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 Nobody Told Me That Motorcycles Are So Dangerous
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TooManyHobbies
Junior Member
50 Posts


Patchogue, NY
USA

BMW

Posted - 03/29/2018 :  5:24 PM                       Like
Nobody Told Me That Motorcycles Are So Dangerous - that's the title of the paper I came across today. I guess I've been out of the loop, but today I learned that David Hough has been promoting the idea that the only way to reduce motorcycle fatalities is to encourage people to stay off of motorcycles. At least that's my "takeaway" after reading the paper, and exploring the rest of the Motorcycle Institute website http://www.motorcycleinstitute.org

Here is a direct link to the paper: http://www.motorcycleinstitute.org/...-told-me.pdf

The site also states that since the data shows that the training, safety gear and everything else we learned after the Hurt report has basically had no effect on fatalities, that training needs to change. Rather than physical skills, training needs to focus more on mental skills.

I've read everything on this site written by Wendy Moon as well as Mr. Davis's opinions regarding training and maybe their ideas are supported by what I've seen at the Motorcycle Institute website.

Has anyone else spent time looking over that material? I'd be interested in hearing the thoughts of others.

James R. Davis
Male Administrator
17333 Posts
[Mentor]


Houston, TX
USA

Honda

GoldWing 1500

Posted - 03/29/2018 :  6:44 PM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend  
What was alarming to me, and unknown, was the statement that whenever motorcycle 'safety training increased, so did fatalities - without exception.

I disagree that 'safety' is what the MSF trains - they do lip service to it. The MSF is a SALES ENHANCEMENT organization that exists because of the sponsorship of its motorcycle manufacturing affiliates. What they do properly, in my opinion, is teach control fundamentals in a relatively safe environment.

'Safety' is largely a matter of personal perspective and attitude and the MSF has added attitude material to their courses, though they are in no way qualified to adjust my attitude or anybody else's.

Yep, trying to keep casual riders away from the sport can reduce the statistics, but nothing - absolutely nothing - can be done to make motorcycling safe. And maybe that's why some people ride - to experience the danger.

Graduated licensing makes a lot of sense to me. Doing away with the MSF makes no sense at all.
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scottrnelson
Advanced Member
6922 Posts
[Mentor]


Meridian, ID
USA

Honda

XR650L, 1090 Adv R

Posted - 03/29/2018 :  7:36 PM
I didn't read every word of the paper, but scanned the whole thing. It looks a bit weak to me. The graph showing motorcycle fatalities per population looks like it might be similar to total motorcycles. It should be fatalities per motorcycle rather than related to total population. Or maybe fatalities per mile ridden, which might be in one of the other graphs.

But overall, I'll be the first to admit that motorcycles are dangerous, and I'll tell that to anybody who is considering taking it up. But if someone wants to ride badly enough to buy a bike, I'll also do all I can to help them learn to be a safe rider. I know that you can greatly improve your odds if you study and practice safe riding techniques.
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TooManyHobbies
Junior Member
50 Posts


Patchogue, NY
USA

BMW

Posted - 03/29/2018 :  7:49 PM
quote:
Originally posted by James R. Davis

What was alarming to me, and unknown, was the statement that whenever motorcycle 'safety training increased, so did fatalities - without exception.



I don't think they are suggesting that the training makes for worse riders, but instead the training makes more riders. Further reading on the site and of other articles by Hough imply, as pointed out on this site, that the training is designed to turn out more licensed riders which in turn drives sales and increased the total number of riders. While the overall risk when compared to automobiles remains constant, the number of motorcycle fatalities increases because there are more riders.
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TooManyHobbies
Junior Member
50 Posts


Patchogue, NY
USA

BMW

Posted - 03/29/2018 :  8:01 PM
quote:
Originally posted by scottrnelson

I didn't read every word of the paper, but scanned the whole thing. It looks a bit weak to me. The graph showing motorcycle fatalities per population looks like it might be similar to total motorcycles. It should be fatalities per motorcycle rather than related to total population. Or maybe fatalities per mile ridden, which might be in one of the other graphs.



Correct, one of the things being considered is the total number of motorcycle fatalities as it relates to total population. In another article, Hough suggests that as the number of fatalities will rise as the percentage of the population that rides increases. He speculates that if the sport keeps growing the number of fatalities as a percentage of population may reach a critical mass that will attract the attention of law makers.

Here is a link to all of Hough's articles : http://www.motorcycleinstitute.org/...ounced-Huff/
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scottrnelson
Advanced Member
6922 Posts
[Mentor]


Meridian, ID
USA

Honda

XR650L, 1090 Adv R

Posted - 03/30/2018 :  9:36 AM
quote:
Originally posted by TooManyHobbies
Here is a link to all of Hough's articles : http://www.motorcycleinstitute.org/...ounced-Huff/

Well there goes my morning. Now I'm going to have to read all of those.
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DataDan
Advanced Member
576 Posts
[Mentor]


Central Coast, CA
USA

Yamaha

FJR1300

Peer Review: 1

Posted - 03/30/2018 :  5:59 PM
I'm well acquainted with that document and others produced by ...ahem... "L. Ron" Elliott and the Church of Motorcycology. I certainly agree that motorcycling is dangerous, and that everyone who takes it up should thoroughly understand how dangerous. Beyond that, their thoughts and mine diverge.

The statement Jim referred to...

Each state shows a dramatic increase in motorcycle crash fatalities whenever motorcycle "safety" training became popular, especially when the training was connected to motorcycle license testing. There is no exception.

...isn't supported by any reference I could find on the site or elsewhere. My guess is that they observed a correlation between the astounding boom in motorcycling from the late 1990s to present--and corresponding annual fatality increase--and the growth of motorcycle training. However, in the one case where I have actual data about motorcycle fatalities and institution of a training requirement--the state of California--enactment of the training requirement for young riders in 1987 (age < 18) and 1991 (< 21) was accompanied by a 54% drop in deaths in the affected age group from 1986 (221) to 1991 (102). Make of that what you will. Maybe it improved the riding population; maybe it just kept them off of motorcycles. But it did NOT lead to an increase in deaths.

If you're not already aware of it, NMI has developed and promotes their own training program, so it's probably best to read their critique of MSF with that in mind. I understand that their program is the basis of Lee Parks' "Total Control" basic program. Lee has had his own advanced program for many years, but for his huge business breakthrough of getting the California Motorcyclist Safety Program contract--MSF's loss--he needed a basic rider course. I have no criticism of that course, nor of MSF's. Both, IMHO, run up against the fundamental training-for-safety problem I wrote about here in my 2010 thread Can the Effectiveness of Training Be Measured?


David Hough's dotage has been difficult for me to accept. I've read everything he wrote for MCN from 1994 until his retirement in 2017, and I have and recommend all of his books. My anger reached a point in 2017 that I started a thread at the MCN forum systematically dissecting with data and graphs a particularly egregious column (unfortunately that site has been down all week) shortly before he retired.

Hough's (and NMI's) use of fatality rate per million population is outrageous. That is a measure of "burden on society" not motorcycling risk. I'm sorry, but I don't give a damn about NMI's "societal danger rate". My decision to ride a motorcycle takes into account the benefit I gain and the risk I incur, and I recognize no outside authority to make that decision for me.

Dave asserted in one of his columns that only a certain percentage of the population is capable of riding a motorcycle--without a scintilla of evidence--thus justifying measures to suppress the sport.

He also took NMI's cue on helmets and ranted against their effectiveness. His August 2015 column (the page you linked, it's "What We Wear Part 2") was a terrible assessment of the actual value of helmets. We have ONE PIECE of gear that actually saves lives, and he's diminishing its value. In another column he attacked a NHTSA paper on helmet effectiveness (again from an NMI cue) because of rather thin results. In fact, my update of that 2003 study (with data thru 2016) confirms and solidifies the results. Helmets do, in fact, prevent about 37% of deaths that could occur in motorcycle crashes.
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TooManyHobbies
Junior Member
50 Posts


Patchogue, NY
USA

BMW

Posted - 03/31/2018 :  6:12 AM
I reread the "Can the Effectiveness of Training Be Measured?" thread and understand the point much better now than when I read it a few years back. I think that NMI believes that "Societal Danger" numbers will help them determine the efficacy of training, which the thread I just mentioned points out the difficulty of. I base this on an email exchange between myself and Mr. Elliott in which he suggested that those numbers can be used in determining how effective training is in another country. I don't know what their math looks like, but I can't see how societal danger determines how effective training is unless the real goal is to keep people off of motorcycles. Then the question is, why? More people die from eating too much and sitting on the couch than riding motorcycles, by orders of magnitude. The societal danger of motorcycling is insignificant compared to, say, medical mistakes. Again, I wonder what the agenda is?

I am still bothered by the fact that the fatality rate / million vehicle mile traveled has remained constant since the Hurt report and the proliferation of rider training, better tires and ABS. On the personal level, can the right attitude towards motorcycling make it less dangerous? That to me seems like a good research question that needs to be answered. It seems like Hough assumed that certain behaviors would make you safer as he argues in Proficient Motorcycling, then at some point decided he was wrong and it's all a roll of the dice. Maybe he came to that conclusion because over the course of his career, the fatality rate / mile stayed the same?

Again, interested in hearing the thoughts of others.
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DataDan
Advanced Member
576 Posts
[Mentor]


Central Coast, CA
USA

Yamaha

FJR1300

Posted - 03/31/2018 :  12:45 PM
quote:
Originally posted by TooManyHobbies

I reread the "Can the Effectiveness of Training Be Measured?" thread and understand the point much better now than when I read it a few years back. I think that NMI believes that "Societal Danger" numbers will help them determine the efficacy of training, which the thread I just mentioned points out the difficulty of. I base this on an email exchange between myself and Mr. Elliott in which he suggested that those numbers can be used in determining how effective training is in another country. I don't know what their math looks like, but I can't see how societal danger determines how effective training is unless the real goal is to keep people off of motorcycles. Then the question is, why? More people die from eating too much and sitting on the couch than riding motorcycles, by orders of magnitude. The societal danger of motorcycling is insignificant compared to, say, medical mistakes. Again, I wonder what the agenda is?

I am still bothered by the fact that the fatality rate / million vehicle mile traveled has remained constant since the Hurt report and the proliferation of rider training, better tires and ABS. On the personal level, can the right attitude towards motorcycling make it less dangerous? That to me seems like a good research question that needs to be answered. It seems like Hough assumed that certain behaviors would make you safer as he argues in Proficient Motorcycling, then at some point decided he was wrong and it's all a roll of the dice. Maybe he came to that conclusion because over the course of his career, the fatality rate / mile stayed the same?

Again, interested in hearing the thoughts of others.


Several points here, but I can't get to them in detail right now.
  • The motorcycle fatality rate per hundred-million VMT has dropped by half since 1980 (Hurt was published in '81). See Figure 7 in NHTSA's Traffic Safety Facts Annual Report 2015 (PDF) for a graph.

  • Motorcycle VMT estimates are really messed up in the years 2000-2006. Ignore the corresponding fatality rate in those years. I can give you a link to a US DOT document that acknowledges the problem.

  • Think of the motorcycle fatality rate as the product of two values: the crash rate (per 10^8 VMT) and crash lethality (deaths per 100 crashes). The former is about 40% higher than the rate for cars and light trucks. It has fallen by about 35% in the past 30 years, and there is room for additional improvement, but not as much as we might want. The latter is 30 times that for cars. It has increased by about 50% over the past 30 years and doesn't seem likely to decrease, while the rate for cars has dropped dramatically.

  • Motorcycle crash lethality has increased because: 1) helmet law repeal in some big states; 2) aging, more vulnerable riding population; 3) relative increase in light trucks (pickups, SUVs, minivans), which are more deadly to motorcyclists than cars.

There are undoubtedly some errors in the hastily retrieved numbers above. I'll correct when I have time.
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TooManyHobbies
Junior Member
50 Posts


Patchogue, NY
USA

BMW

Posted - 04/01/2018 :  8:28 AM
I understand your points Dan, and agree with them thank you.

I believe that NMI has a mathematical model that they believe measures the efficacy of training. That model uses Societal Danger to "normalize" many factors such as training, road engineering, attitudes towards driving etc. This model seems to show that compared to "other factors" training has very little to do with overall motorcycle fatality rate. From the perspective of a bureaucrat the Societal Danger may be important, to the individual rider it is completely irrelevant. So, is NMI interested in the individual rider, or simply reducing overall fatalities by discouraging people from riding? I tend to think it's the latter.

I am interested in seeing the model they use so I can get an idea of what training would need to accomplish, in their model, that shows it would be effective. It is possible that the analysis is constructed in such a way that even highly effective training (provable by some yet unknown measure) would still yield results that show it to be insagnificant.



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DataDan
Advanced Member
576 Posts
[Mentor]


Central Coast, CA
USA

Yamaha

FJR1300

Peer Review: 1

Posted - 04/02/2018 :  8:15 PM
In my post Saturday, I included some statistics that were compiled in a hurry and need correction. Here I present the data more accurately and completely, and with proper citation.

The following tables compare crash rate, crash lethality, and fatality rate for motorcycles and passenger vehicles (cars and light trucks) in selected periods since 1980.

Motorcycles

............................rider.........rider
..............crashes.......deaths........deaths
..............per 10^6.....per 1000......per 10^9
................VMT........crashes.........VMT
------------------------------------------------
1980-1982.............|.............|.....410.56
1988-1990......10.92..|......27.39..|.....299.25
1995-1997.......6.63..|......29.95..|.....198.64
2007-2009.......5.43..|......40.88..|.....222.01
2013-2015.......5.33..|......42.16..|.....224.82


Passenger Vehicles

...........................driver........driver
............crashes........deaths........deaths
............per 10^6......per 1000......per 10^9
..............VMT.........crashes.........VMT
-----------------------------------------------
1980-1982............|.............|......15.15
1988-1990......5.72..|.......2.04..|......11.64
1995-1997......5.00..|.......1.89..|.......9.46
2007-2009......3.60..|.......1.94..|.......6.98
2013-2015......3.72..|.......1.56..|.......5.81


A few conclusions jump right out:
  • Motorcycles are far more dangerous than cars. Duh. NMI's assertion notwithstanding, I think most people already know this. The most recent death rate per vehicle-mile traveled shows that a motorcyclist is nearly 40 times as likely to die in a crash as a driver.

  • Motorcycles crash somewhat more frequently than cars, per mile traveled, but not a lot.

  • However, in the event of a crash, a rider is nearly 30 times as likely to be killed as a driver, as seen in crash lethality--deaths per 1000 crashes.

  • Motorcycle crash lethality has increased by more than 50% since 1990. As I previously posted, in my opinion, this is due to helmet law repeal in some states and the aging rider population. My thread Helmet law repeal in Michigan: A four-year review shows a 12% increase in Michigan crash lethality after the 2012 helmet law repeal--and post-repeal Michigan still has a fairly high rate of helmet use. The thread Vulnerability of older riders in motorcycle crashes estimates the effect of age on lethality.

  • The crash rate for motorcyclists, on the other hand, has dropped by half over the past 25 years and is presently lower than the car crash rate of 25 years ago.

The data:
  • Estimates of vehicles involved in crashes is from NHTSA's Traffic Safety Facts Annual Report 2015, Table 3. The unit is vehicles, not crashes, and includes fatal, non-fatal injury, and non-injury crashes reported to police.

  • Estimates of vehicle-miles traveled are from TSF Tables 7, 8, and 10. As I mentioned in a previous post, the 2000-2006 estimates are worthless. See this NTSB Safety Recommendation for background.

  • Deaths are from NHTSA's FARS database (Fatality Analysis Reporting System). Because of the higher occupancy rate of passenger vehicles, I have counted rider and driver deaths only--no more than one occupant per crash vehicle. This tends to decrease the fatality rate for cars.

I selected times periods at significant points in the recent history of US motorcycling, and I averaged 3 years to reduce the effect of normal year-to-year variation.

  • 1980: A dark time. Deaths were high and climbing. We Baby Boomers were, on average, 25 years old, and we had fallen in love with motorcycles. Safety wasn't a concept we were familiar with and, besides, we were young and indestructible. Crash rate is not available because NHTSA had not yet begun to publish estimates of crash count.

  • 1988: The first year NHTSA published crash count estimates. Annual motorcycle deaths were down significantly from the early '80s peak.

  • 1997: The end of the motorcycle depression, the incredible boom just beginning to take off. Sales and registrations were at the lowest points in many years. But so were fatalities, and that's what makes this an interesting time for comparison.

    Another feature of the mid-90s was a low fatality rate, and it's not obvious why that should be. Total risk was down because of lack of participation, but why was average risk down, too? My speculation is that with fewer new riders jumping in, average experience in the riding population was way up. And one thing we know from Hurt and MAIDS is that experience substantially reduces crash risk.

    In addition, this was the year that helmet law repeals started. Texas, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana (later re-enacted), Florida, Pennsylvania, and Michigan dropped the all-rider helmet requirement with legislation 1997-2012.

  • 2008: The end of the motorcycling boom, the beginning of the Great Recession. The return of reasonable VMT estimates.

  • 2015: Present day, or as close as I can get with data I currently have.


My conclusion from all this is that motorcycle safety has come a long way. Somehow, whether with training, informal spread of knowledge, or just the tendency of older folks (who now flock to motorcycles) to act a bit more prudently, we crash significantly less than we did 25 years ago. Unfortunately, crashing has simultaneously become more deadly, but even that doesn't seem to be totally beyond the realm of personal choice.

Motorcycling has brought me great pleasure, and, as I finish up my seventh decade on the planet, I look forward to more of the same. I'm disgusted that a bunch of over-the-hill ex-riders are now trying limit access to the sport now that they're done.
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