8 Ball In The Wind

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Did The Data Really Say That?

Sometimes a person has to really think about the information that is being published in the name of motorcycle "safety".  I am not necessarily disputing the findings, I am concerned about how it is being presented and what is being left out.  If you should just scan over the information as you read it, you may not have noticed certain discrepancies in information released by NHTSA in its annual "motorcycle traffic safety facts" report.  The data is published in a manner to elicit shock and concern in the reader.  However, if you really pay attention, you may realize things aren't as they would first appear.

For example; "In two-vehicle crashes 73 percent of the motorcycles involved in motor vehicle traffic crashes were frontal collisions. Only 7 percent were struck in the rear."  Notice anything about that quotation from the 2014 "motorcycle traffic safety facts" report?  It is incomplete, and in more than one way.  What type of collisions made up the unmentioned 20% of collisions?  Notice how the report states that while 73 percent were "frontal collisions", and only "7 percent were struck in the rear."  The only thing it is clear about is that the front of the motorcycle was the contact point in 73 percent of the collisions.  Although the implication is that 73 percent of motorcycles struck another vehicle in the rear.  But is that what the quote actually shows?

Think about it; if someone pulls a left hand turn in front of you, or suddenly slows or stops in front of you, aren't you going to hit them with the front of your motorcycle?

Here's another quote from that same report; "Motorcycles are more frequently involved in fatal collisions with fixed objects than other vehicles. In 2014 about 25 percent of the motorcycles involved in fatal crashes collided with fixed objects, compared to 19 percent for passenger cars, 14 percent for light trucks, and 4 percent for large trucks."

The  key phrase here is 'fatal collisions'.  These stats compare collisions with fixed objects (guardrails, trees, street lamps, bridges, etc.) by various types of enclosed vehicles and motorcycles.  Then seemingly can't understand why motorcyclists would suffer a higher fatality rate than occupants of passenger cars, light trucks or large trucks.  The fact that a motorcyclist doesn't have the benefit of; being inside a metal enclosure, passenger restraints, and air bags is seemingly irrelevant in having a higher fatality rate due to collisions with fixed objects.  impacts that would not result in a fatality in one of those other classes of motor vehicle, could easily be severe enough to be fatal for a motorcyclist.  Like the saying goes; "we don't have crumple zones, we have leathers."

At times it is almost as if the data is just being punched into a pre-formatted document (which in finished form it is), but without someone double checking the figures.  For example, in one paragraph the report states that; "...2,469 (53%) of the 4,694 motorcycles involved in fatal crashes were collisions with
motor vehicles in transport."  Then, just three paragraphs later it states; "In 2014 there were 2,172 two-vehicle fatal crashes involving a motorcycle and another type of vehicle."  That's a difference of 297 fatal crashes, in only three paragraphs.  Yet there is no explanation, or even apparent realization that these figures don't match.  One is left to assume that those 297 fatalities were involved in collisions involving multiple vehicles.  But then in the Navy they taught me 'never to assume'.

So when you look at data, don't just skim it.  Stop fairly regularly and go over what you just read.  Does it make sense?  Does it really say what you thought it said?  Do the figures even add up?  Sometimes using authoritative sounding figures can be convincing, but you better make sure they are complete as possible and accurate.  Or someone might just use them to beat you over the head with them.

Catch you on the road sometime..

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