Archive for the ‘History’ category

What skydiving can teach us about motorcycle safety

March 29, 2010

What has happened in the sky since 1990 can give motorcyclists a fresh and revealing look at what’s happened on the ground and may point the way to a solution for the motorcycle safety puzzle:

In 1991 there were 30 skydiving deaths in the USA and 14 of them were “no pull-low pull” accidents—or 46.6 percent were killed by their parachutes opening too late or too low to the ground. These are deaths by equipment failure.[i]

Because they were caused by equipment, these kinds of accidents were amendable to an equipment solution. In a similar way, since so many motorcycle crashes are caused by braking errors, better brakes (disc for drum and then dual disc, then ABS and dual disc) brakes would do for motorcycling what AAD did for skydiving.

In contrast, in 1991 only 3 were killed in “Open Canopy” accidents—or when the parachute was open and controllable and yet the sky-diver slammed into the ground at lethal speed. Those accidents occur because the skydiver miscalculated how long they had to perform maneuvers in the air or turned too sharply too low to the ground or began leveling off too late to land successfully.

Open canopy (or landing fatalities), the skydiving community says, are deaths by human error, but they say, these aren’t newbie mistakes. In fact, more expert skydivers die every year than students.[ii]

In one of the fastest and most complete safety turnarounds ever, deaths from no pull-low pull accidents dropped every year after that until, in 1998, there were none. That year alone, however, 12 skydivers who would’ve likely been killed were saved by an automatic activation device (AAD).

USA Year No Pull-Low Pull Fatalities AAD Saves
1998 0 12
1997 2 20
1996 6 12
1995 6 17
1994 11 6
1993 7 1
1992 8 2
1991 14 0
1990

The AADs available prior to 1990 were big, awkward to operate and expensive—and not very effective. CYPRES, which stands for Cybernetic Parachute Release System,  changed all that when it hit the market in 1990. It’s a computerized device about the size of a pack of cigarettes that costs about $1,200 and is extremely effective.  “During free-fall and canopy descent, the CYPRES uses computer-interpreted barometric metering to constantly assess a skydiver’s altitude and rate of descent.  If a skydiver is descending faster than a certain speed, beyond a  pre-set altitude (750 feet AGL), this device will instantly activate the skydiver’s reserve parachute.”[iii]
Skydivers typically wear a visual altimeter and nowadays an audible altimeter is also available. Altimeters aren’t required but their safety advantage is undeniable. The advantage of an AAD isn’t the altimeter, then, but the automatic deployment.[iv]

Like a motorcycle helmet doesn’t prevent a crash, an AAD doesn’t prevent a bad landing—skydivers can still be injured. Yet, CYPRES and its competitors effectively removed the most obvious fatal risk of skydiving and became incredibly popular:

CYPRES sales alone had risen from less than a thousand units in 1991 to almost 22,000 units in 1998.[v] It’s unknown, though, how many skydivers use an AAD device, however, today, “failed to open” crashes are rare—and some of them happen because the skydiver had fiddled with the altitude limit at which the reserve parachute would open.

A tremendous difference in regulation

Unlike motorcycling, skydiving is basically self-policing.  However, skydivers go through training before they are allowed to jump from a plane. The shortest is tandem jumping where they are attached to a trained professional who controls the jump. The most extensive course is the one developed by the U.S. Parachute Association. This association, like the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, developed the standards, curriculum and certification for skydivers in the USA (though with a great deal more transparency–see here: .  Skydiving training is both more intensive and real-world based than motorcycle training to get to the certified stage (which is comparable to a motorcycle endorsement on a driver’s license.

Key to our discussion on motorcycle fatalities is that an AAD is not required  in any state as a motorcycle helmets are in 20 states. Rather, unlike motorcycle helmets, most sky divers immediately saw the obvious benefit of AAD and voluntarily adopted them. As a result, that particular kind of fatal accident has been virtually eliminated.

An AAD, however, isn’t comparable to a helmet. Though it is expensive, once bought it’s basically invisible: it’s simply there like an airbag in a car; nor does it make skydiving more uncomfortable or less enjoyable nor do they remove control over pulling the ripcord from the skydiver. Rather, it does it’s job invisibly and only does it’s job when the skydiver can’t.

Most importantly, AADs were not politicized as motorcycle helmets were nor seen as a lifestyle statement nor as a badge of who is a “real” motorcyclist or not.

It can be argued that usage is high because the danger is extremely obvious and skydivers aren’t stupid—just as they realize a wrist altimeter is necessary, so is an AAD to control risk.

But there is no possible AAD-type solution for motorcyclists that could deal so effectively with the risk of riding.

Skydiving helmet use v. motorcycle helmets

Skydiving helmet use is much more comparable to motorcycling because there are many more similarities. Skydiving helmets offer (some) protection from mid-air or landing collisions with other divers or a fixed obstacle such as the ground, a vehicle or building.

But it is a limited protection due to the nature of skydiving accidents— for example, skydivers can be going 100 mph or more when they collide in mid-air and 60 mph in a hook turn to landing gone wrong. And skydiving helmets, like motorcycle helmets, cannot protect the user from injuries such as coup-contra-coup and axial rotation injuries.

Yet mid-air collisions with other divers (or collisions with the plane on exit) and landing collisions with fixed, solid objects are risks skydivers are well aware of, usage seems to be as much as a place to mount a camera as it is for safety. While there are no statistics on skydiving helmet usage, examination of scores of skydiving videos reveal that usage is not uniform.

Given skydiver’s reluctance to voluntarily wear a helmet and given the history of motorcycle and bicycle helmet regulation, it’s somewhat surprising that skydiving helmet use is not mandated in any state even though the benefits are very similar to motorcycling. Nor are helmets even required by many schools for students. Nor is there a national standard for helmet construction or agreed upon measures for what impact they need to withstand.

So even though head trauma is often cited as the cause of death in skydiving fatalities, it has not undergone the same public intervention as motorcycling has—possibly because it is a relatively invisible sport—relatively few participate and when they do, it’s normally in out-of-the-way locations. Nor does skydiving come under such intense media scrutiny.

Shared attitudes about personal protective gear

Skydivers are also much like motorcyclists when it comes to safety gear. Though protective suits are available, they are even less frequently used than skydiving helmets. And, like motorcyclists, protective gear protects against weather (temperature for skydivers) and minor—not moderate or severe—injuries.

And, like motorcycling, when a participant chooses to wear a protective suit, they also appear to choose to wear a helmet, too. However, just like with motorcycling, the reverse is not true–those who wear helmets don’t necessarily wear gear. Iow, those who are most safety-conscious in either activity seem to share an in-for-a-penny-in-for-a-pound attitude.

A study that compares helmet and protective gear usage across several high-risk activities to determine similarities and differences in attitudes, use, likelihood of prior injuries/close calls etc. could be very revelatory.

Unlike gear one must choose to buy and wear, AADs usage is higher than either helmets or protective gear. In one way this makes sense—if your canopy doesn’t open, a helmet/gear is less likely to make a life or death difference. Even so, just like in motorcycling, there are more accidents in skydiving that are more likely to end in injury than in death and, statistically, the average rider or skydiver has a much higher chance or being in an injury-producing accident than a fatality. Yet usage lags in the same areas as motorcycling. The operative word here is wear. We’ll return to that in a future entry.

Huge safety margin but no safety gain

Even though the leading cause of skydiving accidents has been virtually eliminated,  about 1 in 100,000 dives end in death today. And that has been the ratio of fatalities to jumps since 1963. Iow, there has been no ultimate safety gain in the sport.

Instead “landing” accidents rose every year from 1989 to 1998 in an ominous symmetry with the drop in no pull-low pull accidents. There was one difference, however: landing fatalities exceeded the classic cause of death we associate with skydiving.

Year No Pull-Low Pull Fatalities Landing Fatalities
1998 0 18
1997 2 11
1996 6 18
1995 6 5
1994 11 6
1993 7 10
1992 8 1
1991 14 3
1990 0

By 2009 70 percent of all skydiving fatalities occurred with fully-opened, properly functioning parachutes—and almost none of them happened to beginners.

Instead, the experts—or intermediates jonesing to be experts—were dying as they did the airborne version of motorcycling stunting.

Specifically, they were doing “hook turns” just before landing.  When done properly, they result in long, dramatic “swoops” to a spectacular landing.

When done improperly, skydivers can be seriously hurt or die.

While there are collisions and other equipment malfunctions (such as toggle brake failures), the greatest increase in fatalities has been in landings bungled by human error.

The safety margin gained by AAD usage, then, was consumed by the increase in more dangerous high performance maneuvers. The risk involved in skydiving, then wasn’t eliminated but was merely translated into a different kind of accident.

Unlike No pull-low pull fatalities, the current configuration—landing errors—is caused by human and not equipment errors—and therefore more difficult to solve.

Particularly because skydivers who perform such maneuvers believe they are skilled enough—and therefore have managed the risk—to perform them correctly and land safely. But they were wrong. If not death, the results are often shattered legs, multi-fractures to the pelvis injuries, and chest and brain trauma.

In that way, they are like motorcyclists who believed they were riding within their limits and found out to their dismay—or death—that they weren’t. And, like skydivers, many motorcyclists are doing all the right things–they’re trained and fully licensed, wearing helmets, riding sober–and operating within their limits.

In this way, skydivers and motorcyclists have a lot in common: both groups believe that they are skilled enough to manage the risks–and all too often, individual participants are wrong.

The question is why did these kind of crashes suddenly begin occurring? The general perception in the skydiving community is that risk compensation occurred: When parachute malfunction was virtually eliminated, skydivers subconsciously or unconsciously took on activities that were more risky. In this case—as a whole group—the safety gain from AAD was more than offset by the safety loss from high performance maneuvers.

But, as Napier et. al. pointed out, correlation is not causation—and other things occurred during the same time frame. For example, sport canopies became smaller—but more difficult to handle. That’s another similarity to motorcycling with the growing popularity of sport bikes.

In the next entry, we’ll explore risk compensation more closely.


[i] Napier, Vic, Findley, Carolyn Sara and Self, Donald Raymond. Risk Homeostasis: A Case Study Of The Adoption Of A Safety Innovation On The Level Of Perceived Risk. http://74.125.95.132/search?q=cache:Xl7MTrU75oMJ:www.vicnapier.com/Risk/4%2520Risk%2520Homeostasis.doc+skydiving+risk+compsation&cd=4&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a. Other kinds of fatal accidents are caused by entanglements and collisions but these are by far the fewest kinds of crashes.

[ii] Luvi. Parachuting Statistics on Accidents. Apr-11-08 11:40am. http://www.zimbio.com/Skydiving/articles/9/Parachuting+Statistics+Accidents.

[iii] Skydiving FAQ About skydiving safety. http://www.fabulousrocketeers.com/Photo_Jolly_Roger.htm.

[iv] Successful deployment of the reserve parachute usually depends on the main canopy being cut completely away, which the skydiver may be unable to accomplish for one reason or another.

[v] Napier, Vic, Findley, Carolyn Sara and Self, Donald Raymond. Risk Homeostasis: A Case Study Of The Adoption Of A Safety Innovation On The Level Of Perceived Risk. http://74.125.95.132/search?q=cache:Xl7MTrU75oMJ:www.vicnapier.com/Risk/4%2520Risk%2520Homeostasis.doc+skydiving+risk+compsation&cd=4&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a

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What seatbelt usage can teach us about motorcycle safety, Pt. II

March 18, 2010

After four decades of “Buckle up for safety,” it may surprise you to discover seatbelts aren’t much more effective than a DOT-certified helmet. According to traffic safety expert Leonard Evans who spent years doing research for General Motors, “While theoretical considerations show that the effectiveness of occupant protection devices declines from 100% at very low crash severity to 0% at high severity….” the real effectiveness rate “averaged over all crashes, safety belts reduce driver fatality risk by (42 +/- 4).” [i]

However, people may believe that seat belts are more effective than they are—while they know that since fatalities still occur, they estimate seat belt effectiveness are about 80 percent effective in preventing fatalities—or about twice effective as they really are. But that’s not the story you’ll hear about seat belts nowadays. In fact, seat belts—when mentioned at all—are presented as highly effective.

In comparison, NHTSA estimates the effectiveness of helmets at preventing fatalities at 37 percent. Iow, not so far off from the effectiveness of seat belts. And riders can assume helmets, too, are much more effective than they are.

Whether it’s 42 percent for seat belts or 37 percent for helmets, those are significant benefits—though not nearly as effective as those who use them believe they are. The truth is—neither seat belts nor helmets live up to the expectations of either those who wear them nor those who espouse their benefits:

From 1990-2007, motorcycle registration increased over 67 percent and helmet use remained the same (63 percent).[ii] And, as we’ve examined in the past, roughly the same percent of fatalities were helmeted and unhelmeted with more being helmeted.  During these years, injuries increased 28 percent and fatalities increased 88.5 percent. Otoh, motorcycle crashes only increased by 17 percent—iow, riding a motorcycle became significantly more lethal even though helmet use remained the same.

In comparison, total passenger vehicle registrations increased a miniscule 3.17 percent and seat belt use increased 41.3% (from 58 percent to 82 percent) but fatalities had only decreased by a tiny 6.3 percent and injuries by 22 percent.

Iow, injuries decreased by almost half of what could be expected considering the increase in seat belt use while fatalities hardly decreased at all in comparison. As a  study in Maryland[iii] found that  “Belts appear more effective at preventing fatalities than at preventing injuries.” Furthermore, as those 17 years progressed, more cars on the road had driver air bags and ABS brakes and the passenger airbags, better crush zones, safety-designed bumper heights and then side window air bags.

Despite all this, total vehicle crashes decreased by only 6.9 percent—which is just about as much as fatalities decreased.

Iow, while there were extensive and drastic changes to automobiles and an enormous increase in seat belt use that made crashing safer, crashing itself didn’t significantly decrease.

As we’ve discovered over the past months, the number of trained, licensed, sober and helmeted motorcyclists has significantly increased over the same period of time that fatalities zoomed up.

Both riding and driving, then, should be safer than they are—and yet aren’t. So what’s going on?

Some researchers say at least part of it is that drivers are no different than parents with lighters and medicine bottles or who allow their kids to bicycle or in-line skate, or kids on an obstacle course or young adult in-line skaters, bicyclists—and those who drive by bicyclists—soccer players and trained boaters. [iv] Stay tuned…


[i] Evans L., Safety-belt effectiveness: the influence of crash severity and selective recruitment. Accid Anal Prev.  1996 Jul;28(4):423-33. In fact, air bags alone are only 13 percent effective in preventing fatalities and airbags plus lap-shoulder belts are only 50 percent effective. Road Injury Prevention & Litigation Journal. TranSafety, Inc..September 2, 1997.  http://www.usroads.com/journals/p/rilj/9709/ri970902.htm

[ii] Bureau of Transportation Statistics Tables 1-11, 1-16, 2-17, 2-22 and 2-30 Transportation System and Traffic Safety Data http://www.bts.gov/publications/national_transportation_statistics

[iii] Loeb, Peter D. The effectiveness of seat belt legislation in reducing driver-involved injury rates in Maryland. Transportation Research Part E 37 (2001) 297-310.

[iv] For this section see: Morrongiello, B.A., 1997. Children’s perspectives on injury and close-call experiences:sex differences in injury-outcome processes. Journal of Pediatrics. Psychol. 22. 499–512. Morrongiello, B.A., Major, K., 2002. Influence of safety gear on parental perceptions of injury risk and tolerance or children’s risk taking. Injury Prevent. 8, 27–31. Morrongiello, B.A., Rennie, H., 1998. Why do boys engage in more risk taking than girls? The role of attributions, beliefs, and risk appraisals. J. Pediatr. Psychol. 23, 33–43.Viscusi,W., 1984. The lulling effect: the impact of child-resistant packaging on aspirin and analgesic ingestions. Am. Econ. Rev. 74, 324–327. Viscusi, W., 1985. Consumer behavior and the safety effects of product safety regulation. J. Law Econ. 28, 527–553. Viscusi, W., Cavallo, G., 1996. Safety behavior and consumer responses to cigarette lighter safety mechanisms. Managerial Dec. Econ. 17, 441–457. Braun, C., Fouts, J., 1998. Behavioral response to the presence of personal

protective equipment. Hum. Factors Ergon. Soc. 2, 1058–1063. Walker, Ian. Drivers overtaking bicyclists: Objective data on the effects of riding position, helmet use, vehicle type and apparent gender. Accident Analysis & Prevention. McCarthy, Patrick and Wayne K. Talley. Evidence on risk compensation and safety behaviour. Economics Letters 62 (1999) 91–96. Derochea, Thomas and Yannick Stephanb, Carole Castaniera, BrittonW. Brewerc, Christine Le Scanff. Social cognitive determinants of the intention to wear safety gear among adult in-line skaters. Accident Analysis and Prevention 41 (2009) 1064–1069.

Volume 39, Issue 2, March 2007, Pages 417-425.

What seat belt usage can teach us about motorcycle safety

February 28, 2010

As we’ve been told again and again, far more drivers wear seat belts than riders wear helmets. The National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) estimates seat belt use at 83 percent in 2008 while helmet use at 67 percent in 2009. Statistics like that increase the perception motorcyclists don’t care much about personal safety. But seat belt history offers some insight into helmet use—and a different look helmet use history might change our perception about motorcyclists’ choice:

Manufacturers get the first mandate Seat belts were invented in the mid 1890s just as automobiles hit American streets, but it wasn’t until 1949 that Volvo and Nash first put seat belts in cars.[i] Few other manufacturers followed suit though and few people wore them.

State legislators, convinced of seat belt efficacy first demanded manufacturers put them in cars. By 1964 only half the states had the first seat belt laws—but that’s all it took; a year later all car manufacturers offered seat belts as standard equipment in every state. In 1972 the National Highway Safety Foundation (NHTSA) made it a federal requirement. But usage was extremely low—less than 11 percent.

Education fails Before and during this, though, a huge marketing effort (including the famous Buckle Up For Safety commercials) and an enormous public relations/media campaign to tout seat belt use was flooding the nation. And arguments raged about whether seat belts really were safe or more dangerous, which also happened with helmets.

More regulation In 1974 NHTSA required a buzzer/light reminder system or ignition locks to make it harder not to use seat belts. Ignition locks were more effective than the annoying sound/light that is still with us today. One study with a small number of drivers  found that usage rose to 67 percent but decreased over time as many owners disconnected the system or left them belted to circumvent the light/buzzer or lock.[ii] Studies using rental cars found that there was an insignificant difference in use between cars with or without the warning system.

Legislation not education Seat belts in cars and positive publicity was ineffective: usage was in the low teens through the 1970s. Iow, the public responded to seat belts as we’ve been led to believe riders responded to helmets.

It was only when mandatory seat belt laws were passed that use began to rise by 17-26 percent.[iii] California is a prime example: Before the mandatory seat belt law was passed in 1986 use was 26 percent. After the law it rose to 45 percent and crept up to 73 percent by 1993. After a primary enforcement law (meaning law enforcement could stop a driver solely for seat belt use) was passed in 1993 it rose to 83 percent and to 91 percent by 2002.[iv] Even so, by 2002, national usage was only 75 percent (and has since risen to 83 percent).

Negatives drive seat belt use And even recent studies find it’s only that high because of a combination of factors: use is higher in a primary enforcement states than in secondary enforcement state (where they have to have another reason to stop you). Use is higher among those who have a higher fear of getting a ticket than those who don’t think they at risk of a traffic stop. It’s higher when the ticket has a higher financial penalty. And studies have found that family and friends’ seat belt behavior matter and their pressure to buckle up matters and a general public attitude matter in influencing a driver’s behavior.

Otoh, programs educating drivers as to the risk and nature of injuries, offering incentives or raising fear of injuries weren’t very effective and had high recidivism. Once seat belt use becomes habitual, though, it tends to be self-maintaining.

Iow it’s the negative that drives seat belt usage until habit takes over and the decision is mindless. This attitude is so entrenched that the Committee for the Safety Belt Technology Study for the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies state that those who always wear belts, “… simply follow rules they have developed on the basis of experience, rather than continuously comparing risks against benefits in deciding whether to buckle up.”[v]

Part-time belt users gave these reasons for not wearing a belt included: driving a short distance (59 percent), forgetting to buckle up (53 percent); being in a rush (41 percent); and discomfort from the seat belt (33 percent). These are also reasons that some riders give for not wearing a helmet.

Non-users were by far the smallest percentage of the survey and gave some of the same reasons—laziness, short distances, forgetting, low speeds, short distances but also, “Many hard-core nonusers object to being forced to buckle up, believing that belt use should be a matter of personal choice.” This reason is the same argument anti-helmet law activists give for resisting helmet laws.[vi] Iow, we’re not so different than drivers when it comes to not wearing safety gear.

More of the same only tougher However the safety community is convinced that even habit is not enough; the Committee stated, “Strong enforcement is a necessary component of effective seat belt use laws. Motorists must be convinced that violators will be ticketed and nontrivial penalties exacted.”

The Prevention Institute article referred to a report published in 2000, in which  Transportation Department Inspector General Kenneth Mead stated, “Unless additional states enact and enforce primary laws, which are the most effective means of increasing seatbelt use, we see no credible basis to forecast increases in excess of the recent trend,” Mead stated in the report.

Iow, when it comes to helmets and belts traffic safety experts reject education as an effective tool when it comes to wearing safety equipment. Ever-tougher legislation is seen as the only way to force compliance.

Riders, though, don’t behave as drivers However for much of the past 30-some years, helmet use has been higher than seat belt use in states that don’t have helmet laws but do have seat belt ones. And helmet use in universal helmet law states has been higher than seat belt use in those same states before seat belt laws were passed.

Once again, we look at California: According to the Highway Loss Data Institute unit of the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), helmet use before the universal law was passed was 50 percent. Iow, it was already 24 percent higher than seat belt use was before the mandatory seat belt law was passed.

Immediately after California instituted a universal helmet law in 1992, use surged to 99 percent.[vii] In comparison, it took 16 years and a harsh primary enforcement law to achieve slightly less when it came to drivers.

While it’s true that helmet compliance is more obvious than shoulder/lap belt use,[viii] voluntary helmet use was already almost twice as high when the law was passed as voluntary seat belt use was before the seat belt law was passed. And driver compliance only achieved rider compliance after a strict primary enforcement law was instituted.

This is a significant and positive safety difference between drivers and riders that has been unobserved and unstudied.

But it is seat belts we’re talking about and they are provided in every car sold and  require little effort or discomfort to use and have overwhelming social approval attached to their use.

Otoh, even the lightest helmet is a distinct weight on the head, it’s hot to wear at times and the snug fit that’s required for effectiveness is uncomfortable for many. It can catch the wind causing neck strain and some feel that it obstructs their vision. And unlike seatbelts, a helmet must be replaced if it comes in violent contact with a hard surface. To top it off,[ix] even cheap ones are expensive and require additional  effort (compared to seatbelts) to obtain.

Riders’ performance actually better Despite all that, nationally, helmet use is still 67 percent even though only 20 states have universal helmet laws while seatbelt use is finally 83 percent 45 years after seatbelts were standard equipment in cars sold in the USA—even though 49 states have a mandatory seatbelt laws. And that’s a profound safety difference between drivers and riders that has been unobserved, unstudied and unappreciated.

While traffic experts bemoan the low rate of helmet use an equally valid case could be made for the high use of helmets in states without mandatory laws and in states prior to the passage of universal helmet laws. Considering the history of seat belt use, it’s rather extraordinary that so many riders choose on their own to purchase expensive, heavy and uncomfortable helmets and wear them when they aren’t required by law or receive any immediate benefit or incentive for doing so.

In fact, it suggests that riders who choose to wear helmets without a mandate are the opposite of extraordinary risk-takers. Instead it suggests that they are more aware of the risks inherent in motorcycling, believe that their odds of crashing are higher and take steps to mitigate harm.

Iow, it suggests that a significant proportion of motorcyclists take more personal responsibility for their own safety than drivers do.

And that’s a very different view of motorcyclists.


[i] Coincidentally, 1949 was the year Smeed published his “law”.

[ii] Buckling Up: Technologies to Increase Seat Belt Use — Special Report 278. Transportation Research Board (TRB). 2004.

[iii] Curtisa, Kevin M. and Scott W. Rodia and Maria Grau Sepulveda. The lack of an adult seat belt law in New Hampshire: Live free and die? Accident Analysis & Prevention, Volume 39, Issue 2, March 2007, Pages 380-383.

[iv] Gantz, Toni and Gretchen Henkle. Seatbelts: Current Issues. Prevention Institute. October 2002. http://ww.preventioninstitute.org/traffic_seatbelt.html. Highway Loss Data Institute, Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. Q&As: Motorcycle helmet use laws. January 2009. http://www.iihs.org/research/qanda/helmet_use.html.

[v] Committee for the Safety Belt Technology Study. Buckling Up: Technologies to Increase Seat Belt Use, Special Report 278. Transportation Research Board. 2004. http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10832&page=R1

[vi] It would be interesting if someone did a study to find out if those who didn’t wear helmets also didn’t wear seat belts.

[vii] Highway Loss Data Institute, Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. Q&As: Motorcycle helmet use laws. January 2009. http://www.iihs.org/research/qanda/helmet_use.html.

[viii] Though whether the helmet is DOT-certified is not as easy to determine.

[ix] All plays on words in the article are intentional.

Smeed’s Law and motorcycle fatalities

February 25, 2010

We’ve looked at the various pieces of the motorcycle safety puzzle and found that they all—without exception—have failed to bring the death toll down but as more riders practice them the death and injury toll goes up.

It’s time, then to explore other things that might affect the crash rate of motorcycles in America. Some of these readers have referred to—and we’ll look at them more closely. Some of them may seem quite far-fetched and some might be rather offensive. Yet, since the usual answers haven’t solved the puzzle, it’s appropriate to explore other factors—no matter how unpalatable—in case they may in part or in concert led to safer roads for riders.

We start with R.J. Smeed’s “Law” which was first published in 1949. It states that as the number of automobiles in a country increase so do fatalities in a predictable way: the number of deaths equals .0003 times the two-thirds power of the number of people times the one-third power of the number of cars.[i] After that point, road fatalities begin to fall off and then level off at a much lower point.

Despite safer cars, Smeed’s Law is still basically true in all developing countries. For example, it held true in the USA until about 1966—and his formula for the decline of traffic fatalities is very close to what has actually happened.

His friend, the eminent physicist Freeman John Dyson, wrote, “It is remarkable that the number of deaths does not depend strongly on the size of the country, the quality of the roads, the rules and regulations governing traffic, or the safety equipment installed in cars. Smeed interpreted his law as a law of human nature. The number of deaths is determined mainly by psychological factors that are independent of material circumstances. People will drive recklessly until the number of deaths reaches the maximum they can tolerate. When the number exceeds that limit, they drive more carefully. Smeed’s Law merely defines the number of deaths that we find psychologically tolerable.”[ii]

Of course, in 1965, Ralph Nader’s book, Unsafe At Any Speed, was published which both captured the general public’s growing frustration with traffic fatalities and exacerbated that frustration. From the mid-Sixties on there was a massive push for safer design, safer roads and safer crashing. Iow, Smeed was right about the linkage but assumed it would take more cars and deaths to get to the point we could no longer psychologically tolerate the death toll.

It’s true that motorcycles can’t be made as objectively safe (crush zones, front and side air bags, etc.) as cars—but then that’s true for bicyclists and pedestrians as well and their death rates have dropped in the past ten years while motorcyclist fatalities rose—and rose and rose outpacing registrations.

When it comes to automobiles and perhaps bicycles[iii], there’s not just a correlation but some kind of subconscious process at work that first allows the death toll to rise and then, eventually, lowers it.

But the key here is that drivers keep driving—they just drive safer.

The question is: does Smeed’s Law work for motorcycle registrations and rider deaths?  I’ll leave it to anyone who’s better at math than I to do the math but I do wonder: How can we as riders still “psychologically tolerate” the soaring death toll?

But here’s this—even if it does, it’s a little different when it comes to motorcycles:   The past 11 years is not the first surge in motorcycle registrations and fatalities in the USA. The most recent registration surge ended in the early 1980s and fatalities topped out in 1981. The death toll began dropping and bottomed out in 1997—even though registrations had begun to increase a few years earlier.

While 29 states either dropped or adjusted universal helmet laws during the 1970s while fatalities were rising, the laws weren’t reinstated yet fatalities dropped. From 1973-2001, 1.6 million were trained and all states began to require motorcycle licensing—and most were trained as fatalities were falling.

But the death toll did drop beginning in 1982—and so did registrations and then registrations started to go up in the early 1990s—and fatalities followed suit in 1998.

However since 2002, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation claims over 2 million have been trained—and yet fatalities have exceeded the height of the late 1970s-1981 surge in rider deaths.

Today, EMS response time is better than it ever has been, medical procedures are more effective and traffic system design has concentrated on safer roads and intersections. While this has brought about reductions in auto, bicycle and pedestrian deaths, some of that loss was simply transferred over to motorcyclist deaths.

Iow, just as with automobiles, Dyson’s words could be applied to motorcycles. It appears “the number of deaths does not depend strongly on the size of the country, the quality of the roads, the rules and regulations governing traffic, or the safety equipment.”

In this way, Smeed’s Law might be true but in a different way than with cars. When it comes to autos, people are sickened by the death rate and demand change as a nation of drivers—but they keep on driving and registrations keep on going up.

But motorcycling doesn’t behave the same way: in the past three cycles, registrations peaked before fatalities did—but unlike Smeed’s Law predicted, registrations did fall off.

Iow, while drivers either behave more safely or there are changes to design, roads or safety measures are brought to bear, this doesn’t happen with riders—yet the fatality rate still drops. But so does registrations.

It could be that individual riders no longer believe that riding is safe for them and give up motorcycling—and thus increased motorcycle “safety” is really attrition. Which doesn’t make motorcycling safer at all.


[i] Smeed, R. J. Some Statistical Aspects of Road Safety Research. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series A (General), Vol. 112, No. 1 (1949), pp. 1-34.

[ii] Dyson, Freeman. “Part II: A Failure of Intelligence” Technology Review

http://www.technologyreview.com/Infotech/17847/page5/

[iii] Hakamies-Blomqvist, Liisa and Mats Wiklund, Per Henriksson. Predicting older drivers’ accident involvement – Smeed’s law revisited. Accident Analysis and Prevention 37 (2005) 675–680.

Beyond fatalities: motorcycle injuries and the Louisiana Experiment

February 10, 2010

The helmet story told by safety professionals also claim helmets change the equation so that those who would die without one are only injured. Injuries, then, should be important—and yet we hear little about them.  So let’s look at injuries in the Louisiana Experiment and see if the helmet story proves true:

We’ll use the data from Louisiana’s Highway Safety Research Group (LHSRG) through Louisiana State University that breaks injuries down into moderate, severe and fatal in terms of helmeted and unhelmeted riders.

What is a Severe or Moderate Injury?

LHSRG doesn’t define what comprises severe or moderate injuries but we’ll assume the KABCO injury coding scale was used[i]. If so, severe would translate to incapacitating injuries and moderate to non-incapacitating injuries. Incapacitating injuries would be those that are not fatal but prevent the victim from performing activities s/he was normally able to do before the crash—for example, fractures or concussions. Moderate injuries would then be those that are obvious at the scene but aren’t either fatal or obviously incapacitating—for example, sprains, contusions or many (but not all) lacerations.

The following graph tracks each kind of injury for both helmeted and unhelmeted riders. It should be kept in mind that riders suffer and die from a variety of injuries that do not involve the head in any way including chest trauma, internal bleeding, ruptured organs. Wearing a helmet will not prevent those.

During the repeal years, both helmeted and unhelmeted injuries are closely clustered After reinstatement there’s a huge separation. However, during this time, helmet use never dropped below 42 percent while after the reinstatement helmet use rose to 98 percent and that could explain the clustering. Even so, unhelmeted injuries of all kinds outpaced helmeted ones.

In both conditions and as one would expect, there’s more moderate injuries than severe ones and more severe injuries than fatalities.

Otoh, there’s also an increase in injuries in the reinstatement years that’s not explained by more helmeted riders . For example, in 1999 injuries totaled 512. In 2002—two full years into the repeal—the total injuries for all three kinds of crashes was 619—a 21 percent increase. In 2006—two years after the reinstatement—the total was 861. In four years, then, injury crashes had gone up 39 percent or almost double the percentage increase from the midst of the repeal years.

During the repeal years, there’s also more fluctuation between the various kinds of injuries for both helmeted and unhelmeted riders. And during the reinstatement years, the kind of injuries are more closely clustered according to helmet use/non-use. This is particularly evident for helmeted injuries. There is no apparent reason for this.

Unhelemted injuries

Let’s look more closely at each condition in terms of the actual numbers of injured riders.

Under the repeal years, unhelmeted fatalities rose for the first four years. This what the helmet story would tell us to expect as more riders chose to ride without a helmet. The uptick in severe and fatal injuries and vast increase in moderate ones could simply be the result of a huge influx of unhelmeted riders.

Severe injuries rose as well, however, in 60% of the years, there’s almost no difference between severe and fatal injury numbers. This relationship between severe and fatal injuries is much tighter after the reinstatement than before and there’s no obvious reason why that should be.

The bulk of injuries are moderate, which would be expected but there appears to be no correlation between moderate and severe injuries as there is between severe and fatal injuries.

The helmet story implies that helmets prevent fatalities and turn them into moderate or severe injuries and reduce severe injuries and turn them into moderate ones. The behavior of the three kinds of unhelmeted injuries, though, doesn’t support that even though fatalities did rise as predicted.

After the reinstatement, however, a closer relationship between moderate and severe/fatal crashes appears among the unhelmeted and the moderate injuries plummet. Why would this happen?

Helmeted injuries

So let’s examine that by looking at the relationship between injury severity and helmet use:

In some ways it’s almost the reverse image to unhelmeted fatalities: overall, there’s a closer relationship between moderate injuries and severe ones—and a closer relationship between severe and fatal injuries—during the repeal years and a looser one once the universal helmet law was reinstated. But it is basically a mirror image—and that’s something that

There are some differences: while moderate injuries zoom up under reinstatement, there’s no wild fluctuation from year to year. And, from 2007-2009, moderate and severe injuries appear to correlate very well however, this is not seen in fatalities. Three years, though, may represent a blip rather than a trend.

Moderate injuries are, by far, the preferred outcome—the increase in moderate injuries in the reinstatement years would be a positive sign if the severe and fatal injury rate was depressed as a consequence as it suggests that helmets are effective in changing outcomes in the same kind of crashes.

But we saw that moderate injuries zoomed up under the unhelmeted condition as well.

Moderate injuries are the normative outcomes of certain kinds of crashes—such as low-sides where riders don’t impact a solid, fixed object. Severe and fatal injuries are the common result of crash configurations—such as frontal impacts.

The helmet story hangs on whether helmets really do turn fatalities into serious injuries and serious injuries into moderate ones so, let’s compare apples to apples by the percentage of each kind of injury:

Unhelmeted Injuries by Percentage
1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Fatal 11.5 7 9.8 12.7 13.4 11.6 11.3 6.7 10.1 15.4 14
Severe 23 18.7 16.1 23.9 17.5 18.7 13.9 13.5 22.4 21.9 27.1
Moderate 65.4 74.2 74 63.3 69.3 69.7 74.8 79.6 67.4 62.6 58.8
Helmeted Injuries by Percentage
1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Fatal 6.5 10.1 6.2 5.7 7.1 8.1 8.9 10.6 8.2 7.3 10.9
Severe 13.8 12.9 11.1 17.5 17.5 16 13.8 15.7 14.4 16.9 14.8
Moderate 79.6 76.9 82.2 76.8 72.2 75.8 77.2 76.3 77.4 75.7 74.3

Overall, there’s an extremely stable relationship between all kinds of injuries: moderate ones are the overwhelming majority for both conditions followed by severe then fatal ones.

Moderate injuries under both conditions over the entire time span averaged between 69 percent (unhelmeted) and 76 percent (helmeted)—but in both conditions, the average percentage dropped slightly after reinstatement.

However, helmeted moderate injuries averaged out, over the eleven years to be 7.76 percent lower than unhelmeted ones. Averaged helmeted severe injuries were 4.76 lower and fatalities were 4.75 lower than unhelmeted averages.

The helmet story, then, held up in that regard: if all things were equal and helmets were the only variable—which they may not be—then helmets appear to have made a small difference when it came to severe and fatal injuries. Otoh, less than a 5 percent difference is not seen to be statistically significant. But, as one reader points out, if you’re the one it made a difference for, it matters a lot. Even so, this presumes that the injuries that killed or wounded the extra five percent were head injuries—and that may or may not be true.

However, there’s less difference between the percentage of severe and fatal crashes than we may have expected. The following chart presents the difference between fatal and severe injuries for each condition:

The difference between severe injuries and fatalities in Louisiana
1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Helmeted 7.3 2.8 4.9 11.8 10.4 7.9 4.9 5.1 6.2 9.6 3.9
Unhelmeted 11.5 11.7 6.3 11.2 4.1 7.1 2.6 6.8 12.3 6.5 13.1

In eight out of eleven years (72.7%) there was a greater difference between unhelmeted severe and fatalities and helmeted severe and fatalities. Which is something the helmet story wouldn’t have predicted.

The helmet story in Louisiana appears to be like rider training and licensing: it should be true that helmets save lives—they just don’t save then in statistically provable ways.

However, if we break down the averages into repeal and reinstatement years, helmeted fatalities went up almost 2 percentage points under reinstatement while severe injuries remained almost the same and moderate injuries went down. In terms of helmeted injuries, the increase was entirely in fatalities.

Otoh, the percentages of unhelmeted injuries remained almost identical during repeal and reinstatement years. Whatever is driving the difference in helmeted deaths, either it’s not having the same effect on those who do not wear helmets or it’s negating the helmet benefit in some ways.

Although 2 percent is tiny—it’s still an alarming development simply because, over several years, that increase was solely in helmeted fatalities and not in severe injuries.

Since we see the same pattern with moderate-fatal injuries (though more exaggerated under the unhelmeted condition) it raises the obvious possibility that the differences are more attributable to the number of different crashes that varied from year to year that drove injury rates rather than helmet use.

In addition, we see that while helmeted statistics performed slightly better overall but worse in reinstatement years while unhelmeted statistics were the same it also points to some other factor that’s operating. It could be that a certain number of crashes themselves are becoming more severe and negate the helmet’s safety benefit to the same state as riding helmetless.

Otoh, we could be seeing off-setting or risk-compensation or risk homeostasis occurring or adverse recruitment among helmeted but not unhelmeted riders. More on that in the future.

In the next entry, we’ll briefly compare injuries to registrations.


[i] The KABCO coding scale: K=Killed; A=Incapacitating Injury; B=Non-Incapacitating Injury; C=Possible Injury; O=No Injury; and U=Injured, severity unknown.

Motorcycle puzzle piece: training, part III

January 14, 2010

The twenty-third study is a 2008 Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety – Queensland report, “Identifying Programs To Reduce Road Trauma To Act Motorcyclists”[i] While it deals with many issues a significant part of it looks at motorcycle training and licensing programs.

The report is for the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), a tiny little bean-shaped area  surrounded by New South Wales. Canberra, the capital of Australia is in ACT. The population of ACT is roughly the size of Raleigh, NC or Tulsa, OK or Minneapolis, MN.

It has relatively few riders and few deaths since most riders crash in New South Wales. This report outlines the best motorcycle safety program for ACT.

It highlights two ways to reduce crashes: exposure reduction and risk reduction. Exposure reduction limits the number of riders and the miles they ride—something that neither riders nor the motorcycle industry would support. Risk reduction cuts down on the hazards and numbers of them that riders take/are exposed to. The report points out that risk reduction rather than exposure reduction “that can also work to reduce the severity of injury in the event of a crash.”

Training programs, the study points out can result in exposure reduction when people choose not to ride because of the difficulty of taking/passing a course. But it is in risk reduction where training programs would be expected to shine.

The situation in Australia is somewhat different than in the USA. It has a variety of programs—basic and beyond—available in the various states—and has graduated licensing—first a learner’s permit, then a provisional permit and then a full motorcycle license. There are training programs for the first and second level and in some states training for the first level is compulsory. Training programs to obtain the learner’s permit last between 6-16 hours and the second level of training lasts between 6 and 12 hours. Iow, Australian riders can take more than twice the training before being fully-licensed.

Nor is there one specified curriculum in a state as in the USA. In Queensland, for example, the state sets a strict set of standards that “quantify what a learner must do and how well it must be done to enable them to apply to Queensland Transport for the issue of the class of licence they have been trained and assessed for through Q-RIDE.”  But it does not publish a curriculum that every training provider must use.

The report finds that all programs are not created equal: there can be a positive, neutral or even negative effect on motorcycle safety:

“Programs which may possibly have a negative effect on safety are those that aim to, or are likely to increase exposure… [or] which knowingly or unknowingly promote or encourage increased riding,” or “produce over-confidence in riders” if it “lead[s] to riskier riding behaviour.”

The reports says that some training programs are “likely” to be “beneficial” if they are:

  • training programs that are research-based,
  • use risk reduction and/or exposure  measures and
  • reaches a large number of the audience for which it was intended.
  • Motorcycle safety should increase by addressing a combination of road user, vehicle, and environment-based measures as well as
  • a combination of crash prevention measures and the reduction in the severity of injury and treatment improvements.

Many would argue that the USA’s Motorcycle Safety Foundation curriculum does exactly that.

However, the report states, having the elements is not enough. The researchers pointed out that determining what programs could have a beneficial effect is difficult.

“In terms of identifying effective programs, the most serious limitation was the lack of evaluation of program effectiveness.”  The authors remarked it wasn’t surprising on a local level but that “many large statewide programs had only limited (or no) process evaluation available and very few had an outcome evaluation. Thus, very few programs can be said to be “proven beneficial,” although there are quite a few that are “likely beneficial”.”

The report later states, “There is no strong evidence in support of training leading to marked improvements in rider safety (Haworth & Mulvihill, 2005). An international review of motorcycle training concluded that compulsory training through licensing programs produces a weak but consistent reduction in crashes but voluntary motorcycle training programs do not reduce crash risk (TOI, 2003).  On the contrary, these programs seem to increase crash risk.  This may be due, in part, to the increased confidence felt by many riders who have completed training, despite minimal improvements in rider skill.  Such riders may therefore take more risks in situations where they lack the skills to safely avoid a crash.”

In short: while training has the potential to be beneficial, there’s little-to-no proof that it is:  “Many authors have concluded that the apparent lack of success of rider training in reducing accident risk or number of violations may stem from the content of the training programs (Chesham, Rutter & Quine, 1993; Crick & McKenna, 1991; Haworth, Smith & Kowadlo; 1999; Reeder, Chalmers & Langley, 1996; Simpson & Mayhew, 1990).   Rider training programs currently in use focus mainly on the development of vehicle control skills.  This is not necessarily through choice but is often brought about through time constraints and the need to prepare a rider for an end test that is skill-based.”

“In their review of motorcycle licensing and training methods throughout Australia, Haworth and Mulvihill (2005) argued that motorcycle riding requires higher levels of vehicle control and cognitive skills in comparison to car driving and suggested that future motorcycle safety initiatives need to incorporate activities promoting higher level cognitive and control skills.”

Based on years of intense, comprehensive and global research, the experts put forth the best practices in training and licensing:

Table 4.1    Summary of best practice components for motorcycle licensing system

Component Effect on crash risk Effect on crash severity Effect on amount of riding Reason for effect Is this current practice in the ACT?
GENERAL
No exemptions from licensing, training or testing requirements for older applicants Facilitates other measures Facilitates other measures Reduces it Older riders need to develop riding-specific skills.  May make licensing less attractive. NO:  Exemptions are made for older applicants and those who already hold a car licence.
LICENSING
Minimum age for learner and provisional motorcycle licences higher than for car licences Reduces it Reduces it Consistent with graduated licensing principles. Crash risk has been demonstrated to decrease with age among young novices.  Increasing the minimum age would also almost eliminate riding and therefore crashes among riders below this age. YES
Zero BAC for L and P Reduces it Reduces it Reducing drink riding will reduce crash risk.  Zero BAC will also reduce the amount of riding after drinking. NO: 0.02% for L & P
Restrictions on carrying pillion passengers for L and P Reduces it Reduces it Pillions have been shown to increase crash risk and severity. YES: for L, and P in first 12mths
Power-to-weight restrictions for L and P Reduces it(severe crashes) Reduces it Reduces it Crash risk may be reduced if less powerful motorcycles result in less deliberate speeding and risk taking or problems with vehicle control.  Restrictions may dissuade some potential high-risk riders from riding. YES
Minimum periods for L and P Facilitates other measures Facilitates other measures Unknown To ensure that other requirements have sufficient duration. YES

Australia already has a graduated licensing and power-to-weight ratios (that can be offset by training). Already there’s on-road testing in some of the states. Already, then, at least some states in Australia have stricter standards than almost all USA states.

The report then summarizes the best practices for motorcycle training:

Table 4.2    Summary of best practice components for motorcycle training

Component Effect on crash risk Effect on crash severity Effect on amount of riding Reason for effect Is this current practice in the ACT?
TRAINING
Compulsory training to obtain L and P Small reduction Unknown Reduces it Ensure a basic level of competency.  May make licensing less attractive. Yes for L, no for P
Comprehensive roadcraft training at both L and P (may require longer training duration and better educational skills of trainers) Reduces it Reduces it Reduces it Improved ability to detect and respond to hazards by novice riders.  Longer and potentially more expensive training may deter some applicants. NO
Off-road training for L, mix of on- and off-road training for P Reduces it Reduces it Reduces it Ensure a basic level of competency gained under situations that are appropriate for current level of competency.  Allow safe practice of responses to hazards.  Longer and potentially more expensive training may deter some applicants.

As we see, many of the components of both training and licensing that would lead to more competent and possibly safer riders on the road are also ones that would likely reduce exposure even if they don’t–or while they do–reduce risk.

The bottom line? The  best experts in motorcycle safety conclude that the best chance of motorcycle safety will have the side effect of reducing the number of riders.


[i] Greig Kristi, Narelle Haworth and Darren Wishart. “Identifying Programs To Reduce Road Trauma To Act Motorcyclists”, The Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety—Queensland. Australia, February 2008.

Motorcycle safety puzzle piece: training

January 8, 2010

I apologize for formatting errors in the chart–for some reason, wordpress.com changes the font size part way through and won’t allow me to fix it.

Training is the next piece that’s supposed to solve the motorcycle safety puzzle. It’s the most important piece in this way: while helmets have their fervent and often vehement supporters and detractors, everyone agrees that training is axiomatic as an effective solution to the motorcycle safety puzzle.

As motorcycle rights organizations are fond of saying–don’t legislate, educate. Training (and to an extent licensing), it’s believed, keeps one out of situations that could lead to crashes.

Training in some form or another has been around since the earliest days. One of the first how-to-ride manuals,  Boy Scouts on Motorcycles, was copyrighted in 1912, and the earliest official course, the British Metropolitan Police Hendon Training System began in 1934 with a civilian version taught by the 1950s.  By the time the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) began in 1973 there were over 30 different courses, curriculum  and manuals–including Montgomery Ward.

In 1974, MSF claims it trained 15,000 students. Today it claims that “5,422,315 students have graduated from MSF RiderCourses since 1974. 400,000 motorcyclists enroll in our courses each year.”

We’re going to look at training in more than one entry. The first uses MSF documentation to show how the range section has changed from MSF’s Motorcycle Rider Course through the Basic RiderCourse.

The second entry will be as comprehensive a list and summary of twenty-one studies I’ve tracked down on training and licensing.

Thirty-something years of MSF basic training curriculum

MSF produced a chart for the state administrators who were invited to a private preview of the Basic RiderCourse in the summer of 2000. It outlines what was taught in the range portion in the Motorcycle Rider Course, the MRC: RSS and the then-new BRC.

Comparing the curriculums, the MRC taught 43 skills, the MRC:RSS taught 22 skills with 8 optional skills and the BRC taught 16 skills. The MRC tested  8 skills, the RSS tested 5 and the BRC tests 4.

The course went from 22 hours to 15 during these years.

Some of the skills listed separately in the MRC were clumped in the RSS and BRC so there’s not as much disparity as it appears—however, some of the skills are not included in the clumped skill exercises. A skill test for swerving was added in the RSS (and kept in the BRC) however swerving itself was taught in the MRC.

There are those who argue that some skills previously taught but not mentioned in the BRC portion of the chart are still taught—like the sharp turn. However, there is no portion of the BRC range cards that teach students how to do a sharp turn or a sharp turn from a stop. All we can go on is what is actually in the range cards and this MSF-produced chart to compare the curriculums.

Also, even if some of the skills are still taught, the shorter course length means they’re taught (and practiced) for a shorter time.

Please note that there are differences in the order of the BRC exercises between what MSF planned to do in the summer of 2000 and the current order.

MRC MRC: RSS BRC
1 Mount/Dismount Getting Familiar with the motorcycle Motorcycle Familiarization
2 Posture Moving the Motorcycle Using the Friction Zone
3 Controls Starting and Stopping the Engine Starting and Stopping Drill
4 Start/Stop Engine Riding in a Straight Line Shifting and Stopping
5 Walking Motorcycle Riding the Perimeter and Large

Circles

Adjusting Speed and Turning
6 Buddy Push Weaving (30’) Control-skills Practice
7 Friction Point Turning on Different Curves and

Weaving (20’)

Pressing to Initiate Lean
8 Straight Line Riding Riding Slowly Cornering
9 Rectangle Making Sharp Turns Matching Gears to Speed
10 Large Circles Shifting in a Straight Line Stopping Quickly
11 Medium Circles Shifting and Turning on Different

Curves

Limited-Space Maneuvers
12 Cone Weave (20’) Shifting and Making Sharp Turns Cornering Judgment
13 Sharp Turns Stopping with Both Brakes Negotiating Curves
14 Shifting in a Straight Line Stopping Quickly on Command Stopping Quickly in a Curve
15 Turning at Higher Speeds Stopping on a Curve Lane Change and Obstacles
16 Riding Slowly Level 1 Evaluation: 1.

1. Stalling

2.Shifting/Turning/Stopping

3. Sharp Turns

4. Stopping on Command.

Avoiding Hazards
17 Principles of Braking Gap Selection Skills Practice
18 Stopping at a Designated Point Turning from a Stop and

Changing Lanes

Skills Test:1. U-turns

2. Swerve

3. Quick Stop

4. Cornering

19 Figure 8-Turning and Adjusting Speed Controlling Rear-Wheel Skids
20 Turning in Tight Circles Stopping in the Shortest Distance (maximum braking)
21 Weaving Between Cones(20’ X 10’) Swerving to Avoid Obstacles
22 Shifting and Acceleratingin a Turn Stopping Quickly on a Curve
23 Stopping Quickly withBoth Brakes Selecting a Safe Turning Speed
24 Sharp Turns and Shifting Optional Exercises: Offset Weaving, Shifting

and Turning on Different Curves

and Weaving,

Stopping Quickly on Command,

Tight U-Turns

and Stop-and-Go, Counterbalancing

in Decreasing-Radius Turns,

Surmounting Obstacles

25 Simulated Traffic Situations Level Two Skills Test:

1. Cone Weave

2.Sharp Turns,

3. Quick Stop,

4. Turning Speed Selection

5. Quick Lane Change (swerving).

26 Passing
27 Turning Speed Adjustment
28 Circuit Training
29 Starting on a Hill
30 Stop and Go
31 Staggered Serpentine
32 One-hand controls
33 Engine Braking
34 Controlling Rear-Wheel Skids
35 Quick Stops
36 Stopping in a Curve
37 Riding on the Pegs
38 Crossing Obstacles
39 Countersteering
40 Quick Lane Change (swerve)
41 Carrying Passengers
42 Pre-Ride Inspection
43 Maintaining Your Motorcycle
Skill Test:

1.Stalling,

2.Shifting and Stop (in a circle),

3.Operating Controls (in a circle),

4. Straight Line Balance,

5. S-Turn,

6.U-turn,

7. Stopping,

8.Weaving.