Monday, November 2, 2009

Motorcycle Crash Causation Study Personnel

Following up on our earlier postings about the Crash Causation Study, and trying to figure out why the study costs are so far out of whack with Maids and Hurt, I talked to some of the project personnel.

Carol Tan, the DOT / FHWA point person for the project, seemed frustrated with the problems.   She says that we will see some useful results, but conceded that the larger study size of 900 would be better than 300.  Apparently, the October 5th announcement, without securing the MSF funding approval, was necessary to preserve the public funding that is on the table, some of which might have been withdrawn if not used soon. Even if the other finances are not in place.

Dr Ahmed of OSU seemed similarly frustrated.   He is doing a statistical analysis to see if 300 crashes will work, but in this 2007 LA Times article he was pretty clear that 900 is needed, as most experts agree.  When pressed on the issue of why this study is costing so much more than Maids or Hurt, he points out that both these other studies used the cheap labor of research students.  OSU is contracting out the work to professional accident investigation businesses, like Dynamic Science Inc, which provided the researchers for the pilot study.  Additional consultancy and quality analysis was done by other accident investigators.   Dr Ahmed refused to identify the consultants or what is being paid to them or to Dynamic Science, pointing out that the contracts specify confidentiality on these matters.  Dr Ahmed also points out that although OSU is not a motorcycle research specialist, since USC closed down Hurt's department, there are no specialist university motorcycle research departments anywhere in the US, so they are as good as any.   Of course, if they are doing the research in California, surely a local university with hordes of research students would have had an advantage.

We talked to Christopher Toale of Dynamic Science, who refused to comment. We don't know how much they are charging, but we would estimate that most of their guys command three-digit rates plus expenses.  Other Dynamic Science personnel identified WESTAT as a primary contractor for the pilot study.  It is not yet confirmed if they will be working on the main study. 

We contacted several former Hurt collaborators and Head Protection researchers who are not involved, but we think some of them have consulted for free on the pilot project.

We don't know what the Dynamic Science researchers get paid ,  if they would come clean we would know, but in the face of their reticence, we'd estimate that some of their people get over $150 per hour, and that the team of three probably bills in excess of $300 per hour for project work. 

The problem really is that Hurt had to start with nothing, recruit students and bike experts, and make it up on the fly. We understand the temptation for Dr Ahmed to use these readily available, but expensive, experts to make up for his lack of previous experience.  This was not necessary. 



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