A Closer look at PA’s training picture

I decided to figure the training statistics a different way to get a different—and hopefully clearer picture of a decade long training picture in Pennsylvania. I’m working on similar snapshots in other states but figured I’d put this up now to hopefully resolve some of the oddities in the other entry. I wish I had the data from a couple more years before ’97 but I don’t have access to that.

I’m giving you all the information first. In 2001, both the MRC:RSS and BRC were taught in PA, the fatalities number, though, applies to both—it’s not 138 RSS and 138 BRC. “Did not graduate” is the total of failed and dropped percentages.

Year MC fatalities Total Students Passed Failed Dropped Did not graduate

1997

96

10,569

69.7%

N/A

N/A

30.28%

1998

115

11,607

69.3%

14.90%

12.8%

27.7%

1999

113

(est: 12,500)

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

2000

156

13,873

75%

13.80%

11%

24.8%

RSS2001

138

9,464

73.50%

26.40%

N/A

26.4%

BRC2001

(138)

5,147

82.40%

17.50%

N/A

17.5%

2002

136

15,993

82%

6%

11.70%

17.7%

2003

159

20,273

83%

5.80%

11.10%

16.9%

2004

163

22,327

83.70%

5.20%

10.90%

16.1%

2005

212

22,327

83.70%

5.20%

9.50%

15%

2006

188

25,567

84.80%

5.50%

9.50%

15%

2007

233

23,308

84.40%

5.50%

9.90%

15%

From 1997-2007, a total of 192,955 students received at least some training in the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program.  Just over 40% were trained from 1997-2002 and 58.9% from 2003-2007.

Looking at the data, there’s an obvious change beginning in 2002 (and in the pass rate for BRC students in 2001) in terms of both pass and failure rate. While the pass rate rose–it’s the fail rate that has a stunning change–and the cummulative did-not-successfully graduate rate.

However, it could be that the BRC is, as MSF claims, better at training students than the MRC:RSS. So we’ll look more closely at the data and then compare it to the fatality rate.

Enormous increase in Pass rate:

The total pass rate for the 11 years was 88.3%–but more passed in the BRC years than in MRC:RSS years. The Pass rate rose from a low of 69.3 in 1998–the first year fatalities began to rise–to 84.8–the year before the highest death toll. That’s an 81.7% change–and that’s significant in anyone’s analysis.

95,618 students passed from 2003-2007 or 56% of all who passed the course did so in a 4 year span of time (36%).

Thousands more, then, passed the course than may have under the MRC:RSS.

Changes in Fail Rate

As interesting as the pass rate is, the failure one is even more intriguing: If one considers the 26.5% failure rate of the MRC:RSS students in the switch year as an anomaly and average the other three years, it’s a 15.4% fail rate. Averaging the fail rates for the BRC, it’s 5.58%.

17,154 students failed from 1998-2007, but 64% of them failed from 1999-2002 . That’s a 68.5% difference between the MRC:RSS and the BRC and with the change in the pass rate.

Whether the BRC is easier to pass, these results suggest it’s much harder to fail the course. Or perhaps those taking the course are of much higher quality and capability than those who used to take the course–something instructors and rider educators would strongly disagree with.

The drop rate also changed–but there’s just not enough pre-BRC data to do more than observe that it may have dropped up to 1/3–meaning more students remain until they pass or fail.

Training v. Fatalities?

The claim MSF and rider educators make is that training is effective in making riders safer in traffic. Fatalities are rare compared to injuries–which happen in almost every crash. Fatalities then are the tip of the tip of the crash iceberg. However, they are also the worst case scenario.

It’s also believed that those who pass the course are at least more skilled than those who drop or fail or were untrained. So how does the pass rate line up to the fatality rate? Note: I combined the RSS and BRC numbers for a total number for 2001.

PA Fatalities v. Trained Passed

Then I graphed the total percentages of both Failed and Dropped against fatalities:

PA Did Not Finish v. Fatalities

As the Failed and Dropped out percentages dropped, the fatality rate rose and a classic graph pattern results.

Let’s look at it from the aggregate of all riders who passed the course:

PA Aggregate Trained Riders

In all these ways there appears to be a counterintuitive result. In fact, the higher the number of trained riders, the more fatalities there seem to be rather than less.

Rider educators regularly say that some training is better than no training and it’s better for the rider to keep them in the class as long as possible. So it’s of particular note that lower failure/drop rates results in higher fatality rates.

On this surface examination, then, training does not seem to be doing what MSF has led us to believe it does–at least not in Pennsylvania.

Of course, we have no idea who these fatalities are and how many were trained or not and though it appears there may be some suggestive patterns may not be correlations in fact. What this does suggest is that more study–and study by those who are not financially beholden to MSF–is needed.

However, there was that huge increase in motorcycle registrations—and riders have long believed that the death toll is positively correlated to registrations so let’s compare the increase in fatality rate against the increases in motorcycle registration:

PA increased fatalities v registrations

It does not appear that there’s a relationship there. However, there’s always the change in the helmet law—and that’s the next entry.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Motorcycle Safety, Motorcycle Safety Foundation, State Motorcycle Safety Programs, Uncategorized

6 Comments on “A Closer look at PA’s training picture”

  1. aidanspa Says:

    W. – “Of course, we have no idea who these fatalities are and how many were trained or not and though it appears there may be some suggestive patterns may not be correlations in fact. What this does suggest is that more study–and study by those who are not financially beholden to MSF–is needed.”

    Who do we know with the time, resources, and wherewithal that is not beholden to MSF?

    Really nice work on collecting and organizing this data. It would be interesting to gather the same data for ID (STAR) & OR (TO) for comparison against PA and the other MSF-involved training states.

  2. Bob Says:

    In your last graphic, you annotate the fatalities as ‘unhelmeted’…. is that accurate? Are there more fatalities that were wearing helmets?

  3. wmoon Says:

    I am in the process of doing exactly that on not just ID and OR but several other states that use MSF curriculum. Without a broader picture, we have no idea if this is just the tale of one state or if it’s a BRC problem or something that might support that set of theories on risk compensation.

    As to who could do this? I have no idea. I think there would be interest in the academic community–someone who would want to do it as a dissertation, for example. The problem would be if states would be willing to shared the kind of data needed. In FL and OH and ID, fatalities have been checked against training rolls–however in each state, they only checked if the rider had been trained in their state.

    At the very least, if the accident causation study is done, the questions should be asked.
    W.

  4. wmoon Says:

    Darn! I had been working on another graph and the title had remained. I changed it–but for some reason it did not change. I did it again and it didn’t change–so hopefully the third time is the proverbial charm. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.
    W.

  5. Bob Says:

    Now, the last graph ‘s title reads:

    Increase Motorcycle Registration v. Increaseed Training…..

    and the plot lines are for fatalities and registrations. Do I make the inference that registration begets training?…. or registration leads to death? 🙂

  6. wmoon Says:

    Thanks. It should be fixed now.


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