Washington Update - Motorcycle Crash Causation Study
UPDATED, OCTOBER 22, 2009 -- It was recently announced, and reported by the Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF), that the federal government is proceeding with the motorcycle crash causation study. This is news for a number of reasons, as the study has been on virtual life support for the past few years.
A Quick Background on the Study:
Originally mandated and partially funded by the SAFETEA-LU legislation passed in 2005, the original concept of the study was to mimic the European Motorcycle Accident In-Depth Study (MAIDS), using the same OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) methodology that the Europeans used. Utilizing that methodology, the study was supposed to investigate 1200 motorcycle crashes and collect 1500 data points on each crash.
Unfortunately, the funding formula of the bill was changed at the last minute leaving a $3 million dollar shortfall for the study. Then came the realization that the estimated $6 million price tag for the study was significantly lower than real world costs, estimated to more likely be in the $9 million range. The federal government’s share totaled $3 million and the motorcycle industry pledged $3 million, leaving an additional $3 million unfunded. A cry for help went out to the states to help offset the shortfall and a few responded, contributing about $600 thousand.
It seemed that the only way to get this study underway was to reduce the sample pool from 1200 to around 900. However, chopping the sample size by 25% seriously reduces the validity, sturdiness and scientific merit of the study. When the Feds announced that they must reduce the sample size, private support for funding the study fell dramatically. A motorcycle industry insider said it best, “We (the motorcycle industry) do have $3 million for a good study, but not a dollar for a bad one.”
At a recent quarterly meeting, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) disclosed their only option, besides canceling the study altogether. They have decided to fund the study fully in house, taking the $650 thousand from the states and another $500 grand from the NHTSA coffers. So what we are left with is a sample size of 300, with a price tag of just over $3 million. It’s disappointing that they have chosen this route. What started off as a possible landmark safety study will now be, without question, scientifically invalid and is not likely to be helpful for the motorcyclists of America.
As always, the MRF will keep you updated on this and all other issues happening in Washington DC.
Motorcycle Crash Causation Study Update
WASHINGTON, DC – As promised, the Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) is closely following the progress of the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) ongoing motorcycle crash causation study. Vehicle fatalities fell last year, while motorcycle fatalities rose. We all know that a large factor in the increase was the record motorcycle registrations and motorcycle sales, but no one is certain why a lot of motorcycle accidents occur. The last crash study done for motorcycles was in the 1970s, and so much has changed since then that the motorcycle safety community has aggressively pushed for a more up-to-date, relevant study.
"Having a better understanding of what causes these crashes will help us improve roadway safety for everyone," said FHWA Administrator Mendez. "Keeping people safe on America's roads is Secretary LaHood's top priority at the Department of Transportation."
The motorcycle crash causation study will be the federal government's first major in-depth analysis of motorcycle safety in nearly three decades. A provision in the "Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users" (SAFETEA-LU) requires the study, which will be conducted by the FHWA in partnership with Oklahoma State University (OSU).
OSU houses one of the U.S. Department of Transportation's 10 National University Transportation Centers, and it receives federal grants to conduct transportation research. One of the holdups of the study was that OSU was required to secure funds to match the $3 million provided by the Feds. OSU did not have an extra $3 million, so a waiver was granted allowing the study to move forward with a smaller budget. The study won’t be as large as the original concept, but the MRF has been assured it will be rigorous and scientific.
Researchers will evaluate data from hundreds of motorcycle crashes to help identify common factors - including road configurations, environmental conditions and rider experience. The study's focus is to look at how these factors may be affected by countermeasures that, if effectively implemented, will prevent motorcycle crashes or lessen the harm when they occur.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted a pilot study to develop the protocols for the full-scale causation research. NHTSA also was responsible for the earlier motorcycle causation study, which was completed in 1981.
Between 1997 and 2008, motorcycle rider fatalities increased from 2,116 to 5,290 - a 150 percent jump, according to U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System. In 2008 alone, deaths due to motorcycle crashes rose by an estimated 2.2 percent while all other vehicle classes saw reductions in fatalities.
Results of the current study are still 3-4 years away.