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The main statistic in the article is based on miles driven, finding that the number of fatalities per 100 million miles driven has risen 50% since 1997. Assuming that the methodology for guestimating miles ridden has remained constant, and that the overall patterns of ridership have remained relatively constant, this would seem significant. However, without some kind of test of statistical significance it is impossible to tell for sure. The article doesn't say whether or how such tests were applied. Without such tests, as well as some kind of ongoing monitoring to tell whether and how riding patterns change (miles ridden per year per rider, etc.) these statistics cannot be strictly reliable because they are not based on a consistent methodology.



To my mind, though, whether there has or hasn't been a 50 percent increase in the rate of motorcycle fatalities since 1997 is almost (but not quite) beside the point. What's really stunning about these figures is that no matter how you push and pull them, they still show that motorcyclists are somewhere in the range of 15 to 25 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than car passengers. Whether that rate is increasing, decreasing or stable, it's way to high. It is by itself reason enough to look more closely at the causes of fatalities and do what can reasonably be done to reduce risks.



Of course, as individuals there is a lot we can do to protect ourselves based on what we already know from previous studies and just plain common sense -- get training, practice emergency maneuvers, stay alert in traffic, wear protective equipment, keep our bikes in good repair, DON'T DRINK AND RIDE. A new study along the lines of the Hurt report -- which I personally have found very helpful in alerting me to what kind of traffic situations are most dangerous -- could only help those of us who want to protect ourselves.



On a public policy level, it might also result in new licensure and training requirements. While this is anathema to many freedom-loving Americans, I'm not sure it would be a bad idea. It stands to reason that better training would reduce the number and severity of accidents. I don't know if any studies ahve been done to demonstrate this, but I am literally willing to bet my life that it is true.



Enhanced training might also extend to regular driver education. Think of how much more aware of cyclists motorists would be if they were required to learn the rudiments of cycle handling -- even if only on a scooter -- as part of high school driver education. And an item on the drivers exam along the lines of "Q: Is the excuse 'I didn't see it' an acceptable legal defense for hitting a motorcycle in traffic? A: No. It is your responsibility as a driver to observe that the roadway is clear of all pedestrians and vehicles, including motorcycles, before changing lanes, making turns, or entering an intersection. Failure to do so could result in loss of license, liability for injuries and damages you cause, and possibly civil or criminal prosecution."



Would stricter training and licensure requirements make it harder to get a motorcycle license. Certainly. And the problem would undoubtably be compounded by sate governments failing to provide enough training classes and understaffing licensig facilities. Perhaps this would spur the "private sector" to offer more training courses. In my opinion, that would be a good thing. As it stands right now in the Chicago area, it's almost impossible to reserve a spot in a state-sponsored MSF course unless you register within a day or two of the publication of the schedule in March, and if there are any private schools in the area, I haven't been able to find them.



Would stricter standards reduce the number of riders? Hard to say. It doesn't seem to have dampened enthusiasm for riding in Europe. In fact, I think it could even increase the number of riders over time. I know several people who have taken up riding only to quit after some kind of minor mishap or near-mishap. With better training and/or restriction to a bike small enough for a novice to easily handle, they might have an opportunity to develop the skill and confidence they need to to become life-long riders. In any case, it would likely reduce the number of inadequately trained riders, as well as the motorcycle fatality rate.



OK, I admit it. Call me a Pinko, but I think the government has not only the right, but the responsibility to enact and enforce reasonable training and licensure standards. I also think that the government should fund a new study along the lines of the Hurt report and implement a robust monitoring survey to produce some reliable statistics that can be used to further develop training programs to identify and eliminate unecessary cycling risks.



Feel free to flame away.









 

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Very interesting. Since nearly getting clipped a couple of years ago, I have religiously done the "head check" before changing lanes or turning -- to the point that I'm looking for a helmet that offers better peripheral vision than my otherwise fantastic Arai. Do you know of a book, Web site or other training materials that get into detail about when and where you should be loooking to avoid accidents? What you've described goes well beyond what I've read or heard before.
 
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