any other road user. Unfortunately, because motorcycles aren't as familiar to the public as other types of more standard vehicles, they can often be overlooked both on the roadway and during planning discussions,” McLaughlin explained.

McLaughlin’s research aligns with Virginia Tech’s Intelligent Infrastructure for Human-centered Communities Destination Area. With support from large-scale partnerships with industry, government, and communities, this interdisciplinary initiative strives to build research and teaching capacity by leveraging Virginia Tech’s nationally leading programs in smart construction, autonomous vehicles, ubiquitous mobility, and energy systems.

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