Archive for April 2009

MSF licensing tests screen out only the bottom 20%–and the BRC doesn’t even do that

April 28, 2009

Jimmy Jon sent me a comment today that read in part, “Have you ridden the North Carolina “skills test” or “road test”? If you haven’t, take notice that it is administered in a parking lot. Take further notice that this test does not involve either moving or parked traffic while it is administered in a parking lot. Further notice that the test is successfully completed by negotiating the through a cone pattern. Please also note that the testee provides the motorcycle, and this testee is not limited to this motorcycle in the future.”

I responded that it sounded like the Alt-MOST. I thought that perhaps people could use a little background on MSF’s licensing products:

In 1978 MSF published the first in a series of licensing tests, the Motorcycle Operator’s Skill Test (MOST). Shortly thereafter, it came out with an on-road/in-traffic one, the Motorcyclist In Traffic (MIT) test and the Motorcycle Licensing Skills Test (MILT). MSF also trained license-examiners across the country.

It was anticipated by NHTSA—and state DMVs—that the test would be taken on the motorcycle the applicant would be riding on the street. The MOST and MILT tests were so difficult that crashes—some even with broken bones occurred during the testing.

Even so, according to an update published in Safe Cycling, MSF’s then licensing director, Carl Spurgeon, wrote in the Spring 1988 edition, “When testing is administered by a state licensing examiner…only basic skills and abilities are evaluated. To be blunt, these tests screen out the bottom 20 percent or so and send the rest on their way with a license.”

Only the bottom 20% is very discouraging—and it’s even more discouraging that MSF is now paying PIRE to show that the end-of-course-evaluations measure up to the tests at the DMV.

Despite what Jimmy Jon wrote, most of those who go to the DMV take the test on their own bike, it’s more difficult to pass than when taken on a small training bike on a range that the students have been practicing on for two days. Iow, the course may be allowing many of that 20% who would’ve flunked at the DMV to pass in the course.

Jimmy Jon went on to write, “A successful test should be conducted upon a public road, with traffic, and administered by a certified motorcycle rider/tester. The rider must utilise for the test the motorcycle that he will be licensed to drive on the road.”

While I agree only a road test is sufficient to show whether a rider is traffic-ready, I’m not sure that instructors/examiners who have only had MSF-training are any more adequate to the task than the end-of-course evaluations or the current set of MSF tests now used in DMVs across the country.

Rider and non-rider attitudes about motorcycles and safety

April 17, 2009

The Older Rider article is in the issue of MCN that’s just hit your mailboxes. I thank all those who participated in the last survey.

I’m beginning a new project to explore what people think about motorcycling and motorcycle safety and am equally interested in finding out what non-riders think about motorcycling and motorcycle safety.

This project, I have every reason to believe will be completed and put to use much sooner than the last one. 

The non-rider survey, in particular, may give us a different perspective on motorist awareness as well as, in some cases, a way to talk to those we know about motorcycling.

Simply copy and paste in to e-mails and send it out as widely as you can—and please, fill it in yourself.

Please fill out the appropriate questionnaire—rider/passenger or non-rider. I also ask you to forward both to any and all motorcyclists.  and ask them to fill it in as well as forward it.

Please ask them, in addition, to send on the non-rider survey to others. I would love to be able to have as many non-riders as riders participating.

Thank you so very much!

MOTORCYCLIST OPERATOR/PASSENGER SURVEY

 

Please send back to: Majorjoy2002@yahoo.com
 Please fill this out only if you currently do or used to operate a street-legal motorcycle or regularly ride (or used to) on the back as a passenger! If you are not a motorcyclist or regular passenger, please fill out the NON-RIDER survey.

 The information shared in the questionnaire will be stripped of personal data before use unless the respondent checks the blank in #3.

 1.      Name:___________________________

2.      How did you get this survey: __Moonrider Redux webstie __Forwarded via e-mail by someone I know ___From a list (which one?) ___________________

___Other (what?)_______________________________

3.      Male _____  Female____

4.      Check here ____ if author may use your name  OR

a.      Check here ____ if you like to have quotes used but would prefer to have a moniker or pseudonym used. If so, please state what other name to use: ______________________

b.      Check here if you would be willing to supply a photo for a published article:____

5.      Check one:

a.      ____ I am or have been a motorcyclist.

b.      ____I do not operate a motorcycle however I am or have been a motorcyclist passenger regularly and/or frequently.

6.      Age:_____

7.      Married ____ Single____ Divorced____ Widowed ____

8.      Highest level of education completed____________________________

9.      Where do you live? Country _________ State/Province _____

Suburban area ____ Town ___Large city _____ Rural area ______

10.  What activities and/or sports do you participate in (even infrequently):

 

11.  Have you taken lessons for any sport or hobby as an adult? ___Yes ___No

a.      If yes, why?

 

12.  How many miles would you estimate you travel (by any means) on public roads a week?________

13.  Do you normally travel on:_____ rural roads _____suburban roads _____urban roads?

14.   Do you regularly travel during ____rush hours ____other times of day ____night

15.  If urban/suburban: How congested are the roads you normally travel:

 ___not congested ____ mild ____moderately ____heavy _____extreme.

16.  What vehicle(s) do you drive/operate regularly on the road?

  

17.  In what conditions would you refuse to drive a car on the roads:

 

 

 

a.      In what conditions would you refuse to ride a motorcycle?

 

 

18.  How safe or dangerous do you think it is to drive nowadays?

 

 

 

19.  How many years have you been driving? _____ How many riding? ____

20.  Do you have a valid driver’s license? ___ Yes    ____ No

a.      Motorcycle endorsement on license? ___Yes ___No

 

21.   How much insurance do you carry on your vehicle(s): ____minimum required by state ____ more than required ____ much more than required

22.  Do you carry: uninsured motorist insurance? ___ Yes    ____ No

23.  Do you have health insurance? ___ Yes    ___ No

24.  Did you take driver education before getting your driver’s license? ___ Yes    ____ No

25.  If you took driver’s ed:

Were you required to take such a course? ___ Yes    ___ No

Did you believe a driver’s ed course was a safe way to learn to drive? ___ Yes    ___ No

26.   Did you expect to be able to safely operate a car on the street at the end of the course? ___Yes ___No

27.  Did you take a motorcycle training course when you learned to ride?

___Yes ___No ___No, because I am a passenger

28.  If yes, did you believe the training course was a safe way to learn? ___Yes ___No

29.  If you did take a course, why did you take motorcycle training?

 

 

30.  If you took a course, did you expect to be able to safely operate a motorcycle on the street by the end of the course? ___Yes ___No

Did you feel competent and safe to operate the motorcycle at the end of the course? ___Yes ___No

 

31.  If you did not take motorcycle training, how did you learn?

 

 

32.  How would you rate yourself as a car driver?

____safer than most other drivers

____as safe as most drivers

____less safe than other drivers  

____safer than most other motorcyclists

____as safe as most motorcyclists

____less safe than other motorcyclists

 

AND: How would you rate yourself as a motorcycle rider?

____safer than most other motorcyclists

____as safe as most motorcyclists

____less safe than other motorcyclists

               ____safer than most other drivers

____as safe as most drivers

____less safe than other drivers

 

33.  Have you been in car (or SUV, pickup, van/minivan) accident where you were the driver? ___ Yes    ___ No

a.      Have you been in a motorcycle accident? ___ Yes    ___ No

34.  If yes, how many over the course of your driving history? ___ car ____motorcycle.

a.      How many were found to be your fault? ____car ___motorcycle

35.  Do you wear a seatbelt when you drive? ___ Yes    ___ No

36.  Do you wear a helmet when you ride? ___ Yes    ___ No

a.      Check all that apply: ___full-face ___3/4 ___half-shell

37.  When you bought your last passenger vehicle were safety features (air bags, ABS brakes, crush zones, consumer/insurance ratings, etc.) to you:

 ___not important ____minor importance ____moderate importance ____very important ____extremely important

 

38.  When you bought your last motorcycle how important was a safer vehicle (as in braking, tires, headlight style)?

___not important ____minor importance ____moderate importance ____very important ____extremely important

 

39.  Rate each of the following from 1 (great danger) to 5 (safe as reasonable) as to threat each poses to safety for all road users on public roads:

 ___emergency vehicles racing to a scene/hospital   ___pedestrians off the roadway  ____speeders      ___adult bicyclists     ____children playing near the road ____children on bicycles/skateboards/in-line skates     ___drunk drivers

____cars parked on both sides of the street           _____red-light runners

_____ road surface in poor condition           ____distracted drivers                 ____cell phone(s) in use        _____freeways     ____rural two-lane roads   

___passenger cars      ____motorcyclists       ____large trucks       ____SUVs/pickups      ___buses     ____ weather  _____snow/ice on roadway ____   ____ gravel/rocks on roadway   ____ sun in eyes _____slow/obstructing vehicles _____elderly drivers  

 

Now do it again, only rating each as the danger it poses to motorcyclists:

___emergency vehicles racing to a scene/hospital   ___pedestrians off the roadway  ____speeders      ___adult bicyclists     ____children playing near the road ____children on bicycles/skateboards/in-line skates     ___drunk drivers

____cars parked on both sides of the street           _____red-light runners

_____ road surface in poor condition           ____distracted drivers                 ____cell phone(s) in use        _____freeways     ____rural two-lane roads   

___passenger cars      ____motorcyclists       ____large trucks       ____SUVs/pickups      ___buses     ____ weather  _____snow/ice on roadway ____   ____ gravel/rocks on roadway   ____ sun in eyes _____slow/obstructing vehicles _____elderly drivers 

 

40.  How dangerous do you think motorcycling is on a scale from 1 (highest) to 10 (lowest)? ____

41.  What do you think makes motorcycling dangerous?

 

 

 

 

42.  Mark whether you think the following statements are true or false:

___ Motorcycle helmets give the equivalent safety to riders that seat belts provide to vehicle occupants.

___In general, motorcyclists speed more often than car drivers do.

___In general, motorcyclists go faster when they speed than car drivers do.

___Motorcyclists, in general, are more aggressive in traffic than the average car driver.

___Motorcyclists are more likely to drink and operate a vehicle than car drivers.

___Motorcyclists are at more risk than drivers if they drink and drive.

___Motorcycle training is as safe and effective as car driver training.

___ The average motorcyclist is as skilled and has a much judgment as the average driver.

___Better knowledge and judgment are even more important than better skill in avoiding dangerous situations in the first place.

___ It is safer to drive closer to a motorcyclist with a helmet than it is to one who is not wearing one.

___It is safer to drive closer a motorcyclist who is riding a smaller bike.

___It is safer to drive closer to a motorcyclist who is on a city street than it is to one on a highway or freeway.

___Car drivers don’t understand motorcycles or their riders and that’s why many accidents happen.

___Motorcyclists are too hard to see.

 

43.  On a scale from 1-5 with 1 being most effective, how effective would each the following be in making motorcycling safer:

          ___any kind of (legal) helmet 

___safety gear (jackets/pants/boots/gloves)

___brightly-colored clothing (hi-visibility)

___brightly-colored motorcycles

___white or bright helmets

___training

___more  hazard/street strategy training

___stricter licensing

___limiting how fast motorcycles can go

___increasing motorist awareness of motorcycles

___lower blood alcohol limits for motorcyclists

___increase penalties for reckless/aggressive driving

___increase penalties on motorists who violate rider’s right-of-way

 

44.  If you are a motorcyclist, which of the above do you use and how often?

 

 

 

45.  On a scale from 1-5 with 1 being most effective, rate the following

Helmets are ___ effective at preventing death

Helmets are ___ effective at reducing injury

Jackets/pants/gloves/boots are ___ at preventing death

Jackets/pants/gloves/boots are ___ at reducing injury

Taking a motorcycle training class is ____ effective at helping a new rider to be  safer on the road

Licensing is ___effective at ensuring a rider is safer on the road

 

46.  Do you think helmet use should be mandatory? ___Yes ____No

47.  Do you think a motorcycle safety course should be mandatory? ___Yes ____No

48.  Should some kind of graduated or tiered licensing be mandatory? ___Yes ____No

49.  Check the appropriate lines:

Motorcyclists who ride no faster than the speed of traffic are:

___just as safe operators as car drivers

___not as safe operators as car drivers

___safer than car drivers

          Motorcyclists who drink and ride are

     ___just as safe drivers who do

___not as safe drivers who do

___safer than drivers who do

Motorcyclists who don’t drink any alcoholic beverages before riding are:

___just as safe riders as those who do

___not as safe riders as those who do

___safer than riders who do

Motorcyclists who wear a helmet are:

___just as safe riders as those who don’t

___not as safe riders as those who don’t

___safer than riders who don’t

Motorcyclists who take a basic training course are:

___just as safe riders as those who didn’t

___not as safe riders as those who didn’t

___safer than riders who didn’t

 

50.  About 50% of motorcycle fatalities are from single-vehicle crashes and 50% from multi-vehicle crashes. Given that, what is the one thing (program, change, adjustment, etc.) that could be done to bring down the fatality rate for:

Single vehicle crashes:

 

 

Multi-vehicle crashes:

 

 

51.  Any other comments or observations about motorcycle safety?

 

 

 

 

 

NON-MOTORCYCLIST SURVEY

Please send back to: Majorjoy2002@yahoo.com

 the purpose of this survey is to gain an understanding how motorcycles, their riders and their safety in traffic are perceived by those who do not ride one. Please feel free to expand on any answer or to express an opinion or add additional information beyond what is requested.

 

Please fill out the following survey only if you are NOT a Motorcyclist nor have ridden on the back as a passenger more than a few times. If you are a motorcyclist or passenger, please fill out the other version of the survey available on https://wmoon.wordpress.com/ or by e-mailing: Majorjoy2002@yahoo.com.

none of The Questionnaires or the information in them will ever be sold, rented or released from my personal control. 

 

Name:___________________________

 

  1. How did you get this survey: __Moonrider Redux webstie __Forwarded via e-mail by someone I know ___From a list (which one?) ___________________

 

Other (what?)_______________________________

  1.  
  2. Male _____  Female____
  3. Check here ____ if author may use your name  OR
  4. Check here ____ if you like to have quotes used but would prefer to have a moniker or pseudonym used. If so, please state what other name: ______________________
  5. Check here if you would be willing to supply a photo for a published article:____
  6. ____I am not a motorcyclist
  7. Age:_____
  8. Married ____ Single____ Divorced____ Widowed ____
  9. Highest level of education completed____________________________
  10. Where do you live? Country _________ State/Province _____ Suburban area ____ Town ___Large city area _____ Rural area ______
  11. What activities and/or sports do you participate in (even infrequently):

 

 

 

  1. How many miles would you estimate you travel (by any means) on public roads a week?________
  2. Do you normally travel on:_____ rural roads _____suburban roads _____urban roads?
  3. Do you regularly travel during ____rush hours ____other times of day ____night
  4. If urban/suburban: How congested are the roads you normally travel: ___not congested ____ mild ____moderately ____heavy _____extreme.
  5. What (on- or off-road) vehicle(s) do you drive/operate regularly? ____________
  6. What conditions would you refuse to drive/travel on the roads:
  7. How safe or dangerous do you think it is to drive nowadays?

 

 

 

  1. How many years have you been driving? _____
  2. Do you have a valid driver’s license? ___ Yes    ____ No

 

  1. How much insurance do you carry on your vehicle(s): ____minimum required by state ____ more than required ____ much more than required
  2. Do you carry: uninsured motorist insurance? ___ Yes    ____ No
  3. Do you have health insurance? ___ Yes    ___ No
  4. Did you take driver education before getting your driver’s license? ___ Yes    ____ No
  5. If you took driver’s ed:
  6. Were you required to take such a course? ___ Yes    ___ No
  7. Did you believe a driver’s ed course was a safe way to learn to drive? ___ Yes    ___ No
  8. Did you expect to be able to safely operate a car on the street at the end of the course? ___ Yes    ___ No
  9. How would you rate yourself as a car driver?

____safer than most other drivers

____as safe as most drivers

____less safe than other drivers

AND:       

____safer than most other motorcyclists

____as safe as most motorcyclists

____less safe than other motorcyclists

 

  1. If you also ride a motorcycle: how would you rate yourself as a motorcycle rider?

____safer than most other motorcyclists

____as safe as most motorcyclists

____less safe than other motorcyclists

____safer than most other drivers

____as safe as most drivers

____less safe than other drivers

 

  1. Have you been in car (or SUV, pickup, van/minivan) accident where you were the driver? ___ Yes    ___ No
  2. If yes, how many over the course of your driving history? ___  How many were found to be your fault? ____
  3. Do you wear a seatbelt when you drive? ___ Yes    ___ No
  4. When you bought your last passenger vehicle were safety features (air bags, ABS brakes, crush zones, consumer/insurance ratings, etc.) to you:

___not important ____minor importance ____moderate importance ____very important ____extremely important

 

  1. Rate each of the following from 1 (great danger) to 5 (safe as reasonable) as to threat each poses to safety on public roads:
  2. ___emergency vehicles racing to a scene/hospital   ___pedestrians off the roadway  ____speeders      ___adult bicyclists     ____children playing near the road ____children on bicycles/skateboards/in-line skates     ___drunk drivers

___cars parked on both sides of the street           _____red-light runners

_____ road surface in poor condition           ____distracted drivers                 ____cell phone(s) in use        _____freeways     ____rural two-lane roads   

___passenger cars      ____motorcyclists       ____large trucks       ____SUVs/pickups      ___buses     ____ weather  _____snow/ice on roadway ____ gravel/rocks on roadway   ____sun in eyes _____slow/obstructing vehicles _____elderly drivers 

 

  1. How dangerous do you think motorcycling is on a scale from 1 (highest) to 10 (lowest)? ____
  2. What do you think makes motorcycling dangerous?

 

 

 

  1. Mark whether you think the following statements are true or false:

___ Motorcycle helmets for riders are equivalent to the safety provided by a seat belt in a vehicle.

___In general, motorcyclists speed more often than car drivers do.

___In general, motorcyclists go faster when they speed than car drivers do.

___Motorcyclists, in general, are more aggressive in traffic than the average car driver.

___Motorcyclists are more likely to drink and operate a vehicle than car drivers.

___Motorcyclists are at more risk than drivers if they drink and drive.

___Motorcycle training is as safe and effective as car driver training.

___ The average motorcyclist is as skilled and has a much judgment as the average driver.

___Better knowledge and judgment are even more important than better skill in avoiding dangerous situations in the first place.

___ It is safer to drive nearer to a motorcyclist with a helmet than it is to one who is not wearing one.

___It is safer to drive near a motorcyclist who is riding a smaller bike.

___It is safer to drive nearer to a motorcyclist who is on a city street than it is to one on a highway or freeway.

___Car drivers don’t understand motorcycles or their riders and that’s why many accidents happen.

 

  1. On a scale from 1-5 with 1 being most effective, how effective would each the following be in making motorcycling safer:

___helmets 

___safety gear (jackets/pants/boots/gloves)

___brightly-colored clothing (hi-visibility)

___brightly-colored motorcycles

___white or bright helmets

___training

___more  hazard/street strategy training

___stricter licensing

___limiting how fast motorcycles can go

___increasing motorist awareness of motorcycles

___lower blood alcohol limits for motorcyclists

___increase penalties for reckless/aggressive driving

___increase penalties on motorists who violate rider’s right-of-way

 

  1. On a scale from 1-5 with 1 being most effective, rate the following

Helmets are ___ effective at preventing death

Helmets are ___ effective at reducing injury

Jackets/pants/gloves/boots are ___ at preventing death

Jackets/pants/gloves/boots are ___ at reducing injury

Taking a motorcycle training class is ____ at making sure a new rider is safer on the road

Licensing is ___effective at making sure a rider is safer on the road

 

  1. Do you think helmet use should be mandatory? ___Yes ____No
  2. Do you think a motorcycle safety course should be mandatory? ___Yes ____No

Check the appropriate lines below:

  1. Motorcyclists who ride no faster than the speed of traffic are:

___just as safe operators as car drivers

___not as safe operators as car drivers

___safer than car drivers

  1. Motorcyclists who drink and ride are

___just as safe drivers who do

___not as safe drivers who do

___safer than drivers who do

  1. Motorcyclists who Don’t drink any alcoholic beverages before riding are:

___just as safe riders as those who do

___not as safe riders as those who do

___safer than riders who do

  1. Motorcyclists who wear a helmet are:

___just as safe riders as those who don’t

___not as safe riders as those who don’t

___safer than riders who don’t

  1. Motorcyclists who take a basic training course are:

___just as safe riders as those who didn’t

___not as safe riders as those who didn’t

___safer than riders who didn’t

 

  1. Imagine for a moment that you had decided to begin riding a motorcycle check all of the following you choose to do:

___ Learn what I can about it first

___ Wear a helmet

___ Find out what the safest helmets and gear are and choose those

___ Wear protective gear

___ Ask someone I know who rides what I should do

___ Tend to follow their advice

___Ask someone I trust to teach me to ride

___ Take a motorcycle training course

 

  1. Studies show that the majority of motorcyclists are killed in multi-vehicle crashes where the driver violates the motorcyclists right of way. Can you recall any information (ads, articles, billboards, commercials) about watching out for motorcyclists?   ___Yes ___No

If yes, were they effective in making you think about motorcyclists?

 

 

 

 

  1. What do you think might help drivers be more aware of motorcyclists?

 

 

  1. Any other comments or observations about motorcycle safety?

 

 

Mandatory training bill in North Carolina—now with mushy language

April 15, 2009

Two years ago, the Concerned Bikers Association/ABATE of North Carolina successfully beat off a mandatory training bill—but you can’t keep a bad bill down. It’s back and its passed the Senate and is before the House.

Last time, the bill would’ve abolished permits altogether, and the problems with that are both obvious and were obviously heeded. This time it does allow a rider to have a motorcycle permit—a rider just can’t renew it. This makes sense—a rider needs a permit to practice but should move on to endorsement or give up a privilege that was only meant to be temporary.

What’s most interesting about this year’s rendition is the editions it has gone through and how the language has changed—and what happens as a result.

Under NC’s current law, to obtain a motorcycle endorsement, a rider must prove competency to “drive” a motorcycle by passing a road test, passing a written or oral test and paying a fee.

Senate Bill 64 was introduced with this key new text: “To obtain a motorcycle endorsement, a person shall demonstrate competence to drive a motorcycle by passing a riding skills test administered by the Division or by providing proof of successful completion of the North Carolina Motorcycle Safety Education Program Basic Rider Course or Experienced Rider Course.” And pay a fee.

While it still includes a skills test, it removes the requirement it be a road test. In this version, a written or oral test is removed and not included in any other way.

Note the difference a few words make. The rider must pass a riding skills test but only has to successfully complete a training course to get a motorcycle endorsement. While one can assume that there’s no difference between the two that’s not what is says and this is exactly how loopholes are created.

Whether it’s meant or not, the effect is to remove the legal requirement to have to demonstrate the skill and competency required to operate a motorcycle—in addition to having to prove one can operate that motorcycle in traffic.

The second edition—and third—change that language is even more radical ways: “To obtain a motorcycle endorsement, a person shall demonstrate competence to drive a motorcycle by passing a written or oral test concerning motorcycle and providing proof of successful completion of one of the following:

(1) The Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Rider Course or Experienced Rider Course.

(2) The North Carolina Motorcycle Safety Education Program Basic Rider Course or Experienced Rider Course.

(3) Any course approved by the Commissioner.

The second edition adds the written or oral test back in but makes competency to drive a motorcycle a matter of passing either a written or oral test.

This time, however “or” is replaced by “and”—taking a course is now required but the rider still has to only prove successful completion of a course.

From having to prove competence on the road, to having to prove competence in skills—all mention of the necessity of skill has been removed in the text of the bill.

Once again, we trust that skills testing is essential to passing the course because we trust that the state motorcycle safety program would allow nothing else—and we have means, as citizens, to insist that be so. But it’s no longer just the state program that has the right to set the standards for successful completion.

The bill adds not one but two other avenues to taking a course that would yield a motorcycle endorsement at the end: The Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Rider Course or Experienced course or “Any course approved by the Commissioner.”

In what is surely an accident, MSF is given first place above the NCMSEP, but, at this time at least, the NCMSEP teaches the MSF course. It would appear, then that it is redundant to mention both. However, it allows any provider—including dealerships—that uses MSF curriculum to operate apart from the NCMSEP without any oversight or approval. Or I allows MSF to set up its own system of franchises.

But more importantly, this isn’t the driver’s license-waiver—this is the endorsement itself. As such, anyone who teaches MSF curriculum can hand out motorcycle endorsements for “successful completion” of the course without any outside authority determining what “successful completion” is. Unless, of course, MSF is going to start operating a state or national system to provide oversight to providers who are not part of the state system. Say, for example, from MSF’s regional “campus” in Georgia.

Even so, we know what the MSF courses teach and that there are evaluations as part of successfully graduating from the course. We know that actual riding skills are minimally tested. That is now, however, and no guarantee that the standards will remain the same in the future.

One of the more subtle effects of the bill is to remove the power of the state to determine what the standards of competency are for motorcycle operation in any way. The Division of Motor Vehicles no longer is responsible and those through the NCMSEP apply only to that option for getting a motorcycle endorsement.

Instead, a trade group of motorcycle manufacturers who have a financial interest in more people “successfully completing” the course and buying motorcycles have the power to determine the standards for a state and to exercise what has been—and still is—seen as a necessary government function—granting a motorcycle endorsement.

While I realize that many motorcyclists are antagonistic to government regulation, do the riders of North Carolina really want the motorcycle manufacturers regulating what it means to “successfully complete” and thus be endorsed instead?

And these standards can differ from those the state sets through the state program but be equally legal—and that presents its own set of problems.

Then there’s the third option: “Any course approved by the Commissioner” can suffice to gain a motorcycle endorsement. Once again, we assume it means a training course of some kind with some recognizably sufficient standards. This could allow a completely different curriculum and perhaps a superior one. Otoh, it could mean a cooking class, if the Commissioner decided so or a “Wave a Magic Wand” class. While that seems ludicrous the vague wording creates an enormous loophole.

This bill, then, has several problems—not just the discrimination issue that adult motorcyclists are required to take training while adult car drivers are not—but the removal of “competency” being a matter of skill, the dumbing down of the standard of passing a road test and a written or oral test to passing a written or oral test and successful completion of “any approved course”. No longer do North Carolinians have to pass a test, they merely have to successfully complete a course. Not to mention the problems of setting up separate and equal standards for a trade group or “any other course” and granting a state function to manufacturers or dealers or, it appears, anyone else.

Not to mention that even NHTSA, in Countermeasures That Work, says most programs use some version of MSF curriculum but it’s uncertain what constitutes good training or whether training is effective at reducing crashes at all. But, by law, all North Carolinians will have it–however uncertain it is to show even competency–if this bill passes.

Otoh, it’s good news for the litigious among us. In other states—most noticeably Florida—lawsuits filed against training programs in particular often are summarily dismissed because the student signs a liability waiver. Courts have not seen motorcycle training, in particular, as a matter of necessity—the student doesn’t have to take it and therefore doesn’t have to sign the waiver–and that makes a hash of public policy arguments. But make training mandatory for adults—and Senator Rand will hand personal injury lawyers the goose and the golden eggs.

They say the law of unintended consequences means that an action will have least three unexpected, unanticipated results. That is likely to be one of them. I wonder what the others will be?

Oh, btw, did I mention that North Carolina also has another bill before it’s legislature that would prohibit government competition with private enterprise? At this time, SB1004 is solely concerned with the communications industry. But then SB64 used to require passing some kind of skills test, too.

But, hey, so what if there’s more lawsuits and if there’s two or three standards all equally able to grant an endorsement and the manufacturers and dealers determine who “successfully completes” but doesn’t have to pass and therefore gets an endorsement? It’s not like that stuff is going to happen, is it?

As long as the good riders of NC believe that there will be some skill level required to “successfully complete” some no-name or brand name course that should be good enough. Loopholes schmoopholes, right?

MSF says the BRC is rudimentary and more is needed before graduate safe to ride in traffic

April 13, 2009

The January 2009 edition of NY ABATE’s The Freedom Writer includes a “news” story generated by MSF and printed by ABATE verbatim. It begins by describing Tim Buche and Ray Ochs at the IFZ 7th International Motorcycle Conference in Germany last October. Buche gave a talk on “Integrating the Honda SMARTrainer with the MSF Rider Education and Training System for Improving Hazard Perception.”

The SMARTrainer is manufactured by Honda, MSF’s largest dues-paying contributor. Honda, MSF-employee Jim Heideman, reported last year, asked MSF to market the simulator for the corporation.

Buche, the press release/news story states, says the SMARTrainer is “the right tool for the right time” and that MSF had “turned the training tool” into supplementary RETS learning opportunities that can help anyone from beginning riders on when “used in conjunction with existing MSF curricula and under the watchful eye of a RiderCoach and to promote motorcycle familiarization and safety renewal.”

Even though Buche says that SMART is to promote “motorcycle familiarization” elsewhere in the article it makes it clear that it is a “traffic simulator” and not a “riding simulator”.

The press release/news story goes on to state that “The SMART is a highly effective tool to help beginning riders—as well as returning riders who need a mental tune-up—become aware of the potential dangers that exist for them out in the real world just waiting to ruin their day….” It should be noted that the SMART includes such things as T-bones, running into pedestrians, being hit by a truck while merging and other such events.

It also states that SMARTrainer is “designed to give riders a safe bridge between a typical beginning rider course (which often takes place in a parking lot) and the real-world scenarios of riding in traffic and on public roads. The key is in providing a no-risk introduction to the hazards of street riding to compliment [sic] rudimentary instruction.”

Just so we’re clear then: the article states it’s not a riding simulator—but it’s supposed to promote motorcycle familiarization but after the “rudimentary instruction” that is the beginning rider course. Only then will novice riders become aware of the “potential dangers” by using this “safe” “no-risk bridge” and be prepared for traffic—unlike the course which is taught in a parking lot.

But MSF’s website first states that the BRC is taught “in a controlled environment provide[s] a complete introduction to motorcycling,” and then “In [the BRC], you’ll learn how to operate a motorcycle safely, with a lot of emphasis on the special skills and mental attitude necessary for dealing with traffic.”

The California Motorcycle Safety Program, administrated by MSF states, gives a complete outline of what’s taught—and it sure seems to be all about motorcycle familiarization.

And the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program (PAMSP) also administrated by MSF states, “The primary goal of the Basic RiderCourse (BRC) is to provide an introduction to the fundamentals of safe, responsible motorcycling. The BRC is designed to prepare riders for entry into the complex world of traffic.”

And furthermore, the SMARTrainer is to be used between the BRC and actually riding in traffic—even though the graduate is already going to automatically receive a driver’s license-waiver. The state grants the waiver because the end-of-course evaluations are supposed to be equal to the skills testing at the DMV. And the motorcycle operator skill test is supposed to determine if the rider is able to navigate safely in traffic. Iow, the state has been convinced by MSF that the motorcycle operator skills test it publishes and that’s used at the DMV suffices to determine whether the rider is safe to operate the motorcycle in traffic. Then MSF convinced the state that the end-of-course evaluations are equivalent to the test at the DMV. Then Buche–and the MSF says that the graduate isn’t familiar with the motorcycle or the hazards–and therefore the risks and danger of riding–and needs yet another MSF product–and a RiderCoaches watchful eyes–to do so?

And, of course, not to mention that MSF’s student waiver begins, “I fully understand and acknowledge that: (a) there are DANGERS AND RISK, INJURY DAMAGE, OR DEATH that exist in my use of motorcycles and motorcycle equipment and my participation in the Motorcycle Safety Course activities” [emphasis in original].

So let me get that straight: they have to claim they fully understand the danger and risk before they’re allowed to take a complete introduction that reveals the danger and risk of motorcycling and having passed that only then will they be able to discover the potential danger and risk of riding in real-world traffic….

And somehow all that makes sense to Mr. Buche and Dr. Ochs…

Which is why I made sure to point out these strange statements when compared to what else MSF says about its training was in an article generated by MSF itself and not the work of someone with the NY ABATE.

PA SB530 could change almost everything in state motorcycle safety program

April 9, 2009

In the last entry, I discussed HB1189 which some may think would be a good law. But sometimes the effect of one law can dramatically change based on one or more that passes.

In Pennsylvania, there’s a bill in the senate could change what the property owner liability bill would do if both bills pass. Senate Bill No. 530, the “Free Enterprise and Taxpayer Protection Act”, is sponsored by a total of 10 sponsors. The primary one is Patrick Browne (R) but there’s nine others listed as co-sponsoring the bill. Who is behind the political face of the bill isn’t known—Verizon swears it isn’t—but there are a number of corporations that could have an interest.

One version or another of this bill has been introduced since 2004 so, if history is any indication, it may very well not pass. However the focus of it has changed over the years and perhaps one day they might get it right—or have enough power to pass it. As written now, the bill could apply to such things as broadband/wireless systems, nursing homes—or the state motorcycle safety program.

Currently, in Pennsylvania training is conducted by the state which contracts the administration to a contractor—in this case the trade group, Motorcycle Safety Foundation. The basic training program is free to students and range space is provided without cost to the program by state-owned agencies and educational institutions and, in three cases, by the military.

PAMSP couldn’t offer for free what private enterprise could charge for

In brief: If SB350 passed, it would prohibit the government from competing with private enterprise except in very limited areas. As a result, all training would have to happen by private enterprises such as Harley-Davidson’s Rider’s Edge while the administration of the program could still be carried on by the MSF.

At best, the state program would severely restricted in its ability to conduct training, would have to charge similar rates to private enterprise, entities would no longer be able to make pavement available at no cost and the PAMSP would be required to make a good faith effort to find private enterprises to take over training until it was fully out of business.

In the best case scenario, it would limit state program courses to offer no more courses and not anywhere near those locations where for-profit businesses offer training courses and the state could charge no less than they do.

Pits belief in private enterprise against the belief that training is a public service

It begins with something most—if not all—of us can whole-heartedly affirm: “Private enterprise is necessary to the health, wealth and prosperity of the Commonwealth.” It goes on to state that the government competes with private enterprise when it provides goods and services to the public beyond its government function.

It then clarifies that the “act is intended to protect economic opportunities for private enterprises against unfair competition by government agencies and to enhance the effective provision of goods or services to the public.”

The entire premise of the state motorcycle system, though was to make training as cheap as possible so more students will take it. There’s nothing, however, to prevent dealerships from offering the same training for free—and indeed, 12 do as part of the program.

Any competition from government is inherently unfair

“Government competition” is defined as the provision of goods or services to the public by government agencies that are essentially the same offered by private enterprises.”

The bill sets forth that the existence of government goods and services apart from necessary services and that which only the government can do (“government functions”) is inherently unfair by its existence as long as there are at least two persons or entities engaged in offering similar goods or services for profit (“private enterprise”).

For example, the rider training program offered by the state is essentially the same as offered by Harley-Davidson’s Rider’s Edge. Or, for example, if other dealerships started offering their own MSF-approved course for a price, they would be offering “essentially the same course.”

Under the provisions of this act, because PAMSP conducts training it’s “unfair” competition for private enterprises such as Rider’s Edge (or if Stayin’ Safe wanted to offer basic training) to compete since the PAMSP course is free and dealership courses in Pennsylvania cost $275-$295.

No more free pavement

Government agencies, as the act specifies, includes not just agencies like the Department of Transportation and so forth but the local Department of Motor Vehicle office or police department and every kind of school from university down to the local elementary school. Later, the bill stipulates federal government facilities such as military bases are included in the prohibition if they had an inter-governmental agreement with a state agency. Currently, 78% of PAMSP range courses are conducted on “government agencies” or have civilian training on military-owned sites. The rest of the current training sites are a consortium of Harley dealers (4) and multi-brand dealerships (8).

Government agencies and “all universities, community colleges, school districts and public authorities” would be “prohibited from competing against public enterprise, including intergovernmental or interagency agreement, and are prohibited from funding, capitalizing, securing the indebtedness of, or leasing the obligation of, or subsidizing, any charitable or not-for-profit institutions which would use such support to compete against private enterprise.” Currently, MSF—a not-for-profit institution—is not charged for the ranges or classroom space at “government agencies” as defined in this act. Even under the severely limited conditions the state program could continue, the sites could not offer free pavement.

Limited provisions for continued training

There are two provisions that could allow the PAMSP to continue to exist. Section 6 states, “General rule.—In cases of government competition against private enterprises that exist on the effective date of this act, the government agency or authority may continue to engage in the competition but may not exceed the scope of the competition.” In short, the PAMSP can be no bigger than the number of its frankly named competitors nor, it appears, charge less than they do.

Under Section 6 (3) if the PAMSP was seen as a “vital service” it could continue where private enterprise doesn’t exist—but would have to make “good faith efforts” to get private enterprise to offer that service instead. MSF would have to try to convince its manufacturer members to offer programs like Riders Edge through the dealerships who offer their goods for sale.

Iow, the days of free rider courses in Pennsylvania could be numbered—and that number could be up during this year’s training season. In 50% of the states that MSF has administered for the past several years, the cost of training has doubled—but that’s nothing to what would happen to the cost of training in Pennsylvania.

The bill, if passed into law, would go into effect 60 days after signing.

Turning PA into an independent contractor state?

If this bill passes, the state could become like other states where training is provided by independent contractors. But further legislation would have to be passed to do so—and any attempt to put a price cap on (as in CA and NY) would have SB530 to consider.

Legal remedies available to private enterprise

If such government competition does exist, any “affected person or entity” can file a complaint and get a hearing within 30 days at which time a preliminary injunctive relief” against the offending government agency.

Unlike other cases of this nature, there’s no need to show the lack of an adequate remedy at law or irreplaceable harm or any other common law element applicable to obtaining preliminary injunctive relief. All the person or entity has to show is “threat to private enterprise or public moneys is imminent.” All it would take is one Harley dealership who offers Rider’s Edge—or one multi-brand dealership who wants to offer training to file the complaint. And one prelimary injunction is enough to take down the entire PAMSP.

That preliminary injunction can turn into a permanent one—and monetary damages and recovery of costs are provided for if the state can’t prove its case, which in the case of the PAMSP, it couldn’t—it is free and by giving pavement away, it subsidizes MSF.

Won’t affect MSF’s contract

Strangely enough, it won’t affect MSF at all. In fact, the act specifically says that it doesn’t prevent the government from hiring entities such as MSF to provide “vital services or necessary services”. MSF is hired to run the state program—but nowhere in the language of Title 75, section 7911 that lays out what the state program is does it say that the administrator of the program has to conduct training. Rather it says that the department will certify schools to conduct approved motorcycle safety courses, will review course material, certify instructors, etc.

Pennsylvania may have no-fault ranges

April 4, 2009

At this point we turn to pending legislation in the state of Pennsylvania. The Commonwealth  safety program  has had more known severe injuries and deaths than any other state program. According to the state program manager Dave Surgenor, bystanders, cars, motorcycles and sheds have been hit by students. Two of the known deaths have occurred in the state program, at least one case of complete paraplegia and at least one other lawsuit has been filed against MSF—though what injuries were involved are not (yet) known.

When lawsuits are filed, the property owner is often named—particularly if an obstacle or dangerous condition is seen as relevant to the crash. For that reason site owners have good reason to be very leery of allowing the PAMSP anywhere near their pavement.

It is with great interest, then, that PA HB1189 would amend legislation the state motorcycle program and indemnify the owner(s) of land used for ranges from civil lawsuits. Currently there are 78 sites listed on the 2009 RERP Site List for the PAMSP.

According to one of the sources who sent one of the copies of the bill to me, PA’s ABATE is in full support of the bill. Richard A. Geist (R) is the sponsor of the bill.

The text of the bill is not available on the PA legislative site. I, however, was sent two copies of the same .pdf file of the bill text as it was on March 2, 2009.

The first part of Title 75 (Vehicles), Section 7911 that established the state motorcycle safety program and lists its duties remains unchanged except to add the words “General Rule” at the beginning.

Here’s the new wording, “(b) Exemption from liability. –The owner of land who authorizes the owner’s property to be used for the purposes of an approved motorcycle safety education program as provided in subsection (a) shall not be held civilly liable for any injury or death to persons or damage to property that may occur during the course of instruction or training, except for willful or malicious failure to warn against a dangerous condition, use, structure or activity.”

The language gives the “owner of the land” a blanket liability waiver except in very extreme—and extremely difficult to prove—circumstances. However, since the PAMSP trains and certifies the instructors, certifies the range, conducts the classes, it’s only fair that the owner—who may have no familiarity with motorcycling and certainly no responsibility for the actual class—is excluded from these kind of suits.

Particularly because so many of Pennsylvania’s ranges are on the parking lots of state-owned or state-related universities, colleges or community colleges, other schools, state agencies and even three are on property owned or operated by the military. Indemnification, then, would protect the Commonwealth–and thus the riders as well as non-riders.

This bill, once signed into law, would take effect in 60 days.

It appears that this law could convince more parking lot owners to allow the state program to conduct training on their pavement. The bill, then, could be a blessing for state programs in their desperate hunt for good pavement. Because of this, other states or regional programs may scramble to get this bill before their state legislatures as well.

Except…well, there’s a few issues in the text that perhaps PA’s ABATE didn’t think through—and there’s another bill before the Senate that would change the meaning of HB1189 significantly. That’s the next entry.

Wording opens up, perhaps, unintended consequences

While the law appears beneficial to the state motorcycle program, it is vague. For example, it doesn’t specify who should be warned nor any limits on when such a warning—or how clear the warning should be. Does the warning need to be given just once? Could it be given just once at some point in the past? According to the language in the bill, that could indemnify the property owner.

And how would the property owner know what constitutes a danger—according to MSF’s range approval form, that’s the responsibility of the “Training Provider in consultation with RiderCoach” to determine and the signatory to the RERP agreement must sign that he or she accepts all responsibility for the range. Otoh, because, as the program is now run, why should the property owner because of PAMSP’s and the instructor’s failure of judgment?

Additionally, the nature of a warning means that the condition can still exist and does not have to be rectified. For example, there could be edge traps and potholes and, as long as someone at some point in time was warned dangerous conditions could still exist but the owner would still have a blanket indemnity.

It doesn’t say who is to be warned—the student? PennDOT? The motorcycle safety program? As written, as long as someone anywhere was warned at any time, it would be sufficient to indemnify the owner of the land. However, if the intent is that the student be warned, technically the student liability waiver would be sufficient to warn the student that dangers exist.

Another issue that PA’s ABATE may not have considered is this would allow training to occur on dangerous terrain—such as a hilltop range with a long slope 20’ or high curbs/berms and large rocks or poorly constructed Armco barriers or buildings or concrete/brick walls or fences just beyond 20’ from the perimeter. All of which have been involved in one or more of the deadly or near-fatal crashes in rider training. Will such a law mean, “If you indemnify it, they will paint it”?

However, under MSF’s administration—and with MSF employees choosing, laying out and certifying those ranges—more severe injuries and deaths have occurred on Pennsylvania ranges than in any state in the nation—in fact, more than any in the world.

Nor does the bill specify if it would only cover current and future owners or if this indemnity would reach back into the past and cover the site owners who have had those deadly severe crashes.

The bill, in my opinion, is too vague and offers a blanket liability that could have the unintended consequences of creating even more dangerous ranges. If the state program—and MSF—is doing an adequate job, however, those ranges would not be approved. However, all the ranges where students and the one instructor have been killed or critically injured in rider training have been approved by the state and by MSF.

The text of the bill, as written, then indemnifies the owner of the land against anything whatsoever in any way happens during the course of training as long as some sort of vague warning was given at some point to someone. Such problems could be corrected before the bill is passed—but will the PA ABATE see the need?

After all, why should the owner of the land be liable? It’s not like the property owner chose the range and laid it out and conducts the training on the site. No, that’s the Pennsylvania state motorcycle safety program.

Wait a minute—that may not be true if another bill passes the General Assembly and is signed into law. That’s the next entry. And if that bill passes, it will not only change the meaning of this bill, HB1189 but could completely transform rider training in Pennsylvania.

Think inside the box: Control of the motorcycle industry and education Pt. II

April 1, 2009

The interrelationships between the three trade groups—the Motorcycle Industry Council, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America—at #2 Jenner Street is more complete than almost anyone knew. But the consolidation of power and control in such a small group is just the beginning:

Those on the business end of motorcycling may know that MIC developed “Partners Standard Protocol” that “is the industry standard that allows any dealer to transact business with any PSP certified supplier entirely from within a PSP certified dealership management system (DMS).” It’s an open industry standard that was funded and developed by MIC. The PSP site says that parts order, locator and shipment are supported with more transactions under development. The pull quotes stress that it’s supposed to increase productivity, efficiency and therefore profitability.

It’s unknown why MIC, though, would be the one to develop such a interoperability system—and why they’d pay more than $5 million upfront to do so.

But MIC also owns 100% of TranStand, a for-profit company. However, try clicking on http://transtand.com/ and up comes MSF’s home page. TranStand, according to the “support partner” for Partners Standard Protocol website which identifies it as “a consulting and technology services company” that, in addition to being a sort of Powersports Geek Squad, is advertised to be “In addition to the technical products and services that comprise a complete end-to-end solution, TranStand provides business-consulting services for the entire range of adoption and implementation tasks, including: Stakeholder value propositions; Financial (expense and revenue) alternatives analysis and modeling; Budget preparation and audit services.”

According to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association “Committee on Excellence” report on 8/31/07, “The reason for the separate entity is to preserve the 501C3 status of MIC.” However, MSF, like RVIA, is a 501C6 trade group and not a chartiable association. TranStand in itself does not support the legal purpose of the trade group and would endanger MIC’s trade group tax status. Thus it is a separate incorporated business—but operates out of the same headquarters as MIC/MSF/SVIA sharing personnel, etc.

The committee report also states that TranStand services would cost businesses $40,000 a year with a 3-year commitment. And it mentioned the endorsements from the marine industry and outdoor power industry. RVIA became an industry partner in PSP.

Nowhere on the PSP site or TranStand page does it mention that MIC developed the standard or owns TranStand. In fact, most of the quotes on the various pages are from MIC members and/or MIC board members, which they didn’t mention either.

And many of those manufacturers in marine, powersports and outdoor power are also the same ones who form the core of power over the three trade groups at #2 Jenner Street: Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Yamaha and Polaris.

Those who adopt PSP or use TranStand may not be aware that MIC owns both. However, those who would pay for TranStands services have contractual relationships with the manufacturers behind both PSP and TranStand.

The question would be how much of that information would a dealership, for example, want to reveal to the manufacturers it does business with?

But MIC/MSF/SVIA also paid for the development of a technological product on the MSF side—a software system that not only allows for registration but all the data needs for every site in a program. Like the version for those on the business end, it standardizes all the data. MSF claims it will collect all your sensitive data about your business or state program to help you run it better. In fact, their spiel sounds a great deal like the spiel for PSP and TranStand.

MSF uses this system for the state programs it administers and is attempting to sell this system to other state programs that it doesn’t administer. Yet. In particular, it’s trying to sell it specifically to state programs whose names appear on the list of programs it intends to take over. This, of course, was not revealed to the states it’s trying to get to adopt the software.

It can be objectively noted that MSF has, so far, had difficulty taking over the administration of states it has taken over. If all the data and protocols/standards were the same between the former administrator and the new administrator, that process would be not only easier but faster. Such a system/standard would perfectly describe what MSF is selling to other state programs.

Nor did MSF reveal the connection between its protocol and software program and the MIC’s PSP—nor MIC’s ownership of TranStand.

And, of course, MSF collects all the information on all the students that go through, at least, the state programs it administers. These are students who go on to buy the products and use the services that the companies that use MIC’s PSP and may one day use TranStand to improve their businesses.

Which is not to say that the manufacturers who dominate these industries, the training programs associated with these industries and the organizations that control these industries would use the information it gained in any of these ways to foster or promote or profit their own companies. Otoh, there’s nothing to say that they have taken any precautions to not allow such information gained to be used in other ways.

What this does affirm is that there’s more layers at #2 Jenner Street than an onion has—and there’s consistent and increasing efforts to disguise what they’re doing and how it intermeshes with the profit-motive of the motorcycle manufacturers.

There’s nothing wrong with making money—but if the debacle on Wall Street has taught us anything it’s that there’s wrong ways to make money. At the very least, the motorcycling public—and businesses associated with it—should be aware of both the potential pitfalls and the layers of both vested interests and secrecy that shroud all that comes out of #2 Jenner Street.