AMA Exposes Insurance Institute Errors

Elliot Strong
by Elliot Strong
From an AMA press release:

PICKERINGTON, OHIO-- The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), responding to a July 30 press release issued by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), has pointed out significant errors in the IIHS's arguments concerning crashes involving older motorcyclists.

In its release, the IIHS claimed that the annual Black Hills Rally & Races in Sturgis, South Dakota, serves as a case-in-point illustration of the increase in motorcycle-related fatalities in recent years, notably among riders over age 40. Specifically, the IIHS said that 36 of the 69 motorcycle-related fatalities in South Dakota between 1995 and 2000 occurred in the month of August, when the Sturgis event is held.

However, the IIHS neglected to take into account the enormous increase in the motorcycling population of South Dakota as a result of the rally, leading the group to erroneous conclusions, the AMA noted.

According to figures from the IIHS release, there were six motorcyclists killed in South Dakota during the month of April over the six-year period, four in May, seven in June, eight in July, four in September and four in October. No motorcycle-related fatalities were recorded from November and March. The IIHS then said that the 36 motorcyclist fatalities in the month of August during the six-year period made it clear that older motorcyclists at the rally were raising overall fatality numbers in the state.

An AMA analysis of the data, however, shows that the IIHS's conclusion is unsupported by the facts. The AMA pointed out that figures from the Motorcycle Industry Council for 1998, the middle of the time period cited by the IIHS, show there were 19,600 motorcycles licensed for street use in South Dakota. But during August, when the Black Hills Rally and Races attract riders from across the country, the motorcycling population of the state surges to more than 400,000.

"That's a 2,000 percent increase in the number of motorcyclists riding South Dakota's roads," noted Edward Moreland, AMA vice president for government relations, "while the fatalities reported by the IIHS amount to a 360 percentincrease over the monthly average during the riding season in the state.

"Failing to make the connection between that enormous increase in the state's motorcycling population and the much more modest increase in motorcycle accidents indicates that the IIHS either doesn't understand this situation orchose not to reveal the full story," Moreland said.

The AMA also disputed the IIHS's contention that recent increases in the median age of motorcyclists who were victims of fatal accidents "isn't because of the aging of the population." In fact, according to figures from the MICquoted by the IIHS, the average age of a motorcycle owner in America has risenfrom 24 in 1980 to 38 today. As a result, a much-larger percentage of the motorcycles on the road are being ridden by riders over 40, and that trend is reflected in accident statistics.

In addition, the IIHS stated that changes in helmet laws in some states "are contributing to the increases in motorcycle deaths." But the group failed to note that motorcycle sales have increased by approximately 20 percent in eachof the last four years, meaning that the number of motorcycles on the road has grown enormously. Meanwhile, fatalities have increased by about a third during the entire four-year period and were actually down by 11 percent in the period from 1990 through 2000 and down by nearly 50 percent since 1980, a better safety record than any other type of highway transportation.

"For the IIHS to issue its opinions in the guise of a 'news release' is embarrassing," said Moreland. "Not only is this release full of old news and misused statistics, it once again exposes that the IIHS is willing to sayvirtually anything to support its preconceived conclusions."We're concerned, of course, about even one motorcycle-related fatality," Moreland continued. "The AMA encourages anyone who's truly interested in reducing motorcycling fatalities, and not simply promoting a political agenda,to join us in calling for a comprehensive, independent, nationwide study ofmotorcycle accident data."

Moreland recently testified before a U.S. House subcommittee asking Congress to fund comprehensive research to determine the causes of motorcycle crashes.

In 2000, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation released a National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety to serve as a blueprint for improving motorcycling safety in the future.

Representatives of the AMA and other industry groups were part of a team thathelped shape the plan, which calls for more research into the causes of motorcycle accidents and potential ways to reduce them.

The most recent comprehensive federal study of motorcycle accident data was published in 1980, and sampled accident data only in Southern California. NHTSA officials have said they hope to begin work on a new study in the near future.

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