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Motorcycle Crash Causation Study FAQ
Frequently asked questions.
We've been discussing the study and our petition with numerous bikers, in person and on dozens of biker forums nationwide. Here are some questions that pop up frequently.
Questions you'd like answered?: contact us. We can't guarantee we'll have a good answer, but we'll look for one.
- Studies don't work
- A waste of tax money
- The study results will be used to justify additional controls on biker freedoms
- Bikers won't benefit from the new study
- The government should stay out of bike research
- The study might mandate expensive engineering changes to bikes that would reduce our freedom and make motorcycles more expensive.
- What else can I do to support the study?
The current OSU study is using a methodology derived from the Hurt study of 1981, and refined by the OECD for the Maids study, the Thailand study and the current study. This is based on epidemiology research. What happens is that 2000 or so categories of data are collected on the crash scene and during follow-up investigation, and the crash is reconstructed. A control sample is also recruited from the biker population and used to show what the expected results are for bikers not in a crash. They have reliable statistical methods to figure out which factors are important in crashes. For example, if 10% of the population sample bikes have ABS, and only 2% of the bikes involved in crashes, then they'd look at ABS as a possible safety benefit. As this is just a sample of crashes and statistical methods are being used, there will always be a margin for error.
Population control groups are also used in medical and drug research, and similar statistical methods are used in voter surveys, product testing and the like. We daily risk our lives using on the results of studies that are very like the crash study. These studies are not perfect, but they are the best we have, and do produce reliable information.
The DOT released numbers showing that, of the $2.5 million funding from SAFETEA-LU and NHWSA, that more than $2.4 million has already been allocated to the study in the years 2006 and 2007. There is still some state safety money, AMA cash available. What we are talking about here is for the study management to get their house in order and attract the MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) to put in the roughly $3.1 million that they pledged for the study.
MSF announced in October that they are withholding their pledged matching funds, citing the reduction in numbers from the minimum 900 to only 300. Ignoring for now that MSF is being a bit cute in not pointing out that the study number would be closer to 700 if they put their loot in, they have a valid point. Study costs are apparently out of control and there seems like plenty of funding available to finish it at the 900 number, if excessive spending can be got under control.
The history of the helmet law debate, and attempts by the insurance industry to introduce speed governors, make bikers justifiably suspicious of a lot of research, and the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Admin).
Bikers have our friends in the AMA (American Motorcyclist Assoc) to thank for managing this problem in the current OSU study. They have made sure that the helmet issue, in particular, is out of scope. The politically suspect NHTSA is being kept out of the management of the main study (although they did control the pilot study). The researchers have been briefed, and repeat at the slightest opportunity, that 'helmet use is not a major cause of bike crashes and will not be in the scope of the study). Finally, the study is being done in Los Angeles, a helmet-law state, so the chance of many helmetless bikers getting studied is small. And the researchers will not be allowed to suggest any countermeasures.
There is no saying how the report data will be used or misused by various interest groups after it is collected, but we can report that groups like the Insurance Institute and NHTSA have been totally hammered into submission by the biker lobby, and are actually afraid of us.
Besides helmets and speed governors, the other major area of statutory change would be at the sate level. Following trends in the military and common practice in Europe and Japan, there may be proposals for a two-level licensing and training structure. As this would be a state by state issue, and this is a long process, there will be plenty of time, and allies in the bike training industry, to make our views on that known also.
If they come up with proposals to restrict our freedoms, we can and will take them out.
Part of the answer is that we don't know for sure, that's why we need the study.
Recent studies in the military has resulted in four new sportsbike courses. That's the military demographic, they are a young group. Training deficits in the older biker population might be addressed in the study, and this might lead to improvements in basic bike training also, which many say is overdue.
Crashes caused by cages turning across bikes and right-of-way violations will probably be down, maybe under 40 percent. The realization that the majority of crashes are now the fault of the biker, with single bike crashes maybe around 40% and biker-caused cage crashes around 25%, might make bikers realize that we are no longer victims, and start taking the initiative, improve our riding skills and situational awareness, and take the stick away from those who would like to regulate us more.
Bikers who are using additional techniques, such as ABS, running lights, extra bright lighting technologies like HID, PIAA or LEDs, modulators, autoreflective decals, or advanced training, might be identified by the statistical analysis (chi-squared tests) used to identify factors in the population (control) study group. The Hurt study, for example, in this type of analysis, found that much fewer bikes in the crash sample had their lights on than the bikers in the control group. Subsequently, the bike manufacturers were mandated to remove the headlight switch, and the measure probably saved countless biker lives. Mandates to put ABS or better lighting or a pre-ride checklist on all bikes could prove equally effective in avoiding future crashes. We just don't know what might be revealed, and this, in our opinion, could be really important. The reduction in the crash sample size to 300 instead of 900 to 1200, reduces the effectiveness of this mechanism and this may well be the biggest loss to bike safety to come from the current study proposal.
Maids produced an unexpected result. They found that cage drivers who are in crashes with bikers are only half as likely to be at fault than the average driver. We infer from this that cage drivers can be educated to notice bikers better. If this is also the case with the OSU study, it might lead to fresh initiatives to train cage drivers to look for bikes, and if every driver was so trained, there's the potential for a 20% reduction in crashes.
It's entirely possible, if reports that 'Loud Pipes Save Lives' are true, that the study might prove this. If that's the case, exhaust system modifications might turn up more in the control group than in the crash sample. If the difference was statistically significant that would be good evidence in favor. The opposite could also be the case.
This study is financed by various organizations, including the AMA (American Motorcyclist Association), $127K, MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation), $3.1M, six state DOTs $560K, NHTSA $500K and Congress via SAFETEA-LU measure 5511, $2M.
The totals are: industry and biker sources ($3,227K), Feds ($2.5M), States (560K).
Public funds are less than half of the total. The current problem is to get things sorted so that MSF puts its cash back in the picture. We actually want to reduce the portion of the study that is publicly funded, and get more biker and industry control of the study.
The public funding is mainly from bikers' gas taxes. That's mostly spent.
When AMA ran a campaign to get bikers to contribute to the study, they were able to raise only $27K, less than a third of one percent of the current study funding. We agree that these studies would be better run by bikers, but we have a long way to go to make that so.
- Print off some copies of the petition and bring them to your next group ride or chapter meeting.
- refer the petition a friend using our email form
- check out the study stakeholders and contact them about the study
- ride with us in April 2010 to present the study in Washington. We have a mailing list if you would like us to let you know the plans
Firstly, the OSU researchers have been instructed not to make any recommendations. Any additional mandates would have to come from other agencies, probably in DOT.
We do think that it is possible that engineering improvements that some bikers might be employing, such as ABS, running lights, other additional lighting or improved headlight technologies like HID and PIAA, might be found by the study and possibly proven to be a safety benefit.
Other improvements might be suggested by the study noticing motorcycle failures that could be prevented by engineering changes. The most obvious item here might bs something like dual brake lines, but considering the low rate of bike problems (0.3%) found in Maids, this seems unlikely to be an issue in very many cases.
One possible thing that might happen in this scenario is that NHTSA might introduce a measure to require it on all motorcycles. This would result in slightly higher motorcycle prices. Harley Davidson has been charging an extra $400 approximately for ABS as an option on its big tourers, and are making it standard on all its bikes in the 2010 model year. Honda charges a little over $1000 for ABS on its ST1300A model. We can assume that making it standard would reduce engineering costs significantly and the action of the market might further reduce motorcycle price increases. We note that there are large differences in performance of between the various manufacturers' ABS systems.
But, if ABS is actually a lifesaver, eventually someone will prove it, and when that happens, the motorcycle manufacturers will be vulnerable to product liability lawsuits if they fail to follow Harley's lead. The free action of the information marketplace and the tort system might soon have the exact same effect as a government mandate.
Other engineering improvements might have the same adoption process.
We'd like to see this sort of information from the study, and we don't think that government mandates will be necessary for more widespread availability of these technologies. Maybe all that might happen is that ABS or other engineering improvements might become available as options on more bike models, and bikers would have the information they need to make our own decisions as to costs and benefits. Either outcome is possible as a result of the study, and the study researchers will not be making any recommendations, just providing hopefully clear and valid evidence on these issues.