Archive for July 2009

Braking & Cornering errors increased in MSF’s BRC curriculum

July 24, 2009

Study after study has shown improper braking and cornering errors are the leading rider-based errors in motorcycle crashes. I would maintain that there is no skill error that does not involve a corresponding cognitive error—primarily judgment but to a degree perception and interpretation since going out of control on a corner means a failure to correctly to perceive the corner correctly, interpret it, and correctly judge entry speed, line and lean. The same is true of braking—failure to perceive that braking is needed and when to apply the brakes and how much to apply the brakes.

Given that, the motorcycle licensing test and end-of-course evaluations are supposed to determine the (minimum) level of skill to do those actions in an effective and safe manner in traffic. So it really does matter what errors are frequent in testing and what percentage of students make them.

Many ways to get to some scores, only one way to get to others

If we look at the test scores more closely, we see some scores can only be reached if one or the other of two specific errors are made: stopping distance (1-point per foot over up to 10) or going too slowly around the corner errors are made:

In the RSS, the scores of 1, 2, 7, 11, 14 and 17.

In the BRC: 1, 2, 4, 7, 9, 12, 14, 17 and 19.

Iow, 30% of the possible scores from 1-20 in the RSS and 45% in the BRC are only possible if a critical error in both judgment and skill is involved.

16.14% of the RSS students got those scores.

And 27.04% of the BRC students.

Iow, the percentage of students who pass with guaranteed braking or slow cornering errors has increased in the BRC by 10%.

Of course, this doesn’t include other students who committed stopping distance or cornering errors that are masked by the other score configurations or those made stopping distance errors greater than 2 feet.

This means that without any explanation or excuse possible, more than 27% of all the BRC students who passed the test made stopping distance or braking errors that indicate lack of both  judgment and skill. And, remember, this only counts the scores that cannot be gotten any other way.

This is particularly significant since those errors were made after the students were warned that they will be required to stop suddenly or had practiced that exact same corner repeatedly and made those errors on smooth, debris-free, even pavement on a small motorcycle at very low-speeds. Iow, giving them every possible advantage—few of which they’d have in real traffic conditions—they still couldn’t manage to stop in time or turn at a high enough speed.

Additionally, the scores of 17 and 19 are in the bottom percentile of passing grades. This means these students were among the very same group that more than doubled between the RSS and BRC—very poor riders who still passed.

The data I have does not allow for other errors to be singled out—but this one alone is a critically sever error since it involves misjudgment of when to begin braking and how much pressure can be safely exerted on the brake lever and pedal as well as skill or involves misjudgment in entry speed, line and lean in a simple corner that has no possibility of on-coming traffic, debris, etc.

Setting aside whether the evaluations between the two iterations are equivalent, those percentages represent 357 people who definitely exceeded the stopping distance or cornered too slowly in the RSS and 736 who definitely did in the BRC. That’s more than double the number of people with only one-third more scores to account for those errors. That should alarm rider instructors, administrators—and the riding public.

Regardless of why these errors are committed–it points to a definite and negative change in the proficiency of those students who pass the course.

If students are too scared to go faster or stop faster,  as some instructors claim, that means the very reason MSF claimed the BRC was superior to the RSS–that the students would be more relaxed so they’d learn better–is invalidated by the test data: more students appear to be even more afraid.

It doesn’t matter if the BRC is as good as or worse than the RSS at this point—what matters is the lives of those who are trained and pass the course.

Bottom line is that motorcycle training under the BRC curriculum produces far more students that are seriously–and potentially lethally–deficient in skill, judgment and confidence.

I do suggest, however, it would be interesting to see the percentage of TEAM Oregon BRT students who make stopping distance errors and compare that to the BRC.

Distracted/cellphone-using driver risk isn’t the only thing NHTSA has covered up

July 23, 2009

According to an article in yesterday’s New York Times, “Driven to Distraction:  U.S. Withheld Data Showing Risks of Distracted Driving” NHTSA researchers in 2003 estimated that 6% of all daylight hours on USA roads were spent talking on the phone. Today, the Transportation Department estimates that figure has nearly doubled.

Cellphone use has been found by extensive research to be equivalent to driving drunk and have a 4x greater chance of crashing. Iow, up to 12% of all daylight hours on US roads are filled with drunk drivers.

The researchers estimated that 955 fatalities and 240,000 accidents in 2002 were cellphone-involved, and the  talking points memo said that NHTSA estimates 25% of crashes are caused by distracted driving.

The article quotes, Clarence Ditlow, director of the Center for Auto Safety, “We’re looking at a problem that could be as bad as drunk driving, and the government has covered it up.”

Otoh, how likely is it unlikely that 12 percent of all daylight drivers are over the legal blood alcohol limit? The problem may be far worse then than drunk driving.

Since more motorcyclists are killed in multi-vehicle crashes and distracted driving means drivers aren’t paying attention and visibility is one of the main reasons drivers cite for causing crashes with motorcyclists, this should be—but isn’t—a major issue with motorcycle rights activists with the notable exception of Bruce Arnold.

But it’s what else the article claims—that NHTSA deliberately withheld how dangerous cellphone use was from the American public—that led me to see a correlation with the languishing motorcycle accident causation study:

The  NHTSA researchers who investigated and reported on distracted driving prepared that talking points memo at the end of  a 266 page report that laid out all the research and evidence of the growing and lethal problem. That report and the memo was not released until six years later—and only because of the Freedom of Information Act request by the Center for Auto Safety.

As most if not all my readers know, the federal government set aside money for a new comprehensive motorcycle accident causation study to update the famous Hurt Study—and yet years later it’s dogged with delays and only recently has the tiny pilot study been launched that will look at less than 100 accidents.

So it was ironic, in a way, to discover that the NHTSA researchers “proposed a long-term study of 10,000 drivers to assess the safety risk posed by cellphone use behind the wheel. They sought the study based on evidence that such multitasking was a serious and growing threat on America’s roadways.”

Instead, NHTSA, under Dr. Jeffrey Runge, “rather than commissioning a study with 10,000 drivers, handled one involving 100 cars,” It’s starting to sound awfully familiar, isn’t it?

NHTSA did the same to motorcyclists

Actually, NHTSA went farther when it came to a danger to motorcyclists and other road users. In 1997, NHTSA produced a report, DOT HS 808 570 “Relationships between vehicle Size and Fatality Risk in Model Year 1985-93 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks”.
”[A] draft of the report was peer-reviewed by a panel of experts under the auspices of the Transportation Research Boardof the National Academy of Sciences” and then “revised in response to the panel’s recommendations.” Iow, the researchers knew the results were controversial and were making sure readers knew it had been vetted by the best of the best.  If you’re looking for the hot link to that report–keep on reading as it’s exactly the point.

NHTSA researchers studied the effects on just a 100 lb. decrease in weight for SUVs, pickups and other light trucks and found that in 1993—long before SUV sales took off and so did the motorcyclist death toll—that out of the 2,217 motorcyclists, pedestrians and bicyclists hit by light trucks in 1993, the fatality rate would’ve dropped by 2.03% or a net fatality change of -45 percent. In contrast, a similar reduction in the weight of passenger cars would’ve resulted in a change of – 0.46 percent or a net change of -19 percent.

They stated, “…downsizing of light trucks would significantly reduce harm to pedestrians, motorcyclists and, above all, passenger car occupants,” with a minimal effect on increasing rollovers. It went on to say, “The benefits of truck downsizing for pedestrians and car occupants could more than offset the fatality increase for light truck occupants.” And concluded, “Continued growth in the number and weight of light trucks is likely to increase the hazard in collisions between the trucks and smaller road users (cars, motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians), while a reduction in the weight of the trucks is likely to reduce harm in such collisions.”

Iow, 12 years ago NHTSA found light truck vehicles (LTVs) are extremely dangerous to other road users and were so sure of it that they didn’t recommend a larger study but a reduction in weight of a mere 100 lbs. NHTSA did nothing about this.

Further research confirmed this finding. A 2002 Dynamic Research, Inc. study, “An Assessment Of The Effects Of Vehicle Weight On Fatality Risk In Model Year 1985-98 Passenger Cars And 1985-97 Light Trucks Volume I: Executive Summary DRI-TR-02-02” examined 1999 fatality statistics and confirmed the 1997 NHTSA document.

A year later, in 2003, Dr. Michelle J. White, professor of economics at the University of San Diego, published the paper, “The Arms Race” on American Roads: The Effect of SUV’s and Pickup Trucks on Traffic Safety”. In it she concluded, “For each one million light trucks that replace cars, between 34 and 93 additional car occupants, pedestrians, bicyclists or motorcyclists are killed per year and the value of the lives lost is between $242 and 652 million per year.”  She went on to say that for each fatal crash the occupants of light truck vehicles themselves avoid, “at least 4.3 additional fatal crashes involving other occur. Iow, the drivers of SUVs make others pay for their selfish self-interest at an unconsciously high price.

Her study found that if a light truck hits a motorcyclist, specifically, the probability of dying rose by 56 percent but the probability of only being seriously injured rose to 26%. While pedestrians/bicyclists’ probabilities also rose (45% fatality, 11% serious injury), motorcyclists, then, are particularly at risk from LTVs.

But just as NHTSA had ignored its own study, it continued to ignore further studies. And, rather than weight decreasing, the weight of  SUVs, at least, increased: For example, in 1993 Ford Explorer’s curb weight was 3, 679 lbs. In 2009, the Expedition weighs 5,578 lbs—a weight increase of 52%.

And NHTSA ignored easily accessible information such as the survey by Roy Morgan Research one of over 24,000 SUV drivers. While “[L]arge 4WD” owners were determined survey to be such things that don’t necessarily affect driving such as male SUV drivers are  more likely to be overweight and  more likely to prefer beer and femial SUV drivers are more materialistic and more likely to say, “I was born to shop.”

It also found that they were: more aggressive; less tolerant; more likely to suffer road rage; less charitable; more likely to use force to get their way—and much more importantly—more likely to be involved in accidents that kill or maim people in other vehicles.

It also ignored research, such as this study that found that “Evidence suggests that because [SUV owners] sit higher, drivers of SUVs (and vans and pickups) are less able to judge speed accurately.”

While SUVs bloated like a fat lady with PMS—with a huge financial boon to the American auto industry, the motorcyclist death toll soared—and particularly in terms of LTV collisions.

In 1994 (the earliest date available), FARS reports 376 fatal LTV/motorcycle crashes. In 2006, FARS reported 1,083 fatal LTV/motorcycle crashes—a 188% increase. Meanwhile, passenger car/motorcycle fatalities went from 595 to 943—a 58% increase.

And, in another parallel to the Distracted Driver research, the original NHTSA document disappeared from the Internet: In 2004 (when I found it on line and printed it out) this document could be easily found on the Internet, today, a Google search leads one to Summaries of Published Evaluation Reports–and it’s one of a handful of NHTSA documents that are not accessible through a hot link. Curiously, it’s the only one without a hot link that does not include the information it has been superceded by a later report. The url that worked in 2004 no longer works. It is, though, cited in numerous other papers. However, you can find the summary of the peer review—which criticizes the report before­ it was changed in response to the review—here http://onlinepubs.trb.org/Onlinepubs/reports/letrept.html

Van and SUV drivers more likely to be on the cell phone than other drivers

Not only that—and to tie it back into the NYT’s articles, NHTSA’s 2001 DOT HS 809 293 reveals it also knew that Van and SUV drivers were more likely (4.8) to use cell phones while driving than passenger car drivers (2.6). Interestingly, it also found that particularly female rather than male and rural rather than urban Van and SUV drivers were more likely to use their cellphones while driving than female or urban passenger car drivers. Equally interesting–it found pickup drivers were less likely to use cellphones (1.9).

Iow, NHTSA hasn’t just ignored the cellphone issue that literally impacts so many motorcyclists’ lives—it’s the LTV issue as well–and the LTV owner talking on his or her cellphone issue. So why would NHTSA ignore so much research in various ways that have lethal consequences to the most vulnerable of road users—motorcyclists, pedestrians and bicyclists?

Fear of fiscal retaliation

According to the NYT, NHTSA deep-sixed the report because of fears that stakeholders would be upset at the findings—and any subsequent laws against cellphone use that may result—and that would result in loss of appropriations.

“Those stakeholders, Dr. Runge said, were the House Appropriations Committee and groups that might influence it, notably voters who multitask while driving and, to a much smaller degree, the cellphone industry.”

The article went on to say, “Mr. Monk and Mike Goodman, a division head at the safety agency who led the research project, theorize that the agency might have felt pressure from the cellphone industry. Mr. Goodman said the industry frequently checked in with him about the project and his progress. (He said the industry knew about the research because he had worked with it to gather some data).”

“Can you hear me now?” Money talks–but we get the dead zone

That wouldn’t surprise us; powerful interests are powerful and there is nowhere in America that money speaks louder than in Washington. And the telecommunications sure knows how to talk Washingtonian: AT&T tops opensecrets.org’s

http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/list.php All-Time Donors List. It’s spent over $43 million in lobbying from 1989-2008. The Communications Workers of America is no. 12 and Verizon comes in at 32—just behind the AFL-CIO and beating out such heavy-hitters as FedEx, Lockheed Martin, General Electric and the NRA. The Cellular Telecom & Internet Association—which is the wireless/Internet industry’s MIC—spent $1,790,000 million last year alone on lobbying and spent an additional $395,000 on several other lobbying firms.

And then there’s the campaign contributions—AT&T donated almost $4.5 million, Verizon $2.5 million,  the National Cable & Telecommunications Assn $1.5 million, Qwest just over $1 million—and that’s just some of them and that’s just the contributions to federal Congressional candidates and doesn’t count Presidential elections (overall, the industry gave Obama almost a million, Clinton over half a million and poor John McCain just over a third of a million—but then Democratic candidates for Congress get, by far, much more money than Republican ones).

In a similar way, LTVs were already becoming a juggernaut in the economy back in 1997: LTV registration had doubled from 1985-1997, passenger car population had remained relatively stable but LTV registration had doubled. For example, in 1994 passenger cars were 67% and LTVs were 18%. of all registered vehicles.

In 2006, passenger car registration had dropped to 55% (-27%) and LTVs had become 31% of all vehicles registered (+73%). SUV registration, alone, had gone up 400% since 1994.

Meanwhile, the automobile industry was spending up to $71 million a year in lobbying alone and giving up to $21 million to candidates (in ’04—in ’08 it dropped to about $18 million).

Even if MRF and AMA were lobbying on these issues, there’s no way they could even come close in spending for political influence.

Vox populi are the ones doing the talking—and voting

But, as Runge said, there’s an awful lot of voters with cellphones in their hands. According to CTIA, 82.4% of Americans have some kind of cellphone plan. And it’s the voice of the people who are talking on the phones while driving.

And, of course, there’s those 74,797,241 LTV owners.  And that alone is a powerful voting block.  Put the two together–the chatty Van and SUV owners–who also tend to be married, adults 25-54 48% male and 52% female, college educated, professional/managerial and affluent (HHI $40k+). Iow, the kind of people who tend to give campaign donations.

It’s very believable, then, that pressure was exerted and fears were created and NHTSA succumbed.

The motorcycle industry has acted similarly when it comes to NHTSA research

That the motorcycle industry, in particular, influences NHTSA in a similar way is no stretch at all:

As we know, Tim Buche said that the new accident causation study would be done “over his dead body”. We also know the motorcycle manufacturers have put up most of the money for the new accident causation study—but that money came with stipulations and it’s unknown if we now what all of them are. But one of those stipulations we do know is that that no conclusions nor recommendations be drawn at the end of the study by those that do it.

Plausible deniability

The NYT’s article points out, “…[Goodman] could offer no proof of the industry’s influence. Mr. Flaherty said he was not contacted or influenced by the industry.”

Nor can anyone prove that the automobile industry pressured NHTSA nor can riders  prove that the motorcycle industry is preventing the accident causation study from moving forward and influencing the design of the study to protect its self-interest over our well-being.

But the facts remain: NHTSA has long known that more motorcyclists and other vulnerable road users would die if LTVs even remained at their 1993 weights let alone got heavier. And it knew that more people would die if cellphones were used while driving. And it knew that SUV and van drivers talking on the phone weren’t just equivalent to the ordinary drunk–they were extremely care-less and careless drivers driving every day at all hours as if they were four sheets to the wind drunk.  Iow, NHTSA has time and time again valued the lives of LTV owners over the lives of riders.

And why? So their appropriations are safe, which means their jobs are safe while riders suffer and die.

And for what? So they can do a little good? Well, it seems like they’re doing precious little good. But there are always those who don’t care what damage they do as long as their self-interest is served. That shouldn’t surprise us either. Then again, it doesn’t mean we should continue to let those more concerned with their jobs than our lives continue to ignore what raises our risk.

NHTSA responded by dedicating itself to safety—not the safety of vulnerable road users—and specifically motorcyclists—but the safety of those who spend the most lobbying and give the most to campaigns.

Comments on errors

July 18, 2009

Today’s entry comes from an instructor who sent this to me via e-mail:

“Wendy,

“I tried to blog this however I kept getting timed out.

“Errors/mistakes in the Skill Evaluation:

“It could be construed that the first error made occurs when the student first tosses a leg over the seat of the bike and everything after that spirals downhill. Jokes aside what occurs in the skill evaluation is a mirror to what ‘skills’ weren’t learned leading up to it or a reversion to the habits that one arrived with at the start of the course.

“I’ll take each of the evaluations one at a time and then give my understanding of what went wrong.

“U-Turn box:

“To properly make the left and then right turn the skills learned in exercise two have to be considered. In that exercise the student is introduced to the throttle, clutch and both brakes. Many students ‘throw away the clutch’ and rely on the throttle in both parts two and three. Posture is also a learned skill and that is introduced in both the class room and again in exercise one and two. Another telling exercise is exercise four when the student is first introduced to the tight turn after the stop. If the student ‘blows’ that off then the slow speed skill of throttle and clutch is not reinforced. Generally the student will get the bike going and then rely on the throttle. A roll on will straighten the bike out and then send the students to parts unknown. Exercise six which is a summary exercise of skills learned to date is the giveaway as to how he student will do in exercise ten and then the first exercise of the skill evaluation.

“The swerve is a crock of sh-t in that the student when he/she exits the u-turn box is already headed in a direction which lessens the impact of a properly executed swerve. It is not evaluated however a roll off is most common. If engine braking is construed to be in fact a form of braking, then every student could be construed to be braking while swerving.

“The common error that I’ve found is ‘anticipation.’ In the Pa. program they took the time to paint an anticipation line before the actual timing line to cut down on the re-try. Again, if the student hasn’t learned how to stop the motorcycle which is taught in the third part of exercise two and then reinforced at every stop thereafter it will be magnified during the skill evaluation. Braking is a summary skill and then it is practiced each time the student comes to a stop regardless of where the stop is to occur. Over braking is common as the student waits until the last possible second then over brakes. this I believe is an overlap to the driving habits they have acquired over years of driving. The student will use the brakes on the bike as they do while driving their car. I believe there is a direct carry over.

“With regard to the last one which is cornering many RCs confuse throttle induced speed with utilizing the proper line through the turn. The premise is if the proper line is utilized which is ‘outside, inside, and then outside’ one will find that its use is the shortest distance through the turn. I’ve timed it with another RC riding and then myself riding. Very little roll on is required if the line is correct. The error stems from many students not using the technique I dare say that the vast majority of students go to the inside of the turn way too early which causes the roll off in mid turn because they literally run out of room. Again the higher speed cornering is learned in exercise five, seven, touched on in eight, eleven, twelve, thirteen, and implied in fourteen, fifteen and again in sixteen. The latter two exercises the implication comes when the student makes the turn to return to end of the line.

“It is rare where a student with decent skills coming into the evaluation will brain fart although it happens. It is also rare for a student to have an ‘ah ha’ moment and do spectacular on the skill evaluation. The skill evaluation magnifies the unlearned skills. The sad part of it all are those unlearned skills will be further honed on the street because the mistakes made on the riding range will surely be made on the street because that is what the student learned to do so they can’t immediately change when their ticket gets punched.

“The whole premise is wrong so the errors start before class. The premise these days is the license begets skill versus skill begetting a license.

“Use what you would like…oh yes feel free to disagree.”

OK-that’s his take. So what do you all think–agree, disagree–have something to add or ???

Question for instructors

July 13, 2009

What errors do you see most often in the end-of-course-evaluations? And, by error, what percentage of students (per class) make that error?

Easy to pass poor riders, difficult to fail them?

July 9, 2009

I have the pass-fail data (though not the raw data) from two different years in one state program. Altogether it gives us a sample size of 5,619 which should be large enough to avoid the errors of a small sample size whether looking at both curriculums together or each separately. And when I looked at it after a couple years, I noticed some oddities that I think the rider ed community needs to consider.

What I noticed is particularly helpful for rider educators who want to see how effective one curriculum may be over another—and especially what kind of errors may be more associated with one curriculum over another.

As you see, it includes both MRC: RSS and BRC skills test results. This is not to compare the efficacy or difficulty of either curriculum but to examine oddities in the data—and to examine what it means to pass or fail the end of course evaluations:

Students Tested

2564

100%

Passed Riding

2218

86.51%

Failed Riding

346

13.49%

BRC:

Students Tested

3055

100%

Passed Riding

2722

89.10%

Failed Riding

333

10.90%

When we graph the test scores we see an unusual sawtooth appearance—almost like a drunkard’s walk. More on this later. But we also find that only 2.59% more students passed and failed the BRC students than the RSS:

In this way, it appears the courses—and evaluations—are equivalent. Some could say, as a result, that the BRC hasn’t been “dumbed down”. But it’s wise to look more carefully at the results before doing that:

What is clearly different between the two is that the BRC has more students that almost fail it than the RSS did:, 19. 47% of all BRC students and 13.57% of all RSS students got scores of between 18-20.

So, while it appears that the number of students who passed one curriculum or another is equivalent, there’s a statistically significant difference between the iterations in the percentage of those who just barely squeaked by. Iow, the BRC sent  almost 6% more poor riders

This becomes even more significant when we look at the very last possible point that a student can pass—a score of 20:

106 RSS students or 4.13% and 268 BRC students or 8.77% got an even 20.

Iow, more than twice the percentage of BRC students got the equivalent of a D- than  RSS students. Meaning more than twice the number of very poor riders were sent out into an increasingly complex and dangerous traffic environment with a driver’s license-waiver in their hands.

Is this just an oddity or does it indicate something about the two iterations?

The skills tests

For those who aren’t familiar with the end-of-course evaluations in both iterations, read on. (For those who are, skip to “What a difference one point makes”.)

The RSS skill test involved 5 scored evaluations: Sharp (90-degree) Turns, Cone Weave, Quick Stop, Turning Speed Selection (cornering), and Quick Lane Change (swerving).

The BRC skill test involves 4 evaluations: U-turn, Swerve, Quick Stop and Cornering.

The Sharp Turn and Cone Weave were dropped entirely and replaced with the U-Turn, the configuration of the corner was changed and the timing zone and timing chart were changed in the Quick Stop. Additionally, the U-turn is not a life-critical skill, so 40% fewer critical skills are tested in the BRC.

So let’s keep a running tally: 40% fewer critical skills tested in the BRC and 6% more poor riders passed with the last passing score: Iow, it’s possible that the poor riders may be even poorer than suspected.

A passing score is ≤20 and a failing score is ≥21.

In both iterations:

Evaluations are given separately but consecutively and

Each skill was/is scored separately.

The student had/has two opportunities to take each test and

Points are not added until after the second run (therefore, if they make two errors in the first trial and another in the second, only the second error is counted).

In both iterations, points are assessed for a variety of errors but each evaluation had/has a maximum number of points that can be assessed:

In the RSS the maximum was identical to the Alt-MOST used at the DMV—10 points max in each of the 5 evaluations.

In the BRC, the U-Turn has a maximum of 8 points and the other three evaluations have a maximum of 15 points—or a 50% increase in allowable points for each of the tested skills that comprise 80% of the evaluation.

Both tests used a 1, 3, 5, 10 and 15-point scoring system—but they used that system somewhat differently. In the RSS, 3-points could be assessed in 4 of the 5 evaluations—there were 12 errors that scored 3 points. In the BRC, there’s only one skill (U-Turn) that has two possible errors each worth 3 points each (if done once).

The Quick Stop—a critical life-saving skill—also assesses 1 point for every foot beyond the stopping point that the student travels up to a maximum of 10’—but this is not in addition to the maximum points but includes it.

In 3 out of the four evaluations, students must demonstrate the required skill at  between 12 and 18 mph. In the Quick Stop evaluation, for example, if they go under 12 mph, they can collect 5 points—but if they make the stopping distance at speeds higher than 18 mph, no points are assessed. In Cornering, they are supposed to get up to about 20 mph prior to slowing for the corner but the student will not lose points if they don’t go that fast.

The highest score possible in either iteration would be 53 (15+15+15+8=53)—though the actual number of points accrued can be much higher.

What a difference one point makes

One of the obvious things about the above graph is the huge difference between the last possible passing score of 20 and the exceedingly few students that got the first failing score of 21 in both iterations—but this is more far more evident in the BRC.

In fact, while 8.77% of BRC students got 20 points only 1.08% got just one point more and failed the course while 4.13% RSS students got 20 points only 1.32% got 21 points.

This is another significant change between the two iterations. While the percentage of those who barely scrape by more than doubled, the percentage of those who just failed changed from about 4 to 1 to 8 to 1.

And yet, the overall percentage of those who passed didn’t change in a statistically significant manner from one iteration to another.

Iow, while it appears by overall pass scores that the two curriculums were equivalent, they weren’t—40% fewer critical skills were tested and 6% more got the last possible score that enabled them to pass and the number of people who just failed sank like a stone. And that’s significant any way you look at it.

It would be interesting to see how other states measure up if their data was examined and see if this bulge of barely passed and dearth of just failed also exists–and if this patterns is also found in those states that use TEAM Oregon’s BRT.

Tomorrow’s entry reveals that more than 27% of BRC students who pass the test make the exact same potentially lethal error compared to just over 16% of RSS students—and that’s a dangerous change between the two iterations.

Why did MSF break the 3 death story itself?

July 2, 2009

A commentator on the last entry, CaptCrash, suggested that the news that three more deaths in a single year may be caused because he feels “marginally” older riders are taking the course in poorer physical condition and that may mean health issues. It’s possible. However before the gullible jump to the same conclusion CaptCrash does consider these things:

MSF did not inform the rider ed community about any of the deaths in training except the instructor in Valencia, CA. At that time, the msflist was told by Ray Ochs that further information would be forthcoming—yet it never did.

In MSF-administrated Pennsylvania, MSF kept the fact that one student had been killed and another left a paraplegic from its own instructors let alone the rider ed community.

In the Bystander case, MSF had been reluctant to offer a good settlement until the plaintiff’s attorney received all the injury incident reports—at least 20,000 of them. Immediately after the attorneys got them and before they could examine them, MSF offered almost a million dollars settlement but required confidentiality as a condition of the hefty settlement. And the attorney—while keeping well within his part of the agreement—accidentally revealed that perhaps 2 more deaths had occurred than we knew about.

Last year, Ken Kiphart, then-chair, asked MSF and another major insurers of rider training programs, to submit reports on the injuries in training and those results would be presented at the SMSA discussion on the deaths and injuries in training. From what I’ve been told, MSF was very upset that it was asked to do so and said it would have to consult attorneys before releasing any information.

According to sources, the major insurer turned the report in breaking the crashes down into property-only, minor and severe injuries. At which point, I heard, it was verbally scolded by MSF for doing so—even though MSF has no relationship or authority to do so whatsoever. According to some sources, MSF never turned in a report—though this, of all possible ways, offered TPTB a chance to present their version of events and put them in the best possible light.

From what I further heard, Kiphart couldn’t remember if MSF turned it’s report in or what happened to either report. At any rate, those at the conferences were not informed that the reports had been asked for and certainly didn’t see the results.

Iow, MSF had the opportunity to present information on rider training crashes and injuries and apparently chose not to (or, at best, Kiphart lost critical information—just as he “lost” the critical part of Illinois’ proposal to present a comparison of the BRT v. the BRC—information MSF also feared would reflect badly on its curriculum).

At the SMSA sessions MSF refused to give any factual information about the deaths and would not say how many deaths had occurred but only said they could “confirm” that seven deaths had occurred (which we thought meant the one in 1998 and the six that were referenced in the press release).

So even though up to three additional deaths had occurred by then since the conference occurs almost 3/4ths through the training season MSF did not volunteer the information that more deaths had occurred let alone take the opportunity to explain they were caused by medical conditions while not riding. It is possible that all three happened after the conference, however (though, once again, the attorney in the bystander case seemed to know of 2 of them—and thought they were caused by training crashes).

Even if those deadly three events occurred after the conference, MSF had innumerable opportunities to present the information on those additional deaths through a variety of means: phone calls, faxes, e-mail, Perspectives, Safe Cycling, Learning Centers, Updates, and so forth—yet it took advantage of none of them.

Iow, MSF has had repeated opportunities to present information on crashes and injuries and specifically these three deaths in a year—and position them in the best possible light. Innumerable times MSF made the deliberate choice not to do so.

Rather it ignored repeated and numerous questions from rider educators and administrators at conferences and Learning Centers and in e-mails as well as ignoring numerous discussions on its own instructor listserve and other forums. It claimed it couldn’t talk about them—even to confirming they happened—because of pending litigation and now claims privacy issues.

Additionally, TPTB at and behind MSF have also demonstrated a highly paranoid reaction to all negative publicity and has spent millions and controls its public image obsessively. Buche said it extensively researches everything a journalist has written or a media outlet has published or produced on motorcycling and makes a decision on a case-by-case basis if they will even respond to a request for information.

At the same time—the rider ed/motorcycle safety community only knew of six deaths from 2002 until now. No one knew of these three medical-not-while-riding deaths.

That’s the context, then, of this “press release” and the “letter” that was sent to state and military administrators.

So why the gigantic sea change? Why would a highly paranoid, controlling corporation not only address the deaths now—but far from just confirming that deaths we knew about it reveal three new ones?

And why would they claim it was because of “an inquiry”—and after a decade of paranoia vetting of all media people, choose a fellow with an obscure new blog who admits he has no qualifications to be discussing such things and has a known reputation of being not only ignorant of all things motorcycle safety/ed-related but  an Internet Troll of a particularly offensive nature?

And given that MSF claims, in the press release, that there’s misinformation out there on the deaths—why didn’t they correct anything that’s been written about the deaths and, instead, reveal three new deaths, present it in a way that does not eliminate crashes as the precipitating event?

And then, having implied that these three new deaths were different why didn’t TPTB not give the causes such as the ones CaptCrash raised—heat and heart—and eliminate the speculation that was sure to follow the vague press release/letter?

Why, oh, why now—when they could’ve kept silent as they have in the past—did they choose to get out front in this story?

So could it be that something like heart or heat is the cause? It’s possible—but in the next entry, we’ll look at other ramifications of MSF’s press release.