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

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.

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

One Comment on “You decide: what’s coincidence, what’s not?”

  1. gymnast Says:

    It’s too bad that William Shakespeare is dead, He could have written a hit play about the MSF, greed, money, deceit, and the the blood of dead or maimed motorcycle riders.

    Coincidence is for people that believe in the tooth fairy. The MSF doesn’t just plan, it schemes and plots. And pays off as part of the process.

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