Archive for the ‘Motorcycle Industry Council’ category

NHTSA releases study on motorcyclist injuries

August 19, 2009

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released DOT HS 811 149, “Traffic Safety Facts Research Note: Motorcyclists Injured in Motor Vehicle Traffic Crashes”. It examines some very basic crash data from 1998-2007 using crashes that resulted in police-reports.

Since far more motorcyclists are injured than killed and injury is a far better outcome than death, it would be most beneficial to determine the key factors that make one crash outcome injury and another one fatal. So something like this has been long-overdue though this study looks at very few elements.

For the most part, the analysis found that while more riders are injured, the proportions in each element the study looked at are almost identical to what they were back in 1998.  What NHTSA didn’t do in all but two cases is compare those injury percentages to fatality percentages—and when we do that, the answer may be disturbing: the biggest difference between survivable and non-survivable crashes may only be the degree of injury and not different situations.

From 1998-2007:

  • Injuries have increased 110 percent while motorcycle registrations increased 84 percent.
  • About half the injuries continue to occur in single-vehicle and half in multi-vehicle crashes
  • About half (55%) of all injury crashes continue to occur during the week and half (45%) occur on the weekend. (However, weekend crashes occur 1.5 more often since the weekend is a much shorter length of time).
  • About 60% of the crashes continue to happen during daylight hours,
  • and 68% occur from April through September.
  • Ninety-percent of injuries happen to riders and 10 percent to passengers.
  • About 85% of all the injured are male and 15% female.
  • Injuries increased among all age groups—but the age group with the largest number of injuries was in the 20-29 year-old age group.
  • And almost the exact same percentage of riders were injured in alcohol-related crashes in 2007 (9%) as in 1998 (10%).

Helmet use The NHTSA report states, “Among the 103,000 motorcyclists injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2007, 65,000 (63%) were helmeted at the time of the crash, 31,000 (30%) were not helmeted, and helmet use was unknown for 7,000 (7%) of the motorcyclists injured. Helmet use from 1998-2007 among motorcyclists injured in crashes has ranged from a low of 55 percent in 2002 and 2003 to a high of 63 percent in 2007. Of the motorcyclists injured in crashes who were not helmeted, the proportion ranged from a high of 40 percent in 2002 to a low of 30 percent in 2006 and 2007.

Comparing injury crashes v. fatal crashes

NHTSA only compared injury analysis results with what’s known about fatalities in two instances: First, the percentage of operators v. passengers injured is almost identical to the fatality data and secondly, the percentage of male v. female injured is almost the same as the percentage of men to women fatalities. Being a woman, I can’t resist pointing out MIC reports women represent 23% of all who rode (front or back) on motorcycles last year. Iow, it appears women are under-represented as both operators and passengers in both injuries and fatalities—and thus may be safer operators and make male operators safer riders when we’re on the back.

NHTSA didn’t mention there’s other aspects that reveal injury crashes are almost identical to their more lethal counterparts: the days of the week; the time of day; the time of year; the percentage of single-vehicle v. multi-vehicle crashes; age.

Intoxicated riding

One very key—and crucial difference is the percentage of alcohol-involved crashes that result in  injured riders (10%) versus dead riders (28% were at or over the legal limit and another 8% had between a trace and 0.07% BAC in 2007). It is unknown why such an enormous difference would exist—and it could be important how the researchers determined alcohol-involvement in injury crashes. But the data raises the question, in my mind at least, whether a crash after drinking is more likely to end in death than injury.


According to MIC, the ≤30 age group increased about 8%. The existence of mandatory training requirements for young riders suggest of all age groups, more trained riders are likely to be found among these young riders. However, since 1998 but using NHTSA data, injuries in this age group increased 105% and fatalities increased almost 83%. In 2007, these young one-third of the riding population had almost 40% of the injury crashes.  The author of the analysis points out that other age groups are catching up to younger rider injury numbers.

While we are well aware that fatalities among the Baby Boomers have dramatically increased in the past decade, they do represent more than 50% of the riding population and in 2007 had just under 43% of the injuries and just over 49% of the fatalities.

Comparison between injury and death when it comes to helmet use deserves its own entry because of the implications.

There but for the grace…

The bottom line, though, is that NHTSA’s limited injury data analysis reminds of what death by motor vehicle really is—one or more injuries that are so severe that life cannot be sustained. So it’s not surprising that so many of the characteristics are exactly the same between injury and fatal crashes. both occur at the same times of days and in the same seasons to basically the same people.

If we look at only these few characteristics NHTSA chose to highlight, it suggests a “there but for the grace of God” scenario as if it random whether the rider was merely injured or injured so severely they died. And this would be very difficult for riders to accept. A further, more comprehensive analysis—and comparison must be done. Here’s an idea—how about doing the long-delayed accident causation study that the motorcycle industry was forced to finance but doesn’t want to be done?

Otoh, it suggests that most of these issues such as day and hour (with the possible exception of alcohol blood level) aren’t what causes one crash to be fatal and another to be survivable. The answer may lie elsewhere—and now we know where not to look.

More injurious today than a decade ago

This new document is what it is—a research note. It does raise some issues though: While percentages of crash-involved riders stay the same in specific areas the analysis reveals a significant gap in a critical area: registration went up 84% while injuries went up 110%—a gap of 26% and that’s a very significant change. Iow, it can’t be just a matter of more motorcycles=more crashes=more injuries.  Something else is going on—something that this analysis didn’t pop out.

More deadly today than a decade ago

Crashes aren’t just more injurious, they’re more deadly than a decade ago.  While injuries increased 110%, fatalities increased almost 125%. That’s a difference of almost 15%. (It also means that fatalities increased 41% over registrations compared to that 26% disparity between registrations and injuries).

Ten years of data reveals that crashing out of proportion to the increase in motorcycles on the road—and more of those crashes are ending in injury and more of those injuries are deadly.  That should concern us—and the more so after we look at the helmet issue in the next entry.


What can we learn from looking at all four states?

June 17, 2009

Now that we’ve looked more closely at Pennsylvania, Illinois, Idaho and Oregon, let’s do a little reflection and examine some things that emerged by looking at four states:

In all four states, training expanded enormously: In Oregon, it increased over 220%. In Idaho, training increased over 660%. Illinois increased almost 82% and in Pennsylvania it went up 86%.

The untoward increase in Idaho was directly related to the state program’s inception—but not entirely. Illinois, for example, trained only 200 the first year and 4,500 the next as it was established statewide—but between 1977-1987 didn’t increase 660%.

These states are not unusual; across the nation—except in, notably, the MSF-administered state of West Virginia—training numbers have increased enormously. This is nothing new—however, that training has increased so greatly in specifically Oregon and Idaho, is of special note:

Does length or rigor of the course affect numbers trained?

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has consistently claimed—and a great many rider educators believed—people didn’t take training because the course was too long. Each new iteration of the MSF curriculum has been shorter. When it sold the rider training community on the Basic RiderCourse, MSF then claimed that people didn’t take training—and many failed or dropped training—because it wasn’t fun and relaxed enough.

As a result, many in the rider ed community have believed that training numbers have increased because the course was both shorter and more relaxed/fun. However, even with only looking at four states, we find that assumption is unfounded:

Oregon and Idaho taught the longer RSS course then switched to the BRT, which is shorter than the RSS but still longer than the BRC. And Illinois’ BRC is significantly longer than MSF’s standard BRC.

So with longer and less “student-friendly” courses, training increased far more in Oregon and Idaho than in Pennsylvania and Illinois. Iow, neither the length or the pedagogical basis of the course seem to drive student participation.

In fact, it appears to be the opposite. MSF claimed the MRC:RSS was too rigid and demanding and TEAM Oregon’s course, the BRT was too much like the RSS—both reasons MSF had sold the motorcycling community on as reasons why more riders weren’t trained. Yet the  states that used longer, more “rigid” courses than the BRC saw far more significant increases in enrollment year after year. In fact, enrollment in the BRC-only Pennsylvania dropped as it was still increasing in Oregon and Idaho (although training in Illinois increased every year as well).

Only in Pennsylvania, a state where the pass and fail rate changed dramatically with the BRC so that more students passed did training rise then fall then rise then fall.

In fact, Illinois had dropped it’s fail rate and raised it’s pass rate soon after the switch to the BRC and training numbers continued to increase. But, when the state lowered the percentage of those who passed and raised the fail rate to what they were under the RSS student numbers kept increasing.

Length of course and how fun/relaxed or student-centered/adult-learning does not appear to influence student participation in a negative way—if anything, the longer course in Illinois and the less adult-centered courses in Oregon and Illinois (and in one region in Illinois) may have a positive influence on student participation.

Is it true that “something’s better than nothing”?

MSF has convinced rider educators that poor students should be allowed to continue, counseling out should be rare and students should self-select to opt out if at all possible.

Rider educators overwhelmingly tell me that if they didn’t keep these poor riders in class “they would go out and ride anyways” and “something is better than nothing”. The assumption behind the second is that a poor but trained rider is a safer rider.

And rider educators at least in MSF-controlled states overwhelmingly report the supposed objectivity of the test forces them to pass students who should not pass, are not competent and should not ride in traffic.

Otoh, in complete contradiction to this common thinking among rider educators, Billheimer’s study said that one of the greatest benefits of rider training is that it convinces those who should not ride not to—and therefore lowers the fatality rate.

Yet here, in three out of four states (and we didn’t do these graphs for Idaho), we find this odd little correlation that may be just that: When the percentage of “Did not graduate” goes up fatalities go down. And we see in states that teach the BRC there’s at least a visual correlation between trained and passed numbers and fatalities.

Every study has found that trained riders were less crash-involved, no less traffic offense involved than the untrained at best. At worst, they had a higher probability of crashing. The one study—one of the Dr. Mortimer ones done a very long time ago—found that training only made those who rode small bikes and rarely rode, didn’t ride far when they did and were women were safer.

While this is hardly conclusive it suggests that MSF is wrong and Billheimer is right: failing a student or counseling them may save their lives by convincing them they aren’t cut out to ride.

Iow, nothing is better than something and they don’t go out and ride anyways—and yet MSF—whose manufacturer members benefit from selling more motorcycles if riders take training—and whose manufacturer members get product liability from riders taking training—keeps pushing this notion that instructors shouldn’t be gatekeepers and something is better than nothing.

And that should be a problem for good-hearted men and women who sincerely believe that training should be saving lives.

And it’s also something that should be studied further. One of the ways that it could be examined further is if the comprehensive accident study was actually done—but, once again, it’s the motorcycle manufacturer members behind MSF and MSF itself that has made that happening less and less likely.

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

April 1, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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