MSF on New Motorcycle Crash Study

October 19, 2009
Courtesy of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation

Motorcycle Safety Foundation Logo

For reference, the purpose of the statement below is to respond to the news release sent out by FHWA last week announcing the launch of a Motorcycle Crash Causation Study, “Federal Highway Administration Launches Major Study Into Causes of Motorcycle Crashes FHWA, NHTSA, Oklahoma State University to Partner on Critical Research Endeavor”

The intent is to set the record straight with regards to industry’s position via MSF activity. Particularly for the media. We have had several inquiries regarding this study; most are uninformed and think MSF has withdrawn its offer of 3 million dollars in matching funds. We hope this will help keep you informed and aware of the facts surrounding this important issue.

Motorcycle Safety Foundation Statement Regarding Crash Causation Study The MSF and the motorcycle industry would like to take this opportunity to address the recent decision by the FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) and OSU (Oklahoma State University) to conduct an ‘abbreviated’ Motorcycle Crash Causation Study. 

Transportation reauthorization legislation (SAFETEA-LU), passed in August 2005, mandated that the Crash Causation Study use the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) methodology, appointed OSU to conduct the research, and ultimately appropriated about two million dollars in funding. Also included in the law was a requirement for OSU to seek matching funds. The motorcycle industry, through the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, pledged three million dollars with a few reasonable conditions, the primary condition being that an adequate number of cases would be collected so that the US study could be comparable to other international motorcycle studies and achieve a satisfactory level of statistical significance. Following the passing of the law, the actual estimates to cover the entire expense came in at roughly eight to nine million dollars, meaning that the study was significantly under-funded. Unfortunately, to date, Congress has not committed additional financial support.

The MSF, industry, and safety experts agree that the abbreviated Motorcycle Crash Causation Study by OSU is unlikely to either validate the findings of prior studies or establish, to any statistical significant level, any new causative factors. The abbreviated study is unlikely to accomplish either of these goals because the sample size is expected to be only 300 crashes, compared to the 900 crashes collected and analyzed in the Hurt Study, 921 in the MAID’s Study (Europe 2000) and the 1,200 recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board. Conversely, if the study was conducted as it was originally intended, it would achieve the goal of identifying, to a statistically significant level, the causation factors upon which countermeasures could be developed to reduce tragic loss of life and improve the safety of our fellow riders. Industry’s commitment of three million dollars well exceeded the original matching funds level called for in SAFETEA-LU and industry has not withdrawn its offer. But with a limited sample size of approximately 300, we believe the study will not provide sufficient statistical significance of the OECD identified study variables and the MSF Board of Trustees has determined that MSF must continue to make its commitment of funds contingent upon a sample size of at least 900 cases.

We want to extend our thanks and appreciation to OSU for its professionalism and NHTSA and FHWA for their strong efforts in seeking to conduct the first U.S. Motorcycle Crash Causation Study since the Hurt Study of 1981. We are confident that OSU will do its best in working with the U.S. Department of Transportation and various contractors to achieve what can only reasonably be expected.

As for industry, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation will continue to invest in research and development of new rider training curricula and instructional methods, refinement of existing curricula, new instructional videos, publication of new books and safety tips, and other programs intended for the safety and well-being of motorcyclists. Any insights garnered from the ‘abbreviated’ OSU study will be considered among the other inputs to our continual improvement initiatives in support of riders everywhere.

Examples of MSF Continual Improvement Initiatives:

MSF Course Catalog includes:

• Seven hands-on courses for novice motorcyclists, three-wheel motorcyclists, and scooter riders; these range from parking lot (range) instruction to actual riding on streets and highways

• Five hands-on courses for riders with some experience; these range from parking lot (range) instruction to actual riding on streets and highways

• Five classroom-only “Host an Event” courses focused on rider choices and other roadway users respect for riders.
• And future plans based on addressing identified needs

Since August 2005 when SAFETEA-LU was passed into law, MSF has introduced four new RiderCourses, certified 4,988 RiderCoaches and 72 RiderCoach Trainers, developed and introduced a new licensing skills test, produced a series of three “Host an Event” training and awareness programs, and awarded 28 grants to individuals and organizations to conduct small-scale research projects and to provide public outreach efforts.

MSF provides training courses in 48 states, U.S. Territories, and the Kingdom of Jordan and will train an estimated 470,000 riders in 2009. Additionally, the MSF supports all branches of the U.S. Armed Services in all states and on bases around the world by providing approved training courses. In fact, MSF developed the Military SportBike RiderCourse (MSRC) in response to the U.S. Navy’s request for new curriculum to address the growing number of traffic deaths among Navy personnel who ride sport bikes. In FY09 the Navy implemented the MSRC and reported a 61 percent decrease in motorcycle-related fatalities.

The MSF is currently conducting and planning to conduct significant research that contributes to the public and academic discussion of various motorcycle safety issues.

MSF current projects include:

• The Discovery Project, a joint project with NHTSA and University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center that is testing the concept of safety renewal.

• Basic RiderCourse Validation Study, an external contract with Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) to report on the internal and concurrent validity of the BRC Knowledge and Skill Tests.

• Motorcycle Safety Campaign Effectiveness Study: Associate Professor Marifran Mattson from Purdue University and her students are developing public service campaigns for motorcycle safety, testing the effectiveness of the campaign and developing a public guide to implementing a campaign. This is supported by multiple National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety (NAMS) grants (funded by industry).

• SMARTrainer Efficacy Study, a preliminary exploration of integrating the Honda SMARTrainer into MSF novice training.

• Multiple ongoing projects that investigate potential new MSF courses and/or changes to current MSF curricula programs.

• Our regularly scheduled feedback surveys of MSF’s stakeholders.

Other preliminary research efforts include:

• Advising Accident Scene Management, Inc. as they work with the Medical College of Wisconsin to test a helmet removal protocol.

• Preliminary discussions with major university traffic safety program personnel and independent research consultants to study simulator use in training and motorcycle instrumentation’s application to training.

In conclusion, MSF adheres to the high degree of research, pilot and field-testing and ongoing refinement as new insights in crash investigation, traffic safety, motor skills development, student centered learning, brain-based learning, adult learning and more become available. In this regard, the Crash Causation Study as it currently stands does not meet MSF or international standards.