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Failing The MSF Class
Could Save Your Life

By: James R. Davis

In January of 1998 California's Motorcycle Safety Program (essentially an MSF) was critically analyzed in a paper submitted to the Transportation Research Board of the National Association of State Motorcycle Safety Administrators (SMSA). The full text of that paper can be found at: (SMSA Paper on CMSP)

It is not a long paper though like most such documents it is a bit stuffy. Still, if you wade through it you will find some interesting stuff. You will find, for example, that after two years following training, accident rates between trained and untrained motorcyclists are essentially the same. You will find that motorcyclists below the age of 25 account for about 7 times as many accidents per mile driven than older riders.

What I found particularly interesting was the following paragraph that is extracted verbatim:

One often overlooked impact of formal motorcycle training is its effect in discouraging some individuals from becoming motorcyclists and keeping riders who should not be on the road from injuring themselves. Follow-up surveys indicate that 16% of those trainees who no longer rode a year after training said that the basic course was a major factor in convincing them not to ride. This represents 5% of all riders taking the basic course and includes a disproportionate number of those failing it. It follows that roughly 3,900 unpromising riders (5% of all basic course students) have been kept off the roads since the start of CMSP operations. If these riders had continued to ride and logged 5,000 miles per year (about average for basic course graduates) and experienced the average accident rate registered by graduates, they would have accounted for roughly 120 accidents per year. Conservatively estimating the cost of a motorcycle accident at $49,500 (11), this represents a savings to society of $5.9 million per year. Thus it could be argued that the $1.3 million annual expenditure for the CMSP is more than justified solely on the basis of the unpromising riders it discourages.

When I teach MSF classes I am not particularly reluctant to ask certain people to leave those classes. These people are dangerous to themselves and others and have no business being on a motorcycle, particularly on a public street. It did not occur to me until I read the previous study paper that discouraging certain 'riders' is every bit as important as providing the best instruction possible for the rest.

We sometimes dwell on the accidents that we hear about. Maybe we should think a bit about the accidents that didn't happen - because some otherwise good people were discouraged to ride motorcycles by a critical MSF Instructor.

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(James R. Davis is a recognized expert witness in the fields of Motorcycle Safety/Dynamics.)

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