What the Motorcycle Safety Foundation has said it is

What we’ve always believed about MSF

This entry outlines what the Motorcycle Safety Foundation has always said it is.

In the revised 1978 MSF “Policies and Procedure Original” handbook it says this about how MSF was created: “History records that American Honda Motor Company first proposed a cooperative motorcycle safety effort with several companies, joining together to create a safety organization. The other leading companies that were contacted, agreed with the idea. As a result, the Foundation, today, is governed by Trustees, representing each of the five leading manufacturers/distributors who contribute financially to MSF.”

The handbook goes on to say, “From the very beginning, MSFs mission has been that of “promoting, fostering and encouraging motorcycle safety and education consistent with the public interest” (quotation from the MSF By-laws).” Charles H. Hartman, MSF’s first president, stated its goals in an article from the proceedings of the 1973 National Safety Congress: “The Foundation’s initial program is concerned exclusively with safety and education, that is, with activities that may be expected to lead to a reduction in the number and severity of motorcycle and motorcycle-related crashes.” The wording echoes almost exactly that found in the National Traffic and Highway Safety Act. MSF, then would concentrate on the education E of the 3 Safety E’s.

Hartman went on to say at the Congress, “We seek only to become a valuable resource that will aid others…in reducing the frequency and severity of motorcycle related crashes.”

According to the MSF Policies and Procedures handbook, MSF opened an office in Washington D.C. in 1973 with a staff of four and a half-million dollar budget, hired Hartman away from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and, in 1974 released a curriculum, The Basic Rider Course. A couple of years later, they released a different version, The Motorcycle Rider Course. At that time, MSF didn’t charge for materials, either and funded many programs.

Hartman, now writing in the Journal of Traffic Safety in 1977, repeated what was said to be a quote from the by-laws, “From the beginning, MSF’s mission has been that of “promoting, fostering and encouraging motorcycle safety and education consistent with the public interest” (quotation from the MSF By-laws)” but went on to say that it was “not confined to encouraging and persuading, but also includes a leadership role” (emphasis in text). He also wrote that “If MSF is to meet its goal of reducing motorcycle accidents, deaths, and injuries…” they had to deal with licensing and that they would develop a “model motorcycle license operator plan and train driver license examiners.” Licensing belongs to the third of the Safety E’s—enforcement.

MSF went on to develop an instructor training course. A logo was developed, which ten years later Safe Cycling said functioned as “a symbol of quality standards”. MSF grew in funding and staff and worked with state motorcycle rights activists to pass legislation establishing state motorcycle safety programs (SMSP). By the early 90s almost every state had a SMSP and by 1998, 1.6 million students had been trained using MSF curriculum.

And this is the story we’re told today—though it’s changed significantly in wording from what Charlie Hartman said MSF’s goals were. This is from MSF’s webpage: “VISION:

The MSF is an internationally recognized not-for-profit foundation, supported by motorcycle manufacturers, that provides leadership to the motorcycle safety community through its expertise, tools, and partnerships.” “MISSION STATEMENT: To make motorcycling safer and more enjoyable by ensuring access to lifelong quality education and training for current and prospective riders, and by advocating a safer riding environment.”

In short, we’ve believed for over 30 years that MSF was a charitable foundation selflessly dedicated to safe, effective motorcycle training with the goal to reduce crashes and save lives that the manufacturers funded simply because they believed in the cause. That’s what we’ve been told—and, as we’ve seen, that’s what MSF went on record repeatedly to say it was. That’s even what employees were told.

Next entry: Putting MSF’s self-description to the test: What the MSF really is—and isn’t.

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Explore posts in the same categories: History, Motorcycle Industry, Motorcycle Safety Foundation

One Comment on “What the Motorcycle Safety Foundation has said it is”

  1. gymnast Says:

    It is interesting to see how differently the Eruopean IFZ (Institute For Motorcycle Safety) has proceeded since it’s founding as compared to the path which MSF has followed. Perhaps, had the MSF followed the model of the IFZ it would be better respected for it’s function than it’s somewhat hollow form.

    High expectations for the MSF that were expressed at that National Safety Congress presentation that Charlie gave in Chicago in that day1973, just never did come to fruition in the way that some were there that day had hoped.


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