Archive for February 2009

Is MSF’s BRC rider training effective?

February 25, 2009

As a new training season begins to ramp up in snowbelt states, I return to the question of whether rider training in all but two states in the USA is effective at reducing crashes, injuries and deaths.

In a past entry I described how all the studies have found that MSF’s rider training is, at best, effective in reducing crashes only for: those who ride small bikes, don’t ride far or often and/or are women. At worst, studies have found that it puts riders in greater jeopardy. As study after study came to the same conclusions, MSF changed its language to reflect that truth, and it is now called a “learn-to-operate” course rather than a motorcycle safety training course. Rider educators and motorcyclists either didn’t notice the change or chose to ignore the implications in that change.

Not to mention that the training has, itself, become deadly with a soaring crash rate within the course across state after state and resulted in more serious injuries—some near-fatal. Something MSF has refused to directly address with rider educators and has attempted to conceal from the motorcycling community. And something that rider educators have overwhelmingly chosen to minimize or ignore altogether.

As a community rider educators and motorcyclists have been either unaware of study results or have chosen to ignore them and put great confidence in their own performance as instructors or as participants—they see students who could not ride get to the point they are able to wobble through the test. By and large, instructors feel their job is done and done well. But they have little to no idea how those students fair after they leave the range.

As I’ve been working on a project I came across some statistics on older riders from a survey I did on the 40 Plus rider two years ago. On the issue of training as well as all other measures, this survey found nearly the same percentages of studies both here and abroad on older motorcyclists’ riding styles and patterns, attitudes and so forth. What this survey found, then, appears to representative of riders 40 and older.

This should give instructors a better idea of what happens to their students after leaving the course:

  • 94% of the novice 40 Plus riders in the questionnaire had taken a basic rider training course.
  • 75% of returning riders had taken some form of training
  • 68% of the continuing riders had taken some form of training.

The novice riders all took training using MSF basic training curriculum. Many of the returning and continuing riders had taken some form of MSF training and some of them had taken one or more other forms of training on top of that (such as Pridmore, Code, Parks, Streetmasters, etc.).

This puts MSF’s contention that most riders aren’t trained in doubt. It may mean that riders like training opportunities—they just aren’t attracted to MSF course products.

It also reflects older riders’ belief that training reduces the risks of riding. However, when the five-year crash rate is matched to training versus non-training the results may be surprising:

  • More than half (53%) of the new 40 Plus novices that took the Basic RiderCourse had already crashed.
  • Of the trained novices that crashed, 37.5% of them had already had 2 crashes.

Returning riders and training:

  • Almost 30% of returning riders who took training when they began riding again have crashed.
  • However, only 20% of the untrained returning riders crashed.

When it comes to continuing riders who took some form of training in the past five years:

  • 28.5% crashed in that time frame.
  • While 36.8% of continuing riders who had never taken any form of training had crashed during that same time.

However, the average mileage per year for continuing riders who hadn’t taken training was more than triple the average mileage of those who took training courses (26,714 VMT vs. 7,339 VMT). Experts say this increases their exposure to the risk of crashing significantly.

And remember, the respondents are the ones who lived through those crashes.

Riders only get die if they get injured. They get injured only if they crash. There’s no guarantee what kind of crash you will have on the road or what the results will be. The crash is the thing—eliminate them, eliminate injuries and deaths.

So the next time you stand on the range, take a good look around at all your students. Over six of them are likely to crash on the road after they leave your class.

Let’s say you teach 10 classes a year—more than 80 of those students are likely to crash within two years.

Over half the novice students you train will crash. About one-third of the returning riders you train will crash.

At the same time, the manufacturers who control the training and licensing content and standards know that over 75% of the students who graduate will go on to buy motorcycle.

This suggests that 25% of your students won’t go on to ride their own bike.

And over half your students who do go on to ride will crash.

You do the math on those who both go on the ride and don’t crash.

That doesn’t count the ones who crashed and died.

And that’s no matter how good a teacher you feel you are.

Are you sure that “something is better than nothing”?

Are you sure teaching something the publisher says is a “learn-to-operate” course is the best that can be done?

Are you sure it’s not time to find out if training programs in Canada or the UK or somewhere else aren’t more effective in training safer riders?

So the next time you’re on the range—look around and decide: which of the 6.36 students are you going to train to crash?

Next state under fire: Washington

February 12, 2009

Just like in New Jersey and Mississippi, there’s a legislative effort under way that would eliminate the Governor’s Motorcycle Advisory Board on June 30, 2009 or at least suspend it until 2011—two years from now. And, like in Mississippi is doing it through multiple bills as well.

The non-highway and off-road vehicle advisory board would be axed as well at the end of June 2010. The Land Management Advisory Board would be eliminated right away. Iow, any rider input into areas that have the most to do with motorcycle and safety would be terminated.

Otoh, the State Commission for Blind Vendors is only being reviewed as to whether it should be kept. Priorities, folks. Priorities…

All the bills were introduced at the request of Democratic Governor Gregoire. There’s 470 commissions, advisory boards and boards and under sweeping legislation more than 150 boards of them will be eliminated. The Governor’s Government Reform site states, they were “were created with the best intentions, but often make it more cumbersome and costly to serve the people of the state.”

The Motorcycle Advisory Board, comprised of 5 people, is paid an hourly stipend from doorway to doorway. It must meet at least 2 times a year. The stipends are paid out of the funds collected through motorcycle endorsements and registrations—so riders are paying directly to have their voices and interests represented. That money (theoretically) cannot be used for general funds–nor would the little spent on the board make a difference in Washington’s serious budget crisis. 

This effort in Washington means that it’s up to three Advisory boards that are under attack or not being allowed to form. And even though this one is part of a massive takedown of citizen input into government, it’s still part of a developing pattern or trend. It’s almost as if it’s open season on Motorcycle Safety Advisory Boards.

It’s almost as if their existence was somehow threatening to TPTB—but that’s ridiculous, right?

I will remind readers once again that it was the Oregon Advisory Board that kept MSF from obtaining the driver’s license-waiver and led MSF to filing the copyright infringement lawsuit against TEAM Oregon. And it’s the Oregon Advisory Board that is now going to reconsider Harley’s plea to be given the driver’s license-waiver.

And it was the Hawaiian Advisory Board that fought MSF for so long in changing over to the BRC from the RSS—and, according to sources, it only yielded after Ray Ochs flew out there monthly to wine, dine and persuade the local motorcycle rights group and the representative on the board that owned a Harley dealership bought up enough other dealerships to buy another seat on the board.

And it was the Washington Task Force that recommended a presumptive shift to TEAM Oregon’s curriculum. Three of the five Advisory Board members were on that Task Force. (Btw, that finding was just before the Oregon Governor’s Advisory Board turned MSF down).

So, in three cases, the motorcycle manufacturers’ desires hung on the will of an boards or task forces—and those are full of motorcycle rights activists and ordinary riders and light on industry types.

For example, the Washington board is specifically made up of those who do not have a vested financial interest in motorcycles. Instead, 3 members were either “active motorcycle riders or members of non-profit organizations which actively supports and promotes motorcycle safety education”. Another had to be a currently employed motorcycle police officer and the last member was a “member of the public.”

No more, however, if any of these bills pass as written, the direct input and oversight of Washington’s riders will be silenced.

Here are the bills: This one takes down the Motorcycle Advisory board directly: HB 2087 (see section 34) but leaves the program intact including the right of the Director of the program to “contract with public and private entities to implement this program.”

As mentioned, Governor Gregoire (D) requested this legislation—though it was Governor Gregoire that requested the Task Force that examined motorcycle safety and training in Washington to be formed. This bill is sponsored by Representatives Larry Springer (D), Ross Hunter (D) and Troy Kelley (D).

SB5959 is the companion bill introduced in the senate by Senator Craig Pridemore (D), Mark Schoesler (R) and Jim Honeyford (R). It too was introduced at the request of the Governor.

WA HB 1497, according to “Texas” Larry Walker, the government relations specialist for the Washington Road Riders Association, it takes down the entire motorcycle safety program in (see section 901 (12) by removing the entire section in the code.

The way the legislation is written in Washington, the program itself and the board are in the same, very short section. However, since HB 2087 just removes the board, it may either be an honest mistake or a distraction so people worry about that and feel relieved its “only” the board that’s eliminated. Otoh, maybe Texas is right and it’s going down if the TPTB have their way.

HB 1497 was introduced by Representatives Ross Hunter (D) and Seaquist (D).

The question must be asked: is there a value in riders having direct participation in matters of motorcycle safety and training in their own state? Or can you trust the governement and industry to look out for what’s best for you?

So, boyz and gurlz, are things getting a little too coincidental to be coincidental for you yet?

You decide: what’s coincidence, what’s not?

February 7, 2009

Coincidence: “A coincidence is when two or more similar or related events occur at the same time by chance and without any planning.” Here’s another definition: “A coincidence is a surprising concurrence of events that are perceived as meaningfully related and with no apparent causal connection” (Diaconis and Mosteller, 1989).

Note that both definitions just need to establish apparent connection to eliminate coincidence. Just because we weren’t aware of the planning almost always means that those who planned didn’t think we needed to know rather than there was a conspiracy. 

With those stipulations in place, the following is presented to the rider ed and motorcycle safety community to determine if recent events are coincidental or not. You decide:

One of the objections TEAM Oregon had to MSF’s BRC was that the end-of-course evaluations did not measure up to the Alt-MOST test that Oregon uses. MSF courses could be taught in Oregon—they just couldn’t get the driver’s license-waiver. Now Harley-Davidson is attempting to get Oregon to review it’s case for the driver’s license-waiver.

H-D, who is one of the two manufacturers who pay the most in dues to MSF. Just when H-D needs to be able to prove that the BRC evaluations are equivalent and consistent with MSF licensing products, MSF awards a contract to a research institution to discover just that. Coincidence or random chance or what?

When MSF tried to get approval for a separate manufacturer-run state program in Oregon with the driver’s license-waiver, it was the Governor’s Advisory Board that had to hear the request. They turned it down. Now, it’s the Governor’s Advisory Board that will review H-D’s case.

In two cases, legislation under consideration in state houses either removes the Governor’s Advisory Board (New Jersey) or doesn’t include any provision for a Governor’s Advisory Board (Mississippi). Coincidence or random chance or what?

In the last entry, we discussed the new “independent third party evaluation” that MSF has awarded to Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation to compare MSF curricular products and licensing products. There are dozens of research groups capable of doing what MSF wants—but MSF chose PIRE.

Two of PIRE’s sponsors are the National Safety Council and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. MSF worked with NSC to develop an online classroom section that would include a knowledge test that is supposed to be equivalent to the one in the BRC. IIHS came out with fear-mongering report on sportbikes and fatalities just as MSF was introducing a new curricular product—the Sportbike Training course. Coincidence or random chance or what?

Mississippi has multiple identical bills before the Mississippi legislature to establish a state motorcycle program and names MSF as the de jure standard and open the door for MSF to take over and run the state program. It also gives the driver’s license-waiver upon successful completion of a course, “which includes a similar test of both knowledge and skill.” The evaluation project MSF has at PIRE certainly would prove that.

There are more than 250 lobbying firms in Washington, D.C. Out of all of them, PIRE hired, Policy Impact Communications. Policy Impact Communications was founded in 1997 by Haley Barbour and Ed Gillespie. Barbour is currently the Governor of Mississippi and would sign the motorcycle program bill or veto it in a year where all states are feeling the impact of terrible economic times. Coincidence, random chance or what?

MIC and H-D are also lobbying for the legislation in New Jersey that will allow MSF to take over that state as well. The bill still allows the driver’s license-waiver for successful completion of the course but doesn’t say the course has to have evaluations.

The legislation in New Jersey, as mentioned above, removes the Governor’s Advisory Board and puts the entire program solely under the control of the Motor Vehicle Chief Administrator. The sole authority resting in one person is also in the Mississippi bill that would establish a new program. Coincidence, random chance or what?

The NJ bill also adds this to the existing motorcycle safety program standards. It’s the Chief Administrator who will determine “the minimum level of knowledge, skill and ability requirements for the successful completion of the motorcycle safety education course.”

The new MSF motorcycling license test, the Rider Skills Test, states that “Licensing and testing processes must accurately and fairly evaluate rider ability regarding minimum skill levels.” In Mississippi, another bill sponsored by one of the five who’ve submitted identical motorcycle program bills, sets up a skills standards board composed mainly of those in business/industry to set minimum standards for occupations such as rider training. Coincidence, random chance or what?

MIC hired Nancy H. Becker and Associates to represent them in NJ. H-D also lobbied in the state through Multistate Associates, which is a firm that then contracts out to lobbying firms in states. MultiState hired Public Strategies Impact in New Jersey to represent H-D. The firm includes, as lobbyists, not one but two former commissioners of the NJDOT and provides consulting and marketing advice for companies seeking public contracts and public finance. Coincidence, random chance or what?

In New Jersey, the Chief Administrator is Sharon Harrington, who in the past, worked for Public Strategies Impact. Out of all the possible lobbying firms for H-D to end up with, MultiState just happens to choose that one. Coincidence, random chance or what?

So you all decide: is there special meaning in the conjunction of each of these events and all of these events together? And is the timing pure chance without any planning or apparent casual connection?

Or could it be, as Yogi Berra said, “That’s too coincidental to be coincidence”?

Is lobbying wrong? Not in my opinion. And motorcycle rights activists lobby—and in a great many cases, MSF/MIC/H-D have used unwitting motorcycle rights activists and rider educators to advance industry objectives.

But money and influence means it’s not a level playing field. Knowledge about what is going on behind the scenes helps restore a little balance. If SMRO activists, riders and rider educators don’t care if industry controls the standards for training and licensing, that’s one thing. But, imho, they at least should know what’s going on in their state and in others.

MSF to have BRC and licensing tests compared

February 4, 2009

MSF public relations sent out a press release on January 9th announcing MSF had just awarded “a motorcycle license testing validation study” to the Pacific Research Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE). The purpose is to compare the end-of-course written and skill evaluations in the BRC “with those used in state motor vehicle testing” in order to “ensure student knowledge and skill testing is equivalent and consistent with motor vehicle testing.”

The release was sent out two days after the new motorcycle licensing test, the Rider Skill Test, was sent out for final comments.

This marks the first time MSF has set out to compare MSF commercial training products and MSF commercial licensing products has never been done by MSF.

Most states use one of the MSF’s own licensing products—and most of them use the Alternate-MOST. New York—MSF just took over the state program—and California—a state MSF took over several years ago—are two notable exceptions. For the most part, then, the study, then, pits the current iteration of MSF’s training product, the Basic RiderCourse (BRC), against MSF licensing products such as the Alt-MOST.

The press release says it is a one-year study, but at the end of the same paragraph it says “Results are expected before year-end.”

The release also cites that the study is being done now because of “recent changes in state licensing requirements” though MSF doesn’t explain how it sees the two are related or what license requirements have changed in what states.

Al Hydeman who is now in charge of—well, just about everything at MSF—said that “Obtaining independent third party evaluation is in keeping with MSF’s overarching philosophy to base our curricula decisions on empirically sound research.”

Prior to his full-time employment at MSF, he himself was an independent third party evaluators whom MSF has hired in recent years. He used to operate Albert Hydeman Associates—a communications company and Motorcycle Industry Council member. According to the company website, which disappeared shortly after it was cited in a Moonrider Journalspace entry, specialized in “silencing the squeaky wheel”. Hydeman’s company did several evaluation projects for MSF:

  • Hydeman oversaw the rider survey that claimed to validate the superiority of the BRC but used two years of student survey data from MRC:RSS years as if those surveys were from BRC-run courses.
  • He also found the four “experts” that evaluated the BRC over the MRC:RSS and found it was as good as or better than the BRC. However, the experts were not allowed to see anything but the printed materials.
  • AHA also did a RiderCoach survey for MSF that also appeared to confirm the BRC was the preferred product. It, too, suffered from serious methodological flaws. It was in reference to that RiderCoach survey that the AHA website quoted MSF president Tim Buche as saying that Hydeman’s company gave MSF the results they were looking for.
  • Hydeman had been previously under contract to MSF when he contracted with SMSA to moderate the conflict between MSF and SMSA members about what changes were needed in the curriculum. SMSA was not informed that Hydeman was already under contract with MSF to both shape the direction the new curriculum (the BRC) would take and mastermind how to get rider educators to accept the BRC even though all administrators and chief instructors who has seen the BRC prior to the rollout had registered extensive and serious objections to it.

Time will tell whether or not PIRE also gives the manufacturers the results they’re looking for or not.

PIRE’s partners and sponsors as well as the research projects they undertake and conclusions they reach is worthwhile looking into. Here’s a link for the reader to check out what PIRE has done in terms of both motorcycling and driver licensing. Use the words “motorcycle” and a separate search on “driver licensing” as to whether PIRE has the background to credibly do the MSF project. In both cases, the reader can draw their own conclusions.

Coincidentally, some of PIREs sponsors and partners are names we’ve come across repeatedly as we’ve investigated what’s happening in motorcycling and rider education. The National Safety Council, for example, partnered with MSF for the online classroom course that was meant, at the time, to be at least an option to replace the classroom portion of the course, according to Ray Ochs at the Buffalo SMSA conference in 2007. And when a trial balloon course appeared on the NSC website that described the course it said it included a knowledge test that might be eligible for an insurance discount.

Another PIRE sponsor is a name very familiar to many motorcyclists—the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). In the summer of 2007, IIHS came out with a report that damned sportbikes.

PIRE had $40 million in revenue in 2007 and is also involved directly and indirectly to a lot of lobbying firms on both federal and state levels. Both revenue and he amount spent on lobbying—not to mention lobbying at all—is far out of line with other similar research firms. PIRE paid Policy Impact Communications, a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm almost $200,000 in fees according to their 2007 990 form.

This, then, is a little background on the company that will evaluate MSF’s curriculum against MSF’s licensing products.

In the press release, Sherry Williams, Director of Quality Assurance and research, says the current study is being done because, “The ultimate objective is to enhance rider safety in real-world situations” and that “Ensuring these tests are performing as intended is a major stop toward that goal.” Formerly, Williams was Hydeman’s employee and was key in those “independent third party evaluations”.

The RST changes the timing standards to what is used in the BRC. There is, perforce, more congruence between the end of course evaluations and the soon-to-be available RST than there was between the soon-to-be-defunct Alt-MOST and the BRC. However, that is not the case with other MSF licensing products. The press release doesn’t make it clear which MSF products would be tested.

While the course evaluations can be compared to license skill tests, the last time MSF’s skill tests have been measured as to what is needed to enhance rider safety in real-world situations was in the 1970s when traffic was much different.

Given that MIC and H-D have lobbied for legislation that would remove the knowledge test altogether from the DMV tests and/or would make training mandatory and so riders wouldn’t take the test at the DMV at all, why would MSF pit it’s one products against one another now?

The Mississippi legislation is suggestive—the proposed legislation does state that the training course must include “a similar test of both knowledge and skill.” Well, this validation study could prove exactly that.

The recent past and present are even more suggestive. One of the reasons TEAM Oregon gave for refusing to change to the BRC—a decision the ODOT upheld—was that the BRC evaluations did not measure up to the Alt-MOST and the Alt-MOST was the DMVs standard. The Oregon Department of Transportation upheld that decision and the Governor’s Advisory Board refused MSF’s request that MSF’s BRC-based training be accepted as a second and parallel motorcycle training program in OR and receive the driver’s license-waiver.

Harley-Davidson’s Rider’s Edge uses MSF’s BRC curriculum—and, as such, RE courses in Oregon cannot be part of the state motorcycle safety program and do not have the driver’s license-waiver privilege. However, recently Harley-Davidson has asked to have their Rider’s Edge curriculum reviewed in Oregon. If it is reviewed and approved, according to a source in Oregon, the ODMV could consider successful completion of the program as a substitute for some of the motorcycle endorsement testing.

The Governor’s Advisory Committee on Motorcycle Safety has been asked to do the review and will consider what Harley-Davidson submits to them. That review has not been scheduled as of now.

Iow, in many ways, it’s a Back to the Future moment with Oregon, MSF and H-D, the major funder of MSF. Last time it ended with the GAB turning down MSF’s request and MSF filing a lawsuit.

This time, though, H-D will be armed with what Hydeman calls a “independent third party evaluation” of the course evaluations compared to MSF licensing products.

MS don’t need no stinkin’ advice either

February 2, 2009

I had noted that the changes MIC/H-D want in the New Jersey state motorcycle program is to remove the Advisory board–traditionally the way actual motorcyclists and state motorcycle rights activists had a say in motorcycle safety and safety training–from the program.

The Mississippi bills have no provision for an advisory board at all. Iow, only the Motorcycle Safety Director and the entity that will run the program will have a say in anything regarding motorcycle safety and motorcycle safety training–excuse me, it’s not motorcycle safety training, it’s operator training.

In two cases (so far) we’ve seen MIC and H-D working to remove any citizen, grass-roots ability to have a voice in what affects them in literal life and death ways.

Along with that, the bill establishes the position of “Motorcycle Safety Director”. The Motorcycle Safety Director answers to the Commissioner of Public Safety, which is a political appointment. That makes it a very thin thread of accountability, supervision and consistency. Particularly because, as the bill is written, that director could actually be an employee of MSF and not even working or living in the state.

The corollary is that in two cases (so far) we’ve seen the motorcycle manufacturers make a power grab by eliminating the voice of the ones who are most effected by what this state program does and doesn’t do.

It’s motorcyclists who pay–out of their own specially levied taxes–for the program. Shouldn’t the motorcyclists have the primary say on how and why and when that money is spent on what?

MSF still marching to take over yet more state programs?

February 1, 2009

Or, in one case, create one in order to take it over?

It’s Saturday, so it must be time for yet another installment in the MSF March to Take Over State Programs. Today it’s Mississippi…maybe.

Mississippi is one of three states that do not have a state motorcycle safety program (the other two being Alaska and Arkansas). And very little training happens in the state–which is not saying that’s a good thing, but then again, MSF curriculum has been proven not to produce safe, competent riders on the road. So perhaps it a wash, I don’t know.

However, things may be about to change since Mississippi currently has duplicate bills before its legislature that would establish a state motorcycle safety program–HB445 and HB 942. Oh, wait, there’s also HB 1252 and HB 1470 and SB2170. And the language is almost identical in all of them.

You may wonder as I did why there’s identical bills introduced at the same time in both the House and the Senate. It may go to how bills are passed in Mississippi. Bills introduced in both houses at the same time may shorten the time the legislation needs to pass. But why are there so many identical bills in the House? I don’t know.

Much of the language in the bills is extremely similar to the bill currently before the New Jersey Legislature. The bill language also reflects the language in the model legislation MSF distributed to states back in the 1980s and 1990s.

Like those states that worked off of the MSF model legislation, the bill in Mississippi sets MSF as the de jure standard: whatever actual program is created must meet or exceed what MSF does in terms of curriculum, instructor training and so forth.

The bill, like the one in NJ, also sets the same severe restrictions on those with motorcycle permits making it more attractive to take the course and be done with such restrictions.

One of the interesting things in the Mississippi legislation is that this new program isn’t a “Motorcycle Safety Program”. Instead, it is called, “The Motorcycle Safety and Operator Training Program”. The bill, however, says almost nothing about other safety efforts and a great deal about the operator training part of the program. Nor does the bill connect safety with operator training. And the difference is, at least, curious if not significant. 

Like the New Jersey legislation discussed last week, the Mississippi bills includes language that would allow MSF to take over the program. This time, if the bill passes, the program  could begin from it’s inception—July 1, 2009. In the Mississippi case, the language reads, “The department [of Public Safety] may enter into contract with public or private entities for providing the program’s instructional course and any services or materials necessary to implement the program.”

It also sets up the driver’s license-waiver to be given upon successful graduation. One version of the bill, HB 1252 sponsored by Rep. Gunn (R), reads that the course offers a “skill test similar to the “Motorcycle Operator Skill Test” [MOST], which is endorsed by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators [AAMVA]” But all the other versions only say that the driver’s license-waiver is given upon successful completion of a course, “which includes a similar test of both knowledge and skill.” This will become meaningful in the next entry.

The bill also establishes a position, Motorcycle Safety Director, and requires only that s/he has a motorcycle endorsement on his/her driver’s license and “be or have been” a chief instructor.

The Mississippi legislation also requires “state-funded public or private entities” to “provide reasonable cooperation in order to minimize course enrollment fee charged to the students.”

The program will cost the students money—but what that will be is not set and there is no price cap–something MSF has lobbied to remove in states that put them in original legislation. In addition, the bill sets up a motorcycle safety fund that will raise monies, as in other states, on fees for the endorsement and motorcycle registration. It also would set an additional $5.00 per motorcycle as an annual “highway privilege tax”. The legislation also doubles  the cost of a motorcycle license permit.

There’s more there—but you can read the bill for yourself to find it. The point is: yet another state program is being set up in a way that will allow MSF—who is in dire financial straits—to take it over. And, if you are familiar with the MSF Franchise Plan—and if you were aware that MSF has taken over the four Honda training sites and are now styling them as “MSF campuses”, and if you know that MSF now makes the majority of its revenue already from state program administration in the four states it now controls, you’d know that MSF can make big bucks by taking over state programs. And if you know that MSF has recently assigned Al Hydeman, spin doctor, to research and develop a management training program for MSF, then you’d have a better understanding of what’s going on in New York and New Jersey and Mississippi and—well, we’ll get to that.

Meanwhile, we’re not done with Mississippi yet. It gets a little curious when we consider that so many identical versions of the same bill were put forth in the house. But it gets even more curious when we look at who sponsored the bills—and what other bills they have sponsored:

Rita Martinson, (R) Dst. 58, sponsored HB 445 and HB 942—even though a fairly intensive reading shows no real difference between the two. Martinson is on no committee that would have anything to do with a motorcycle safety program except Appropriations, however she has introduced several bills on transportation issues in this session including one that would make motorcycle training mandatory for those under 18 and a bill for distinctive motorcycle tags. A related bill will also require vision tests upon license renewal.

Bryant W. Clark, (D) Dst. 47, is on even more committees that would have an interest in motorcycle training: Education, Transportation, Public Health and Human Services. His voting record when compared to Martinson’s makes it even more remarkable that they would both agree on the sudden need for a motorcycle safety program. Of course, it’s even more remarkable that they should both submit the exact same bill at the exact same time.

Clark also has another bill before the legislature, HB1099 that would establish a Skills Standard Board as an advisory board to the Governor. That bill is intriguing—it establishes a “Skill Standards Board” as an advisory board to the Governor. The board’s job is to “Validate nationally established skill standards to guide curriculum development, training, assessment and certification of workforce skills” for “all major skilled occupations.”

It’s interesting because the motorcycle program bill includes this passage: The Department of Public Safety would set “Standards for the motorcycle rider training courses, including standards for course content, delivery, curriculum, materials and student evaluation, and standards for the training and approval of instructors shall comply with the requirements of Sections 1 through 7 of this act, and the standards shall meet or exceed established national standards for motorcycle rider training courses prescribed by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation or its equivalent in quality, utility and merit.”

Clark’s Skills Standard board would be concerned with skills, “that can have “strong employment and earnings opportunities for the state” are “nationally recognized” and “require less than a baccalaureate degree.”

The motorcycle safety bill—unlike other state motorcycle program legislation—also includes this requirement for rider training instructors, “The person must have a high school diploma or its equivalent….” It’s truly a case when interests coincidentally coincide.

Otoh, Clark—although he’s introduced almost as many bills as Martinson—has very few transportation bills up for consideration.

Philip Gunn (R), Dst. 56 introduced HB 1252 and the bill includes the words “(By Request)”. It does not specify who requested he submit it. He’s on no committee that even remotely has an interest in a motorcycle safety program. He’s also is the only one of those that introduced identical bills who is not on any related committee. His version, however is the one that includes “…a skill test similar to the “Motorcycle Operator Skill Test”.

Bob M. Dearing (D), Dst. 37, sponsored SB1270. He’s a member of the Appropriations, Highways and Transportation, Insurance Economic Development and Public Health and Welfare—which is more than the trifecta when it comes to influence in setting up a motorcycle safety program.  And, oh yeah, he’s very involved in insurance issues.

The Mississippi bill is intriguing on many levels then: here’s a state that hasn’t ever had a training program—and barely has any training available in the state at all.This has been the case for more than 20 years when MSF worked hard to get state programs established. Yet suddenly about ten years after the last state program was created through legislation, suddenly there’s an interest in setting one up.

Can it really be random chance that they are all bills that allow MSF to run that program and name MSF as the de jure monopoly? And can it be just a coincidence that four almost identical bills are all introduced at the same time and  sponsored by four legislators who have almost nothing in common with each other in interests or voting records—except that all but one are on the committees that will have the most influence on whether they get out of committee for a floor vote?

And what are the chances that just when MSF needs a huge influx of cash, just when it’s setting up to run a management training and delivery program, just when it’s set up regional centers to run those programs—that’s when four separate legislators with just the right connections all introduce the same legislation that all name MSF as the de jure monopoly, raise monies through taxes and without setting fees on student enrollment and prepare the way for MSF to take it over?

New York, New Jersey and now Mississippi—who’s next? You tell me.