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Motorcycle deaths surge in Missouri and Kansas


John in VA

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Should a "surge" thread be in this forum?

tongue.gif

 

A serious topic. Hard to discuss w/out interjecting personal beliefs.

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When I see idiot riders wearing required helmets along with flipflops, cutoffs and tank tops and making bonehead maneuvers, helmets are not the main issue.

 

Yup, but I guess the author wasn't convinced, despite this quote near the end:

 

“You really have to look at what are the causes of those crashes,” said Patricia Turner, an associate research scientist at the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University. “Is it an alcohol-involved crash? Are your motorcycle registrations going up?”

 

Duh? And are they all dying of head injuries?

 

Tax dollars at work. eek.gif

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The government and the news media love to jump on spectacular statistics, even if they don't understand what the numbers mean. We really have two problems: first, how to manage the media so they don't run off at the mouth and convince non-riding citizens that someone has to step in and save us from ourselves.

 

The second problem is actually solving the rising fatality rate. The fatality numbers are impressive, but it's the fatality rate (say per 100,000 registrations) that helps tell the real story. Unfortunately, the folks who should be working on motorcycle safety are trying to build an empire. Much of the great advances in motorcycle safety that occurred between 1980 and the mid-1990s has been abandoned. Rider training has been "dumbed down" to ensure just about everyone gets a license--and gets to buy a bike.

 

Very little of this has been announced by the motorcycle press, perhaps because most magazines are members of the Motorcycle Industry Council--significant other to the MSF.

 

What's really happening to stimulate the rise in the fatality rate? Do you believe that rider training helps reduce the crash or fatality rates? Do you think it is just a coincidence that the fatality totals AND the fatality rate began to climb about the same time the MSF switched from the venerable MRC/RSS to the "new" BRC?

 

pmdave

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I gotta tell ya. I took the MSF course last November after 15 years off of riding. I thought it was great. But I could not believe they passed two of the eight riders. They just were not ready. They both looked pretty surprised, as well.

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ShovelStrokeEd

OK, a couple of comments here.

 

1. The article seemed pretty fair to me although quoting that the numbers went up without relating it to registrations in a deaths/100K way is not the best.

 

2. Rider training is the way to reduce the deaths. The MSF basic course just barely qualifies the rider to maneuver a tiny motorcycle around in a parking lot. It doesn't really teach situational awareness or anything approaching high effort braking or swerving skills. The result, as registrations increase, is more and more riders with less and less skills out there. Is it any wonder more and more are dying?

 

3. To focus on helmets is silly. To mandate the DOT standard is, IMHO, even sillier. Following their requirements only insures that the helmet will survive the crash, not the rider.

 

4. I liked the comment in the middle of the article stating that a helmet is only one part of proper safety gear.

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I'm not so sure that focusing on helmets is a bad idea. Yeh, I know that statement will raise the hackles on a lot of red necks, but I also believe in being realistic.

 

While I believe in rider training as the primary means to reducing crashes and fatalities, I also believe our rider training system is seriously flawed. We squander a lot of time, money, and attention on silly-aff training that offers very little to arm the new rider to do battle on public roads.

 

I realize that a helmet has severe limitations. Even the best DOT/SNELL helmet can attentuate impacts up to maybe 20 mph to help protect the brain from injury.

 

How about this idea? For the first two years of operation, a motorcyclist must wear a full coverage white helmet with a big red L on all sides, as a means of warning other motorists that the rider doesn't know what he/she is doing yet. The rider could dispense with the helmet after two years if there have been no reported crashes. A crash would start the two-year clock again. No age or culture-related waivers.

 

pmdave

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Dave, I know your heart is in the right place, but first let's not refer to those who reject helmet laws as "rednecks." That's name calling and we don't need it.

 

Second, I agree wholeheartedly with you on what manufacturer-sanctioned/supported rider education has become, what I see as the character of those running it, and what their agenda appears to be. However, "branding" new riders with a helmet color and/or a "Scarlet L" would likely do more harm than good. While it may make the conscientious more careful around them, it would make them targets of society's 4-wheeled reprobates, prejudice police perceptions upon first arriving at an accident scene, and probably be unenforceable or at least a back-burner issue for patrol officers. After all, if someone is riding properly and safely, what probably cause do I have and even if I stop them anyway, why should I bust them for their helmet color?

 

Besides, there's a discrimination issue at stake in that similar identifying markers are not placed on automobiles and/or drivers during their first two years of operation, during which accident statistics are generally much higher than for experienced drivers.

 

At the moment, I'm not offering a solution. I agree with you about rider education. The current offerings are dismal, and they were barely tolerable (IMHO) before the dumbing down.

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Any opinions about a graduated license system? 45 mph top limit for first six months? Daylight only for first year? No passengers for first two years? Some states have restrictions for teenagers or new drivers. Don't really know how they work.

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While I believe in rider training as the primary means to reducing crashes and fatalities, I also believe our rider training system is seriously flawed. We squander a lot of time, money, and attention on silly-aff training that offers very little to arm the new rider to do battle on public roads.

 

I suppose your criticism is mainly aimed at the MSF BRC curriculum.

 

There's more to training than curriculum, though. There's also the matter of actually offering the courses, which is coupled to a need for incentives to cause riders to enroll in them.

 

Beyond its BRC, MSF supposedly also offers an Experienced Rider Course, and I sure wish I could take it. But I can't. None of the numerous MSF locations within two hours of here offered it last year. They cited lack of demand when I asked. Plenty of BRC was offered, but no ERC.

 

Causing courses to actually be offered comes down to incentives to create enrollment. Incentives to take the BRC include lower insurance rates and exemption from the riding skills test when seeking a license, and those incentives really work -- they cause the BRC sessions offered by community colleges etc. to fill up nicely. However, there are no incentives of this kind that would cause a rider in my state to take further training beyond the BRC. If there were, the demand would materialize and most likely the community colleges would actually offer the courses.

 

So my point is that instead of just bashing the basic training that exists, it might be better to advocate further training beyond that basic training. To make that further training happen, you have to focus on incentives: what incentive can be created, and what institution can create it. I'm not sure what that combination would be. Maybe a higher level of insurance discount, mandated by the state.

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Any opinions about a graduated license system? 45 mph top limit for first six months? Daylight only for first year? No passengers for first two years? Some states have restrictions for teenagers or new drivers. Don't really know how they work.

 

Ontario has a graduated system as below. I have seen European countries with riders wearing special vest, but then they are generally much more road savy then NA's IMHO when it comes to motorcycles and bicycles.

 

Graduated Licensing for Motorcycle Riders

 

If you're a new driver applying for your first licence to ride a motorcycle, you'll need to enter Ontario's graduated licensing system. That means you'll earn full driving privileges in two stages.

Class M1

 

New motorcycle riders with a Class M1 licence learn to ride under these four conditions:

 

* your blood alcohol level must be zero;

* you must ride only during daylight hours (1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset);

* you must not ride on highways with speed limits of more than 80 km/h except highways 11, 17, 61, 69, 71, 101, 102, 144, 655;

* you cannot carry passengers.

 

After you pass a motorcycle knowledge test, you will get a Class M1 licence and an information package for new riders. You must spend a minimum of 60 days with a Class M1 licence, which is valid for 90 days.

 

Motorcycle riders who successfully complete an approved motorcycle safety course that includes a road test with an M1 licence are exempt from taking the ministry's M1 road test and can move to an M2 licence after 60 days. If you complete an approved safety course in either level, you can reduce the time that you must hold an M2 licence from 22 to 18 months. While the motorcycle safety course certificate is valid for two years from its issue date, it may only be used for the M1 road test exemption within six months of its issue date.

 

See also: Motorcycle Safety Course Providers

 

With a Class M1 licence, an operator can drive a moped, limited-speed motorcycle and a motorcycle.

Class M2

 

You must pass an M1 road test or complete an approved motorcycle safety course before receiving a Class M2 licence. You must have a Class M2 licence for a minimum of 22 months. If you complete an approved motorcycle safety course, you may reduce this time requirement by four months. With an M2 licence, you gain more privileges - you may ride at night and on any road. However, at this level:

 

* your blood alcohol level must be zero;

* you will be eligible to take a Class M road test after you have completed the time required with an M2 licence;

* you must pass this test to get a Class M licence.

 

I like the no alcohol, no passenger and daylight riding. I also think the encouragement to go to a course is there.

 

Of course Ontario has a helmet law as well. I would say in summer at least one MC death a week, alot more injuries.

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The problems go way beyond the MSF's latest curricula. Back in the 1980's the MSF leadership was honest and open. It was no problem to call up a staffer and have a chat, or drop by the Irvine offices and be invited to go for a ride.

 

It wasn't all one way, either. Suggestions, articles, and curriculum ideas were freely offered to the MSF by writers, instructors, and course administrators.

 

But around 1994 a very dramatic change took place. The staff was intimidated and warned not to talk with anyone outside the MSF. The phones were tapped to catch any spilled beans. I'm not making this up. One by one, any of the experienced MSF staff were discouraged to the point of quitting, or in some cases just being laid off. The situation has been described by on ex-staffer as a "blood bath."

 

Today, the MSF staff is composed of people who have no knowledge of what transpired, and very little knowledge of or experience with "On Highway" motorcycling. Anyone who intends to stay employed keeps their head down, talks to no one outside the MSF, and NEVER disagrees with the president.

 

Because the staffers of the 1980's were serious motorcyclists who were enthusiastic about doing good things, we had been fooled into thinking that the MSF was like the local library, or perhaps school district, preparing useful information and helping course sites deliver training. And yes, the efforts of the MSF in those days just happens to be in a time frame in which the fatality frequency was gradually dropping. I don't think that's a coincidence.

 

But since the MSF pulled into it's bunker and slammed the door, training has gone downhill and the MSF has taken an antagonistic rather than a cooperative attitude. And by coincidence, the fatality numbers are climbing again.

 

For years, the maximum size of a training bike was 250cc. Then Harley Davidson decided to get into training with Riders Edge, described by one state coordinator as the BRC wrapped in orange and black. Harley didn't have a 250cc bike, but they wanted new riders to learn on an HD, because new riders often buy the same brand they learned on. So, HD developed the 500cc Buell Blast, and explained to the MSF that the rules need to be changed. Suddenly the maximum training bike size was increased to 500cc. And, coincidentally, there have been five fatalities to date in Riders Edge training courses. Not fatalities following a course, but riders killing themselves during training exercises.

 

Lest you believe that I do not support training or motivate riders to take training, I taught many ERC courses over a period of roughly 10 years, gave presentations at club meetings, arranged for "club" courses, and lobbied at the state level to create incentives for training.

 

The problem is that I can't recommend the MSF curricula being offered today, in particular the "ERC Suite." It won't hurt you, but it won't help you either.

 

I believe that what's drastically needed today is "advanced" training that picks up where the novice course leaves off. The recently licensed novice needs information about such things as riding in traffic, surface hazards, and cornering control. As most of us now realize, motorcycling is primarily a thinking process, and accident avoidance strategies should be high on the list of priorities. But, dang it, the MSF took the classroom lessons out of the old ERC, and made the exercises just a rehash of the novice BRC. The instructor, whoops I mean "coach" is supposed to throw in a few comments about such things out on the range (out in the sun, rain, wind, noise, etc.) without any training aids.

 

The ongoing story is being told in Motorcycle Consumer News, and occasionally in BMW ON. If you haven't heard about what's happening, I'm not surprised. The AMA and most of the motorcycle publications don't want to say anything because they are members of the Motorcycle Industry Council.

 

It's a repeat of "The Emperor's New Clothes."

 

pmdave

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Beyond its BRC, MSF supposedly also offers an Experienced Rider Course, and I sure wish I could take it. But I can't. None of the numerous MSF locations within two hours of here offered it last year. They cited lack of demand when I asked. Plenty of BRC was offered, but no ERC.

 

Don't know that this would be much of a solution either ... unless the ERC course is different in other locales, I found it to be essentially a BRC repeat using my own bike.

 

Don't get me wrong, it was useful ... but not particularly more challenging than the basic course.

 

lurker.gif

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The problems go way beyond the MSF's latest curricula. Back in the 1980's the MSF leadership was honest and open. It was no problem to call up a staffer and have a chat, or drop by the Irvine offices and be invited to go for a ride.

 

It wasn't all one way, either. Suggestions, articles, and curriculum ideas were freely offered to the MSF by writers, instructors, and course administrators.

 

But around 1994 a very dramatic change took place. The staff was intimidated and warned not to talk with anyone outside the MSF. The phones were tapped to catch any spilled beans. I'm not making this up. One by one, any of the experienced MSF staff were discouraged to the point of quitting, or in some cases just being laid off. The situation has been described by on ex-staffer as a "blood bath."

 

Today, the MSF staff is composed of people who have no knowledge of what transpired, and very little knowledge of or experience with "On Highway" motorcycling. Anyone who intends to stay employed keeps their head down, talks to no one outside the MSF, and NEVER disagrees with the president.

 

Because the staffers of the 1980's were serious motorcyclists who were enthusiastic about doing good things, we had been fooled into thinking that the MSF was like the local library, or perhaps school district, preparing useful information and helping course sites deliver training. And yes, the efforts of the MSF in those days just happens to be in a time frame in which the fatality frequency was gradually dropping. I don't think that's a coincidence.

 

But since the MSF pulled into it's bunker and slammed the door, training has gone downhill and the MSF has taken an antagonistic rather than a cooperative attitude. And by coincidence, the fatality numbers are climbing again.

 

For years, the maximum size of a training bike was 250cc. Then Harley Davidson decided to get into training with Riders Edge, described by one state coordinator as the BRC wrapped in orange and black. Harley didn't have a 250cc bike, but they wanted new riders to learn on an HD, because new riders often buy the same brand they learned on. So, HD developed the 500cc Buell Blast, and explained to the MSF that the rules need to be changed. Suddenly the maximum training bike size was increased to 500cc. And, coincidentally, there have been five fatalities to date in Riders Edge training courses. Not fatalities following a course, but riders killing themselves during training exercises.

 

Lest you believe that I do not support training or motivate riders to take training, I taught many ERC courses over a period of roughly 10 years, gave presentations at club meetings, arranged for "club" courses, and lobbied at the state level to create incentives for training.

 

The problem is that I can't recommend the MSF curricula being offered today, in particular the "ERC Suite." It won't hurt you, but it won't help you either.

 

I believe that what's drastically needed today is "advanced" training that picks up where the novice course leaves off. The recently licensed novice needs information about such things as riding in traffic, surface hazards, and cornering control. As most of us now realize, motorcycling is primarily a thinking process, and accident avoidance strategies should be high on the list of priorities. But, dang it, the MSF took the classroom lessons out of the old ERC, and made the exercises just a rehash of the novice BRC. The instructor, whoops I mean "coach" is supposed to throw in a few comments about such things out on the range (out in the sun, rain, wind, noise, etc.) without any training aids.

 

The ongoing story is being told in Motorcycle Consumer News, and occasionally in BMW ON. If you haven't heard about what's happening, I'm not surprised. The AMA and most of the motorcycle publications don't want to say anything because they are members of the Motorcycle Industry Council.

 

It's a repeat of "The Emperor's New Clothes."

 

pmdave

 

Let me preface this by saying that the following is purely personal opinion.

 

There is an ongoing chronicle of the issues with MSF, its behavior, the behavior of its senior officers, along with the MSF's recent lawsuit against Oregon State University and "Team Oregon" (the Oregon Motorcycle Safety Program), which dared develop its own curriculum. This chronicle is being kept and maintained by a USC lecturer and investigative writer. She goes by MoonRider and her journal is here.

 

You will have to do some digging as this work is detailed and in depth, as well as spend quite a bit of time reading. But if you want to know how the Motorcycle Safty Foundation has become what most of its former instructors now refer to as the Motorcycle $ales Foundation, even to the point of calling it the M$F, read this writer's journal.

 

I have yet to hear both sides of the story. But with no apparent axe to grind, MoonRider makes very interesting reading, willing to be critical of both sides, but mostly aghast at the politics, pressure, misdirections, misrepresentations and manipulations she sees coming from the MSF and its leadership.

 

We have all heard much made recently about motorcycle fatalities rising among middle-aged re-entry riders. A lot of these are folks buying cruisers (brand means nothing). Yet the cruiser phenomenon is a decade-and-a-half old. So why are the fatalities increasing only recently if the problem for 15 years was unskilled new and re-entry riders? Perhaps that's not the case. Perhaps it is the more recently introduced weak curriculum (as PMDAVE mentions above) and instructors who are pressured (so I'm told) to pass virtually EVERYONE.

 

The turmoil within the community of MSF instructors, both past and present, against what they see as a curriculum that does not come anywhere close to doing the job it once did, is interesting. And now that Team Oregon has developed its own curriculum, the MSF is going to take them to court.

 

Take the time to read MoonRider's Journal. Her findings provide a fascinating perspective on the politics and machinations behind what is supposed to be an endeavor that we are all to benefit from.

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Don't know that this would be much of a solution either ... unless the ERC course is different in other locales, I found it to be essentially a BRC repeat using my own bike.

 

Don't get me wrong, it was useful ... but not particularly more challenging than the basic course.

Even a rehash of the BRC would be much better than nothing for me. The BRC includes avoidance manuevers like swerving, and they are done both in the classroom and on the range. The trouble is, the BRC just went by so fast for me, a year and half ago, that I never felt I really learned to swerve. A day or so on the range just wasn't enough for a raw beginner like me. I think I need more instruction for swerving. So I'd like to take another class, but I can't.

 

Conspiracy theories about the MSF? They are entertaining for some, I suppose. But the fact remains that a class could be offered to teach me to swerve, but it isn't happening for reasons that have nothing to do with any conspiracies at MSF HQ. The reason there's not a second course offered here is a lack of an incentive for 15 other riders to enroll in the course.

 

I thought my BRC class was pretty good. Not perfect, but pretty good. It was clear to me, comparing the class content and the Hurt report, that much of the BRC content was driven by the biggest safety risks identified by research. I think that's good. Sure, there was a tiny element of sales pitch -- about 5 minutes of video showing riders exclaiming why they loved their bike model -- but that's not much to be upset about.

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It's not exactly fair to suggest that what I offer is only my own opinion. I communicate with a variety of people who are directly involved in rider training, and what I suggest is to a great extent a consensus of the opinions of many, not merely my own myopic viewpoint.

 

The frustrating and unfortunate situation in rider training in the USA is that the MSF used to be active, cooperative, communicative, and widely involved. This is frustrating for all the instructors, course site sponsors, state coordinators, et al who would like to deliver high quality training that would help riders manage the risks. Today's rider coaches are not getting the background training. The general consensus is that those coaches who were already experienced MRC/RSS instructors are depending now upon their MRC/RSS training to deliver the BRC. New coaches are not normally given that training.

 

The current sutuation is unfortunate for riders, because they need much more than they are getting, but don't know what comprehensive rider training might include. Yes, there is a need for an "experienced" course, but the current version of the MSF's ERC Suite is, as one state coordinator put it, "just a rehash of the BRC." A new rider might be willing to settle for that, but there are many important lessons a new rider needs, especially learning what danger looks like, and how to avoid riding into it.

 

Should the MSF board awaken to the groundswell of a need for all the things the MSF was a few years ago, there are lots of people who would step out of the shadows and offer their advice/assistance/skills to build the USA rider training network into a valuable resource for riders.

 

It's not a "hate" thing that causes many of us to say negative things about the current MSF, but rather a hope that the MSF will turn around and again become a central player in training. It's really short-sighted of the industry to focus on getting riders licensed ASAP, and not concerned about keeping them alive so they will be back next month and next year to buy something else.

 

THere are a few glimmers of hope on the horizon. Because the MSF has not seriously addressed the experienced rider, various training schools, state programs, and others are thinking about what an "experienced" course might contain. One element might be "situational awareness" that would include the business of inattentional blindness and how to deal with it. Another element might be surface hazards and how to negotiate them. It's frustrating to me that a number of people are thinking about what's needed separately, and there is no central sharing of ideas or combining ideas into a common curriculum.

 

NHTSA is gradually realizing that the current motorcycle training programs are not solving the fatality problem, and they are starting to look around (past the heads of the MSF) to see what else might be done. NHTSA is not in the business of overseeing curriculum development, but could be a catalyst for forming a committee who could develop an advanced curriculum that could then be shared between states. So, the good news is that in the vacuum left by the MSF, others are slowly being pulled in.

 

Allow me to point out that there are skills exercises, accident avoidance strategies, and detailed explanations of motorcycle dynamics in the book Proficient Motorcycling. At the risk of appearing overly commercial, I suggest that there is information available for the novice rider who wants to learn more.

 

pmdave

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