Archive for the ‘Motorcycle legislation’ category

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.

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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.

Pennsylvania, A Tale of One State: The Helmet Effect

May 12, 2009

Once again and before we start, here’s my position on helmets: I wear, by choice, a full-face helmet and believe should be a matter of personal choice. I also will not write one word to help repeal or reinstitute a helmet law. The following, then, is not in support in one position or another and should not be taken as such.

The repeal of the helmet law would seem to be a likely culprit to the 142.7% increase in motorcycle fatalities—so let’s see what effect it really had:

The bill was signed into law in 2003, and that year, the state motorcycle fatality rate increased by 16.9%. Which seems to prove everything advocates say about helmet laws.

However, in 2003, only 3 more unhelmeted riders were killed in 2003 than in 2002—or a 10% increase. That might surprise you that I use the words “more” and “increase”—but, as you’ll see in the chart below, riders were killed without helmets before the law was passed. So, if there’s a helmet effect, there was already a small degree of that operating in Pennsylvania.

Three additional unhelmeted deaths, though, didn’t really affect the fatality rate in Pennsylvania in 2003. Some would suggest that there were only three because the bill was signed in September and it was almost the end of the riding season. But that’s to minimize that huge jump in the fatality rate—and it was among helmeted riders who had a 19.38% increase—or almost twice the increase than among unhelmeted fatalities.

PA unhelmeted and helmetd deaths

Then came 2004—the first full season where riders could go helmetless as long as they had either two years of experience or passed a training course.

In 2004, the number of unhelmeted deaths increased 145% which is a huge immediate increase. It translates into 48 more riders than the previous year died sans lid. It seems to be a big Aha! Moment for the helmet people.

Logically, some increase would be expected simply because so many more riders were going helmetless. The question is whether helmetless riders were contributing more than their proportion of the riding population. Research claims that helmet use decreased to 58% in Pennsylvania—and in 2004, unhelmeted riders were 49.7% of the fatalities—so they were contributing more than their share of fatalities.

What’s odd though is that overall fatalities only went up 2.5%—only four more riders total were killed in 2004 than in 2003. Hardly the bloodbath on the beltway we were led to believe would happen.

In actuality, 48 more riders died while not wearing a helmet but 35 fewer helmeted riders died.

But that’s not all that was extraordinary about 2004 in Pennsylvania: It was also the year of the single largest increase in motorcycle registrations with over 41,000 additional motorcycles being registered that year. The figure is all the more extraordinary because the prior year saw an increase of just over 1,200 bikes and the following year, 2005, the increase was just over 13,600 motorcycles. So 2004 was remarkable for more than just no more helmet head.

Iow, there was a full year of helmetless riding when tens of thousands of motorcycles  and 18,699 riders took the basic course and were added to the road mix. It should’ve been the year of living dangerously and instead fatalities only went up 4 riders—2.5%—over the previous year.

And while some years experienced a decline in fatalities, 2004 was the smallest increase in the timeframe from 1998-2007.

The helmet law had an effect but it didn’t necessarily mean that more riders died than had the helmet law not been repealed. And it’s also suggestive that the relationship between increased motorcycle registration and fatalities is not so simple or clear-cut as we have been led to believe.

2005 was stranger still: unhelmeted fatalities increased by 12.34% (10) but helmeted fatalities increased 47.5% (39) and overall fatalities increased by 30% while motorcycle registrations only increased by 4.7%.

And an even stranger thing happened the next year: In 2006, motorcycle registrations went up 8.2% but overall fatalities experienced a decrease of 11.3% However, helmeted riders saw a bigger decrease than unhelmeted ones.

Only when the helmet law was five years old in 2007 did the statistics match up to the picture we have been led to believe is the norm: motorcycle registrations went up 7% and 19 more unhelmeted riders than helmeted ones died and the overall fatality rate increased by 23.9%. Iow, only 2007 shows the kind of correlations we have been led to believe is the norm.

PA regs v. unhelmeted fatalities

The relationships between helmet use and fatalities, motorcycle registration and fatalities does not seem to be as simple or straight forward as we’ve been led to believe. None of this is to suggest that riders who may have lived die instead because they weren’t wearing a helmet.

Otoh, it seems to strengthen the belief that repealing universal helmet laws increases motorcycle sales–at least temporarily.

Training to ride helmetless

There appears to be another effect, however—training, which is believed to lower the risk of riding, appears to be correlated with non-helmet use—which is believed to increase that risk.

Training had been generally increasing since 1997 with the biggest jump in 2000 with an 11% increase—but then training actually decreased 5.2% in 2001 and stayed almost exactly the same in 2002.

Training numbers increased as the law moved through the legislature and to the Governor’s desk and continued to grow. Training grew 28% in 2003, another 11% in 2004, stayed at that level in 2005 and increased another 16% in 2006 even as motorcycle registration growth slowed down. Training decreased in 2007.

This suggests that the significant increase in training appears to be correlated with riders who went out and bought a bike because they now could ride without a helmet if they got training. But did training act as the antidote to riding without a helmet?

PA training v. unhelmetd fatalities

Now that we’re more than two years past the helmet law repeal the only way someone can begin to ride without a helmet is by taking training. So any new (≤2 years) unhelmeted rider fatality has gone through training—if they are licensed, that is. It’s unknown how many of the fatalities–trained or untrained–were trained or untrained. The relationship between training and fatalities and training and unhelmeted fatalities and what it might say about the quality and effectiveness of training should be explored.

56% (95,618) of all the students have been trained and 56% (955) of the fatalities have all occurred since the helmet law was passed. It’s unlikely that all riders who died were trained. But it’s equally unlikely that they were all untrained.

The increase in motorcycle registrations since the helmet law has been repealed is 61% (103,983).

It also should be noted that the motorcycle manufacturers not only control the course curriculum and licensing standards but the administration of the training program in Pennsylvania and benefit financially from the increased sale of motorcycles and accessories.

The question is whether other states show similiar evocative patterns. And we’ll get to that soon.

Mandatory training bill in North Carolina—now with mushy language

April 15, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(3) Any course approved by the Commissioner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happens to costs when MSF takes over?

March 22, 2009

I read the NY Comptroller’s audit report on MANYS and the attached DMV letter in response today. I couldn’t help but notice that DMV’s Edward J. Wade, Director of Audit Services practically apologizes that MANYS was the administrator of the program, then he explains how it had to be because of how the law had been written, then he gloatingly took credit for the bill, S7405, that was rushed through the NY legislature last year in time for MSF to bid on the NY state program.

That bill was sold to both the DMV and the state ABATE as needed because “Due to the lack of competition, the cost of rider training in New York has risen to the highest in the nation. This lack of competition also impedes efforts to correct deficiencies in the performance of any coordinating organization,” according to this official communiqué from Pam Wright the state legislative officer for ABATE in 2008. Competition–that free market fundamental–is supposed to do what it’s supposed to do and benefit New York and its motorcyclists. So let’s see if that’s true:

Training, upstate, is $275 and in the NY metro area is $350 according to the Comptroller’s Report.

It’s certainly not the most expensive training in the nation. For example, Rider’s Edge in Glendale, CA costs $395. Lakewood, NJ is outside the exurban metro NY area but Rider’s Edge is still $350. Iow, brand name costs the same price that a private school operating a 1 ½ acre range in the most expensive real estate in the nation costs.

Non-brand name training prices are pretty comparable to other courses in the region, too. In NJ, for example, the non-profit Rider Training of New Jersey in Camden, NJ near Philadelphia, it costs $295. At Fairleigh Dickson University (with the mailing address of Hackensack, NJ) it’s $300. Rider Education of NJ charges $250 for training in locations such as Sussex, Middlesex or Randolph counties. If cost-of-living is considered, New Yorkers have an even better deal: The $275 course in Boston, MA seems cheaper NYC but it would cost $452 in Manhattan if cost of living is considered. The $250 course in LA would cost $372 in the city.

So I have to wonder—don’t these well-intentioned people do any research or do they simply believe what they’re told?

It also should be noted that MANYS hadn’t raised the price cap since 2005. MSF’s press release says it will keep the prices the same for two years and then raise them.

For this reason alone, the rationale given by NY’s ABATE and NY’s DMV that competition would be good for the cost of training is bogus. It won’t be—in fact, MSF has promised that the cost that’s supposedly the “highest in the nation” will go even higher.

Wade, in the DMV’s response to the Comptroller goes on to assure them, “The new contractor [the Motorcycle Safety Foundation] has a proven record of accountability and effectiveness with experience administrating the motorcycle safety program for four other states.”

Oh really? Just wait until you see what it costs after MSF takes over:

New Mexico

In 1997, the year before MSF took over training in NM, training cost $75 per adult student and there were 10 training sites of which most were mobile. In 1998, MSF got a $70,000 administration fee a year.

In 2002, the program trained 2,550 according to MSF’s “Cycle Safety Information 2003” with a budget of $302,059. Training now costs $150—double what it did before MSF took over.

In 2006, according to this report to the NM Confederation of Clubs, MSF trained 2,771 students (however, the SMSA survey states that 3,029 took the course—and 2,421 passed).

As of 2007, according to the SMSA annual survey, just three more sites had been added in ten years bringing the total to 13. MSF was getting $100,000 a year for administration. MSF had a budget of $485,00—$100,000 of which includes MSF’s administration fee.

Up to $454,350 in revenue came from student fees—iow, almost all MSF’s budget was met before money from the state collected in fees on motorcycle registration.

Training is still not happening in several areas of the state. And, according to the report to the confederation of motorcycle clubs, MSF wanted to raise the motorcycle registration fee from $2 to $5—a 150% increase—even though the vast majority of the training costs were borne by student course fees.

Pennsylvania

When MSF took over the Pennsylvania program in 1999, it also underbid the previous contract holder. Shortly after ABATE President Joe Dickey became an instructor, he spearheaded legislation that more than doubled the surcharge on licenses and registrations—strangely enough from $2 to $5—another 150% increase. MSF subsequently increased its fee for running the program when the contract was renewed. Training continues to be free for students in the basic course.

West Virginia

MSF took over West Virginia’s program in 2002. In MSF’s 2003 publication, Cycle Safety Information, it states it cost WV students $50 to take the BRC. The West Virginia Motorcycle & Safety Awareness site lists that as $100 today—double what it cost before MSF took over.

MSF also has significantly increased the fee it charges the state with every renewal of the contract though so far I’ve been unable to get hard evidence of fees—or numbers of students trained. WV does not participate in the SMSA survey.

California

MSF took over California in the same way that it took over New York. It also aggressively under-bid Crayne and Associates. It also claimed it “saved” Californians $400,000 however, the CHP liaison officer dryly pointed out that it didn’t save any money—it just hadn’t spent as much as it said it would up until that point—however, the contract wasn’t finished yet. Nor had it trained as many students as it said it had.

Like in NY, Crayne and Associates gave motorcycles to the sites. And under Crayne and Associates, sites were reimbursed $75 for each 18 and under student they trained. Both of those stopped when MSF took over.

Before MSF took over Harley-Davidson could not offer Rider’s Edge in the state and get the driver’s license-waiver. After MSF took over California, Harley-Davidson sponsored a bill through Assemblyman Rudy Bermudez to get the price cap taken off. A later version was worded it in such a way that it would remove all authority over the program from the California Highway Patrol. After Assemblyman Rudy Bermudez, lobbyists from Harley and CHP officials met, the CHP created a new classification for training—premier—that could charge up to $400 and Rider’s Edge could be profitably offered in the state. The price cap on standard courses remained and training now costs $250 because of the CHP—about a 21% increase over the $198 it was when Crayne and Associates had the program.

Just as that change was announced:

the CHP got a really great deal on Electra Glide police motorcycles.

The bill that would’ve stripped all power from the CHP over the program disappeared.

And Bermudez got a lot of donations from clients of the same lobbyist that Harley had used—who had never given to him before.

But in the months after that:

Bermudez narrowly lost his senatorial bid.

CHP decided that the wobble problem with the Electra Glides were so treacherous it decided not to purchase them.

Otoh, Harley got to get the driver’s license-waiver and charge up to $400 for the BRC all dressed up in black and orange.

Right now, there are only three states in the USA where Harley-Davidson’s Rider’s Edge is not offered. New York is one of them. Will it still be next year?

The idea that competition could keep training costs down when the only “competition” is the Motorcycle Safety Foundation isn’t borne out in MSF’s administrative history with the four states it already took over.

Auditing the AP article on the New York State Motorcycle Program

March 20, 2009

Before the sun came up yesterday, I was watching Morning Joe and drinking my cuppa Joe I read an article on the Newsday.com site, “Audit: high spending at cycle training program” distributed by the Associated Press without any originating media source or attribution. I suggest you read the article first before reading the rest of this entry.

I don’t know Joe Aiello and had never spoken to him before I had read the piece. I know several people who do not like him (hatred is a more accurate word to describe one of them) or have their own problems with how MANYS ran the program. And, before the article had been published, I had heard from a trusted source that there was financial mismanagement of the program. If anything, I was predisposed to take the article at face value.

On a cursory read, it appears as solidly reported news. However one very obvious thing raised a red flag:

Although very serious allegations are made about MANYS no one from the organization was contacted for comment—nor is there even a “attempts to reach for comment were not returned”. Nothing. [NOTE: As I was going over Aiello’s response to AP, I discovered that a later version of the article on the Newsday site included at the very end of the article mention that whoever generated the article tried to get hold of someone from the Association. This was not in the article I read before the sun came up.]

That is not standard procedure in newsrooms and generally indicates its generated by vested interests. I myself would love to get comments from MSF on everything I write but they stopped responding to my requests years ago and I got tired of calling and e-mailing with no response. Had I unlimited minutes, I would, however, do exactly that–leave messages, send e-mails, wait interminably just so I could say that I tried.

What readers may not know is that AP also accepts press releases and other articles generated from public relations firms, etc. and prints them verbatim but without identifying them as such. It was not clear where this article orginated (and my efforts to find out through the AP have been unanswered).

I had to talk to Joe Aiello to get his side—after all, the Newsday article presented only what interests such as MSF would want out there. Otoh, my friend had shared the rumors—so maybe there was fire under the smoke.  I was able to speak with him yesterday and asked him some hard questions on the phone yesterday morning. He was unaware that an article allegedly finanical misbehavior had been printed. Being uwaware he was also unprepared and that’s a good time to ask someone questions. I took good notes, which I will share with readers.

I also have a call into Bill Pautler, at the NY DMV, but he has not returned my call as of yet.

Later in the day I received an e-mail that Aiello had sent to the Associated Press—and Newsday.com did publish an article that addressed many things he said in that e-mail. And I suggest you read the followup article, too. In the next entry I am posting Aiello’s entire rebuttal uncut.

But before we let Aiello present his side, I believe it’s important that you know what I knew as I read the article in the first place. It’s background information that may give you a different perspective that may help in evaluating what both sides have gotten into print in the mainstream media:

As I had revealed long ago on the old Journalspace blog, in late 2004, employees at the Motorcycle Safety Foundation saw a document called a “hit list” that listed the states that MSF planned to take over. New York topped the list. At that time, MSF had just taken over the California program and MSF was struggling to get that program up and running (almost as badly as they’re handling NY now). The next time the NY contract was up for bid was the fall of 2008–and MSF, as we know, moved to take over the state. But they didn’t wait until the fall to begin.

In May 2008, a bill was introduced in the NY Senate, S7405 that removed requirements that would prevent an organization such as MSF from taking over the state program. The need for this modification was explained as “…this bill would encourage competition among motorcycle rider training coordination organizations to provide the highest quality training program at the lowest cost to riders.”

There are, however, extremely few “motorcycle rider training coordination organizations” in existence–and now there are less. In fact, the only two I can think of: the first was the one that used to be in California–Crayne & Associates–they lost the bid to MSF–and MANYS which lost the bid to MSF. It is fair to say that the bill was passed that benefited only one such entity—the Motorcycle Safety Foundation was the only corporation that could compete with MANYS. No other organization that met the legislative definition was prepared to bid on the program.

Astute readers will recall that a bill is currently before the New Jersey legislature that would also remove obstacles that would prevent MSF from taking over that program and that such language is already in the bill before the Mississippi legislature that would establish a state program. New Jersey was also on the “hit list”.

Just 2008 was the first year MSF could respond to the RFP, 2008 was the last year such a bill could be passed in time to bid on the program.

At the same time, MANYS had already allowed Lee Park’s Total Control to operate as a state-authorized program and Park’s program was going to expand greatly this year. Parks, it is rumored, is coming out with a novice training program.

MANYS had also planned to start offering a sidecar course this year that would use Evergreen Council’s curriculum instead of MSF’s new sidecar course.

Aiello was also going to allow independent contractors who wished to use TEAM Oregon’s curriculum to do so under the state program.

Otoh, he had no problem letting Rider’s Edge in either—as long as they met the requirements for ranges, instructors and so forth.

As he said, if the program was good, whatever would get students in to take a course was good for New York.

MSF’s takeover then was just in time to prevent any other curriculum than its own from being taught as part of a state program.

After I had read the Newsday article I went back to the source who had heard the rumor of financial misdealing to find out how he had heard. The rumor was being spread by someone who stood to benefit from MSF taking over the program from MANYS. And it also turned out that he heard the rumor before MSF was awarded the contract—and weeks before the audit was done. That, then, also influenced how I looked upon this conveniently timed article.

Such tactics–making allegations of misdeeds fits MSF’s modus operandi from its takeovers of other states. It’s also how it deals with critics in general. Not only that, Tim Buche had insinuated to me, Dave Searle and Fred Rau similar financial misbehavior about Crayne and Associates, Doug Fitts and Hoot Gibson shortly after MSF had taken over the California state program—none of which turned out to be true. In the same interview, Buche also insinuated similar thing about TEAM Oregon, too—and that didn’t pan out either. In fact, he told me specifically to “follow the money”. Which I did–though I didn’t think he imagined I’d follow MSF’s money.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation also has claimed it’s come in as the savior of troubled state programs in each of the states it’s taken over. So I had to consider the possibility this was yet another case of Yogi Berra’s déjà vu all over again.

I also had to wonder about the timing of Thomas P. Di Napoli’s (D) involvement in this article. Di Napoli has been politically ambitious from youth and who had been an Assemblyman before he tried to run for Lt. Governor but bowed out after Spitzer of the so-ethical-and-yet-so-involved-in-a-prostitution-ring fame chose another running mate. Di Napoli then set his sites on becoming Comptroller. He promised to be an  ethical wunderkid—just like Spitzer had promised to be if he was elected Governor. The NY Comptroller is the sole trustee of the $154 billion-dollar NYS pension fund. According to an article published by the NY Times on March 14th—three days before the audit article on MANYS—Di Napoli “also routinely accepts contributions from those seeking to do business with his office, from investment firms, executives and law firms to intermediaries known as placement agents.”

Questions have been mounting about how he manages that multi-billion dollar pension fund and some of the deals he’s been making. So it’s a little odd he gets concerned about supposed financial misdeeds of a non-profit that—even if they had been true—would amount to chump change compared to the shenanigans he’s now suspected of doing. The original article alleged misdeeds that amounted to very little money—however, when AP contacted Di Napoli’s office for comment on the rebuttal suddenly Di Napoli’s office is claiming several hundreds of thousands of dollars were misspent. So which is it?

All of which begs the question because MANYS didn’t lose the contract because of these supposed misdeeds but because MSF submitted a lower bid. Yet the article implies that was the cause. Once again the timeline is important:The contract was awarded in January. The audit wasn’t done until the second week in March. So why would this article suddenly appear and allege financial problems?

Nor was the audit that’s just been completed the first that had been done on MANYS. The politics of rider ed in NY has always been highly contentious—two separate individuals both felt they and they alone should run the program and both separately on more than one occasion created rumors of financial mishandling and audits were subsequently done. In every case MANYS passed. The timing of this one—just as MSF takes over yet another state—becomes interesting and particularly so when allegations after it’s done are published—and…well, you’ll see.

Given the background, then, this article that smears MANYS is awfully convenient as it serves the interests of the rich and powerful in a way that does not serve motorcyclists or the small businessmen that operate the training courses in NY, and it does not serve the truth.

So that’s the broader picture–and the reason that no one should take anything at face value that appears in the media. Including this blog. Ask questions, look for agendas, and always give it the old smell test: who gets power, who gets power, who has the vested interests. Critical reading–a very good skill.

So this–or the next entry is not to say Aiello isn’t the epitome of the stereotypical Brooklyn boy and rather off-putting as a result. Nor is it to say MANYS did a particularly good job running the NY motorcycle program. He could be a total jerk for all I know and the program run poorly.That’s not the issue.

It is to say that it fits a pattern that’s happened over and over of alleging that MSF comes in the savior for poorly run programs, a pattern of smearing opponents and predecessors and a habit of cozying up to influential politicians with runaway ambitions.

Still, there have been allegations made—and the rebuttal that AP consequently published not only didn’t give the space for Aiello to address each allegation. Otoh, it gave Di Napoli a chance to rebut the rebuttal. And that’s just wrong since Aiello didn’t have the opportunity in the first place.

Therefore, it’s more than fair to let Joe Aiello have a chance to tell his side of the story—and that entry will be up tomorrow.