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Motorcycle Crash Causation Study Crisis

We've been following progress on the new Motorcycle Crash Causation study authorized by the SAFETEA-LU bill and recently announced by the DOT.

Our study resource page has detailed information on the study. We have additional information and news.

We've been running a petition, and we want to thank the 524 people who signed it. But we have, at least temporarily, withdrawn the petition, because the situation has changed.

We will continue to monitor the OSU study, and we understand that NHTSA has finally responded to our FOIA request for paperwork from the pilot study, which we hope to receive soon. And we will also follow the new MSF/VT study.

On March 31st, 2010, MSF announced that they are funding a study at Virginia Tech, which uses a naturalistic technique pioneered at VT. Naturalistic means that a bunch of electronics and cameras are installed on vehicles driven by regular folk, and any crashes, including minor dings, and also close calls are recorded by the devices. Apparently, the drivers soon ignore the monitoring devices, so their driving is 'naturalistic'.

Here's a link to the previous VT report on the '100-car naturalistic study', and here's a summary. VT also did some truck research, and their naturalistic studies have fueled a lot of the attention paid to distracted driving lately. The 2001 equipment they installed on the study cars was a bit bulky for a bike, but we assume that they'll be able to substantially minimize the gear for the bikes in the study.

We have to point out that this technique is untried on motorcycles and is the very definition of experimental, but we think it is a promising and economical alternative to the traditional Hurt methods.

This new study will presumably absorb most of the approximately $3 million that MSF had pledged to the OSU study and probably means that the chances of the OSU study getting any more funding are remote, especially in view of the turpitude of the OSU researchers, who have had their hands out for cash but haven't read the literature or learned to ride a motorcycle in the five years since they were earmarked to do the study. We hate to say it, but crash study funds entrusted to Dr Samir Ahmed and his cohorts are probably wasted.

We're going to wait and see, but we are also going to investigate the naturalistic study technique and report back soon.

One of the obvious advantages of a naturalistic study is that it will report successful evasions. By definition, classical crash studies kick in at the point someone dials 911, and by then any attempted evasions have failed. We might learn a lot about how to avoid crashes and maybe even potential situations from the new study data.

It might also be possible to somehow combine the databases produced from both studies, which might strengthen both approaches.

It's early days, but we will be gathering information and following the progress of both studies.