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bookCommentary on Crash Causation Analysis.

We interviewed Steve Garets of TEAM Oregon for our blog, and we had an interesting conversation.

The Oregon bike trainers think that Hurt, by identifying cage drivers turning across bike's right of way as the major cause of accidents, helped establish a victim mentality in bikers. A victim mentality encourages fatalism and discourages bikers from acting to take control of our ride, and we going to have to shake that victim thing before we can make progress with bike safety.

TEAM Oregon regularly gets police reports of bike crashes, and has access to the reporting officer for clarifications, so they have built up a good, though informal, picture of bike crashes in Oregon. They believe that the biker is responsible for the majority of crashes. As Steve Garets says, the common factor in all motorcycle crashes is that there is a biker involved.

This view accords with the New South Wales study we reported on, where they think bike riders are responsible for 65 percent of crashes - and skills deficits probably contribute to the severity of others.

Maids also reports that the proportion of crashes caused by cage drivers turning across bikers is about 38 percent, or half the Hurt number. They allocate blame to the biker about half the time, and note that biker skills deficits are contributory factors in many of the other crashes, or cause additional injury. If we assume that training deficits and alcohol are related to these numbers, noting the more stringent European licensing and training requirements and attitudes towards drinking and driving in Germany and other countries, we'd expect that US bikers might be responsible for a greater proportion of crashes than the Euros.

We hear from the US Marines and USAF, who have done studies that we don't have access to. The Marines, famously found that more of their members died on bikes than any of their major foreign wars in recent years. They responded by hiring Lee Parks and Wayne Miller to develop a new training course. The MSF also responded with a new sportbike course for the Army and Navy, which they are starting to make available to civilian sport riders.

The military have done at least two studies on motorcycle accident causation, but according to regulations they are required to destroy these data one year after use. As the information was collected using tax dollars and might have civilian application, we view this as a major waste. However, we see almost all branches of the military spending a lot on two new sportbike training programs, using information we don't have. We infer that a lack of training among younger riders and sportbike riders was identified as a major source of crashes. We think this indicates an increase in rider-caused crashes.

We also note a rise in riding among older bikers in the 50-plus age group. The age of the average rider is now 41. This group has a totally different issues. Various health problems, including eyesight deficits and cognitive issues, which are safety-relevant. Many new 50+ riders don't successfully develop the skills required to ride safely. Some 'retreads', who are typically empty nesters returning to riding after a long absence, fail to re-learn the skills needed. Other older riders, who have been riding for a long time, overestimate their skill levels, and neglect training. Here's Jerry Palladino's take on older riders. Jerry, a former bike cop and trainer, thinks that skill levels have deteriorated in the last twenty years.

A lot of riders with 20 years experience are riding the same year of experience twenty times. You hear this a lot from trainers. Skills which are not practiced die, and twenty-year-old road strategies might not hold up in the 21st century.

We think that skills deficits, especially at both ends of the age spectrum, are contributing to a rise in accidents, and we predict that the new crash causation study will identify rider skills issues, mostly lack of training and education, as the new major cause of bike crashes.

It seems likely that alcohol will also play a role. In Hurt, when alcohol was involved in a bike crash, the cage driver was more likely to be the drinker. Considering the number of bike nights, bars which cater for bike parking and rallies and events which attract for bikers and have beer, we must assume that the proprietors of these events have identified bikers as a major market. Maybe all these bikers are aware of the issues with alcohol, as outlined in the MSF's BRC manual, pages 43 through 46, and are carefully regulating their intake, but we are playing with fire here.

We don't know for sure, but we are watching the experts, and they seem to know something they are not sharing.