Motorcycle Safety in 2011
Reprinted from the January 2011 issue of "Hoosier Motorcyclist" magazine
I‘ll start off by saying that we are ahead of last year. At the time of this writing, we are in receipt of a contract to conduct rider courses in 2011. Last year we did not get a final contract until mid-April. We have also been successful in getting an increase that will allow us to expand training and offer more opportunities this season. Early classes will fill quickly, so we encourage enrollment as soon as registration opens in late February (watch the website for specifics).
Now on to the bigger picture. The foundation of rider education as we know it today, was built primarily on the results of the Hurt Report. Dr. Harry Hurt and his colleagues investigated about 900 motorcycle accidents (this is before they called them crashes) and issued a report of their findings in 1981. A wealth of information was drawn from this study that provided some level of evidence as to how and why motorcyclists crashed. Answering those questions led to developing methods to avoid the how and why, which basically produced the first versions of the rider courses we have today.
We all know that a number of things have changed in the last 30 years, especially with regard to engineering. We also know that some things will never change, like gravity. It is likely that a new research project could reveal some useful information and indicate appropriate adjustments to the current thinking within rider education. Or perhaps we’ll find that what we’re doing, and how we’re doing it, is indeed the best method of training riders. At any rate, there probably should be an updated report to either confirm the current system or recommend adjustments to fit specific changes.
The last reauthorization of the federal highway bill (SAFETEA-LU) included about $2.8 million, which was to be matched by industry, to finance the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Motorcycle Crash Causation Study. First, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) performed a “pilot study” to get a feel for how the “main study” would be conducted and make suggestions to improve efficiency. The NHTSA pilot study trained several crash investigators and collected data on less than 50 crashes, at a cost of one million dollars. Originally, the entire project was to be completed in August of 2010 and was expected to review about 900 crashes. Almost from the beginning, a number of questions arose surrounding the methods for data collection, analysis and sample numbers. Industry’s questions and concerns could not be resolved to their satisfaction, leading to their decision not to contribute financially to a study with which they had issues. The inability to obtain sufficient matching funds (per congress) delayed the project until a waiver was granted allowing for use of the existing funds without the match. The amount budgeted, along with about another million from various sources, would not be enough to investigate and analyze the number of crashes originally discussed.
I’m trying to be as supportive as I can. I don’t want to disrespect the study, or those working on it. If we gain information to improve motorcycle safety or validate current training concepts, it could certainly be worth the investment. However, with data collection for the main study now expected to begin in early 2011, the timeliness is somewhat disappointing. Furthermore, with the sample size of previous studies (Hurt - 900, MAIDS - 921 and Thailand - 723) early discusion among safety professionals anticipated that the new study may exceed 1000. While there does not seem to be an exact number that is “required”, or perhaps even ideal, the most recent projection suggesting a sample size closer to 230 is concerning.