Last August saw the Motorcycle Safety Foundation launch the unprecedented, one-year-long MSF 100 Motorcyclists Naturalistic Study in conjunction with Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. It was designed to track comprehensive, real-time routine riding that likely included near crash, pre-crash, and actual crash data that had heretofore been unavailable. The study is yielding preliminary results that will be released at a later date.
“This field research provides the opportunity to observe motorcyclists in their natural day-to-day experiences,” said Dr. Sherry Williams, MSF director of quality assurance and research. “We were interested in what riders do on a natural basis — their normal, routine riding behavior. Basically, a naturalistic study is where you rig a camera or data recording device to someone’s personal motorcycle in an unobtrusive fashion so they soon become unaware they’re being recorded. It differs from traditional research, where a rider is put into a specific, laboratory-type scenario or has to crash first and then recall details after the fact.”
Sponsored by MSF and administered by VTTI, the MSF 100 Motorcyclists Naturalistic Study is the first of its kind in the motorcycling world. Similar to NHTSA and VTTI’s 100-Car Naturalistic Study, an automotive naturalistic study, this groundbreaking research is tracking 100 participant-owned motorcycles for one year and approximately 500,000 total miles.
Each motorcycle was equipped with extensive data acquisition systems, which include five color cameras, a GPS, accelerometers, gyroscope, forward radar, machine vision lane tracker, brake lever and pedal input sensors, and more.
“This research is very different from anything we’ve done before,” said Dr. Williams. “It offers much more valuable data than going to a crash site where the motorcycle may have been moved or removed and investigators are left to reconstruct the scene and infer primary crash factors. With this research, it’s all recorded and sequenced. So the video image coincides with the brake pressure data, which coincides with the accelerometer data, etc. We have this rich picture, where you can see the input from the rider and how the motorcycle is reacting. There are so many things that we can learn.”
Three different locations are being used to administer the study. In addition to VTTI in Blacksburg, Va., the other data collection facilities are the MSF headquarters in Irvine, Calif., and the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute in Orlando, Fla. These locations were selected because they offer a variety of riding conditions and traffic densities.
“We are very excited about this pioneering research,” said MSF President Tim Buche. “While we applaud the research that has been done in the past, we must acknowledge that, to date, we simply have had no data on how riders perform in everyday, uneventful riding. In the U.S. each year, riders travel over 25 billion miles, they ride safely and without incident. Riders have not been scientifically observed in a natural setting. And this naturalistic study is allowing us to learn from these riders and incorporate those findings into our rider education and training programs as well as other safety countermeasures.”
VTTI recruited 100 volunteer participants, who participated anonymously, based primarily on their age and model of motorcycle owned. The study is tracking two age groups – one in the 21-to-34 age group and one in the 45-to-64 age group – on seven motorcycle models: Suzuki GSX-R, Kawasaki Ninja, Honda Rebel, Yamaha V-Star, Harley-Davidson Sportster, Honda Gold Wing and Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation promotes safety through rider training and education, operator licensing tests and public information programs. The MSF works with the federal government, state agencies, the military and others to offer training for all skill levels so riders can enjoy a lifetime of safe, responsible motorcycling. Standards established by the MSF® have been recognized worldwide since 1973.
The MSF is a not-for-profit organization sponsored by BMW, BRP, Ducati, Harley-Davidson, Honda, Kawasaki, KTM, Piaggio, Suzuki, Triumph, Victory and Yamaha. For safety information or to enroll in the RiderCourseSM nearest you, visit www.msf-usa.org or call (800) 446-9227.