The other day I mentioned the new study being funded in the highway bill to gather and analyze information on motorcycle accidents. Good thing, right? Well, that part of the bill is going to fund a study by the Oklahoma Transportation Center and was sponsored by an Oklahoma congressman. Why do safety studies have to be government funded at all? The highway bill providing this grant is a classic “something for everyone” bill that spreads a lot of money to a lot of groups to make them happy and love their congressman and, in this case, motorcyclists and the AMA are supposed to applaud. The AMA always applauds this sort of thing but should we all?
This isn’t a criticism of bikers, this is a question about why everyone expects the government to be the source of all things and why any group, in this case the AMA, thinks more government money is always a good thing as long as their particular group benefits.
A safety study like this benefits the entire motorcycle industry, isn’t there a way for motorcycle and motorcycle part and accessory manufacturers and sellers to pitch in to fund the work? Maybe the AMA could pitch in, too. If anyone thinks the government has to do it to keep it free of bias, you’re living in a dream world. Companies involved in the motorcycle business have more incentive to find out what’s happening than a government that answers every question with a regulation.
The recent helmet study by Motorcyclist magazine is an excellent example of non-government studies yielding good information that benefits consumers and keeps manufacturers on their toes. Accident statistics are available to researchers. Run those statistics through the computer, add a healthy serving of solid thinking and the result is information we can all use. Will some “special interest” group try to use the statistics to support their own view? Of course, happens every day and government or non government, it makes no difference. Motorcycle publications and motorcycle blogs like The Kneeslider and many others will sift through the results and offer their take on the outcome. Readers will offer their ideas and over some time a consensus will emerge. Motorcyclists interested in safety will adjust their actions accordingly.
Careful investigation and analysis are not the exclusive preserve of government studies, they’re simply the sign of proper investigative techniques. We don’t need to throw government money (that means yours and mine) around to get an accident study. We don’t need it for a lot of other things either, but that’s another post entirely.