St. Louis, MO
Posted - 02/07/2011 : 5:17 PM
I was talking to a beloved friend on Friday morning and he suggested that one point in the Pleasantville entry deserves to be underscored:
Recently, NHTSA presented the latest road safety statistics at the State Motorcycle Safety Administrators conference in Billings, MT. I suggested in the earlier entry, that the NHTSA statistics could be seen as a means of evaluating motorcycle safety program effectiveness--a job performance review, if you will.
According to M$F, more than 1.6 million students were trained from 1998-2006. Iow, more than had been trained from 1973-1997 (1.4 million). And there's been perhaps another million trained since 2006. More than 3 million have taken training and, according to NHTSA, there's just over 5 million registered motorcycles in the USA. Sure, there are some who have taken the course more than once and many who take the course and do not go on ride and many of us own more than one motorcycle. However, in the history of motorcycling, the percentage of trained riders to registered motorcyclists has never been higher.
Never before in history have more basic and advanced rider training skills courses been taught by more providers. There's never been more trained instructors delivering courses in more locations than ever before and offering those courses with greater frequency and earlier in the spring and later in the fall. And, with a minute number of exceptions, all training has used M$F curriculum. The M$F has never in its history offered a greater number of curricular products. And finally, never before has there been better and more effective injury reducing helmets and gear available to riders and worn by more riders.
Bottom line: there's never been more better prepared and trained riders on the roads. If, as we believe, trained riders and geared up riders are safer, it would reasonable to expect riders would never be better able to deal with the danger of the roads.
However, for the tenth year in a row motorcycle fatalities are up and haven't been this high since 1975. As we should all know by now, the rate of increase exceeds the increase in motorcycle registration. And, as Shankar told me over a dinner, according to the latest data, that pattern continues in 2008: fatalities will again be higher than ever before even though motorcycle sales are down. Worse yet, data reveals that, contrary to the findings of the early 80s Hurt Report, more riders are at fault in multi-vehicle crashes than the motorists involved. The percentage of speed related and BAC involved deaths and unhelmeted deaths has not statistically changed in 10 years.
The last time the death toll was this high was 32 years ago when rider training was almost unknown and almost no rider wore any kind of helmet, safety gear was minimal and there were minimal to non-existent efforts to raise motorist awareness, change drinking and riding (or driving) behavior, and so forth.
Bottom line: But unlike 1975, multimillions have been spent on rider training and millions have taken it and millions wear the best safety gear ever produced and yet there's more riders dying and dying from rider error than ever before. The roads, then, have never ever been as deadly as they are today nor had more deadly dangerous riders on them than they do today.
So if motorcycle safety programs are supposed to produce safer riders and more safety on the roads, I'd say that's a pretty damning job performance review.
If this was a corporation or government program and so much effort, time and money had been devoted to so many by so many for so long and produced such poor results, the endeavor would be deemed pretty much a massive failure. Failure itself is a harsh word to use let alone massive. So let's look at how failure is defined:
- It is an act that doesn't result in a positive outcome--"the failure to find an effective way to convince riders to wear helmets or to not drink and ride has resulted in a higher death toll";
- Something that does not accomplish its intended purpose or primary goals--"over 14 studies have found training has failed to produce safer riders." Or: "that the same percentage of BAC involved, or speeding or unhelmeted riders are dying points to a failure to communicate safety messages in a way that reaches the target audience and produces a change in behavior";
- A person, entity or object with a record of a consistently failing to achieve the desired outcome--"study after study has shown that riders trained with M$F curriculum are at greater risk of having both traffic violations and crashes. M$F is a failure at producing an effective safety training course";
- An unexpected omission--"state motorcycle safety programs are basically a failure at doing anything but offer rider training to meet their safety mandate";
- The state or condition of not meeting a desirable or intended objective--"10 years of rising motorcyclist fatality rate point to a resounding failure of the motorcycle safety and rights community to deal effectively with this issue."
- Nonperformance of what's expected or requested--"State motorcycle safety programs devote almost 100% of their time, effort and money to solely offering rider training. This represents a failure to see motorcycle safety as more than training and thus a failure to fulfill the intent of the SMRO activists that worked to establish those programs and the mandate embedded in those laws."
Ultimately, failure is defined as the opposite of success--and for the last ten years, motorcycle safety as a profession has not been successful in making motorcycling safer. Failing making it better, those who were entrusted with rider safety didn't even manage to keep the fatality rate stable. Instead, crashing has increased by 61% according to NHTSA and fatalities have increased by an astounding 129%! I think that is the very definition of failure, don't you?
It's not that events haven't given you a chance to respond to the crisis--you've had ten years and counting. If the approach motorcycle safety has taken was going to help, surely it would've shown some sign of working by now. And it hasn't. In fact, motorcycle safety itself could justly be called the role model of woefully, lethally inept methods of dealing with a critically lethal problem.
I suppose some may say that even more might be dying if you weren't holding classes, and so rider ed has been a success not a failure. Which we all hope is true, but there's absolutely nothing to back it up. The truth is: motorcycle safety professionals never even implemented cursory efforts to gauge rider training effectiveness while studies have consistently shown it's made things more dangerous for many riders. So if you want to claim rider training is successful at producing safer riders or that your safety messages are effective or that you have at least kept things from getting worse, you failed to take the steps to do that as well.
So what is your job supposed to be anyhow? If the purpose of motorcycle training is to increase the number of motorcycles sold, you did a damn fine job. Bully for you.
If your job is to hold training courses, you've also done an admirable job of that--as I said at the beginning, more than three times as many riders have been trained in the past ten years than in the previous 25. But that brings us back to the same problem--studies show that training not only doesn't prevent crashing it raises the chance of crashing. And crashing is a form of failure. It is certainly failure to apply what the course supposedly teaches--and that's a failure of instruction or curriculum.
But if the business of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and the mission of the State Motorcycle Safety Administrators and the purpose of the state motorcycle safety programs is supposed to be safe riders riding safely on our roads, I'd say the verdict is in:
Bottom line: Both roads and ranges are less safe after 10 years of greater efforts, more manpower, and multiple millions of dollars spent. I'd say that was the very definition of job performance failure, wouldn't you?
That leads me to the last definition for failure: A malfunction or state when someone or something can no longer achieve its purpose and is no longer fit for its purpose.
For 34 years, M$F has been the self appointed sage on the stage when it comes to motorcycle safety and taken control over what messages are broadcast to the media and public. It has increased its domination over motorcycle safety and programs steadily over the past 10 years--the very years that has seen this horrific surge in rider fatalities.
And during this time not only has the death toll on the roads surged but fatalities in rider training have exploded. In that regard, motorcycle safety professionals not only haven't made it better or kept it on an even keel, they have allowed it to get very much worse by ignoring the problem. So if your job is really just training, you have allowed it to get and continue to be extremely hazardous--and that's a failure.
Good business managers would realize that past efforts have not yielded expected results and rethink their approach, and re-examine what they have been doing. If they didn't, the board would. If the board didn't the stockholders would. People would be called to account and chances are some would be fired. There would be significant changes for no business could afford to operate in this manner and stay in business.
Anyone in any field presented with such massive failures would try alternative means, seek out better products and more effective training. Instead, rider educators and other motorcycle safety professionals congratulate themselves on a job well done. It reminds me of President Bush saying "Good job, Brownie" to the head of FEMA in the aftermath of Hurricane Katerina.