Riding to the Moon

moonroad-250The Department of the Environment (DOE) has recently released the Annual Statistical Report 2014 which provides information which will be utilized by the DOE in its annual report regarding the Northern Ireland Road Safety Strategy to 2020.

The Northern Ireland Road Safety Strategy to 2020 was published in March 2011 and outlined the key road safety challenges to be addressed by government between 2010 and 2020.

The strategy identified 4 key casualty reduction targets and 199 action measures for improving road safety, the Annual Statistical Report just published will be utilized by the DOE to see how the reduction and actions measure against any improvement in road safety.

In the Northern Ireland Road Safety Strategy to 2020, Powered Two Wheelers (PTW – mopeds – scooters – motorcycle combinations and motorcycles) and their riders had some action measures ticked against their name, these included.

  • The setting up of a Motorcycling Forum, including a range of stakeholders which will consider an inclusive and strategic approach to motorcycling.
  • Consider provision of specific route treatments for popular motorcycle ‘runs’ such as motorcycle ‘friendly’ barriers and additional signing.
  • Investigate development of additional signing systems to warn road users of the possible presence of motorcyclists ahead.
  • We will consider the development of a motorcycling safety strategy for Northern Ireland in partnership with other key stakeholders.

While we can put a tick in the box for the setting up of a motorcycle forum with a range of stakeholders and that the consideration of the development of a motorcycling safety strategy for Northern Ireland is moving towards a reality, the others have not moved on so fast and possibly there is no will to enact additional signing systems to warn road users of the possible presence of motorcyclists ahead.

Seem To Be Shocking Figures

Meanwhile back at the statistical report, were we see a concentration on the figures for KSI (Killed and Seriously Injured) which are mainly lumped together for all road users and split out when a point needs to be made, however slight injuries do not feature in the report.

Casualty: A person who sustains a slight, serious or fatal injury collisions are categorised as either ‘Fatal’, ‘Serious’ or ‘Slight’ according to the most severely injured casualty.

Serious Injury: An injury for which a person is detained in hospital as an ‘in-patient’, or any of the following injuries whether or not the person is detained in hospital: fractures, concussion, internal injuries, crushings, burns, severe cuts and lacerations or severe general shock requiring medical treatment.

Slight Injury: An injury of a minor character such as a sprain, bruise or cut not judged to be severe or slight shock requiring roadside attention.Motorcyclists, which are our main concern are included in the report, but only as a rate of Motorcyclist KSIs per 100 million motorcycle kilometres and as a rate of Motorcyclist KSIs per 100 million motorcycle kilometres (5 Year Rolling Average).

Rate of Motorcyclist KSIs per 100 million motorcycle kilometres has increased by 159% in 2013 from the baseline figure of 2004-2008 and the Rate of Motorcyclist KSIs per 100 million motorcycle kilometres has changed by 65% in 2009-2013 from the 2004-2008 baseline.

Now these seem to be shocking figures but you have to look at how these figures were formulated. First the KSI figures are sourced from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Road Traffic Casualty Statistics and the Motorcycle Kilometres (100 million) are sourced from the Department of Regional Development (DRD) Travel Survey for Northern Ireland.

The report points out that this year’s reported baseline and 5 year rolling averages for indicators which report a rate, have been recalculated using an improved methodology. This has led to some changes, however the impact is considered low.

The report also explains that the sample size in the Travel Survey for Northern Ireland is relatively small; “Therefore three years of data need to be combined to ensure data arerobust. Also that Vehicle Kilometres Travelled (VKT) data used inthis report were produced using the methodology which has been in place since 1991.

Work is ongoing to produce data under a new methodology, based on that used by theDepartment for Transport in Great Britain. This work will yield robust Official Statistics and will be available for the years 2008-2013.

It will, however, lead to a discontinuity in the series, although it is difficult to quantify the impact this will have on the overall indicator trend. It is expected that the new estimates will become available in October 2014. Since new data will only be available from 2008 onwards, new baselines will need to be constructed for the indicators which use this data.”

Are You Still With Us?

The report continues – “Although the number of motorcyclist KSIs in 2013 (101) is only 1 higher than the lowest level recorded in 2012, due to the substantial drop in the vehicle kilometres travelled by this road user group over the same period (from 23.5 million in 2012 to 17.7 million in 2013), the rate of motorcyclist KSIs per 100 million motorcycle kilometres in 2013 is now 159 per cent higher than the baseline.”

Furthermore – “Based on a five year rolling average, as graphed in Figure 10 (see report), it is clear that the rate of motorcyclist KSIs per 100 million motorcycle kilometres is continuing to show a steady and significant increase from the baseline. However, when considering the above findings, it is important to be aware that the critical distance travelled estimates, derived from a sample survey, will have a higher level of uncertainty for small sub-groups of the population such as motorcyclists. This will be much more of an issue for the single year rates (Figure 9) than the smoothed trend (Figure 10) where the data have been further pooled to help minimise any random variation.”

From our perspective, what is critical in the analysis of this analysis is – “critical distance travelled estimates, derived from a sample survey, will have a higher level of uncertainty for small sub-groups of the population such as motorcyclists”“further pooled to help minimise any random variation”

This is what is known in the research industry as “a leap of faith” or in simple terms, B…S….

In 2013 we had a conversation with the DOE regarding our concerns about that year’s report.  Although the reassurance was that the data were robust, the issue we had and continue to have, is that when information like this is transferred to the real world, the “interpretation” of those data offers politicians and road safety campaigners a stick to beat the huddled masses with.

The problem with just using statistics supplied by PSNI through Stats 19 is that there is no in-depth analysis of collisions.

We know from the PSNI statistics that motorcyclists killed in 2013 were 10 riders and in 2012 there were 4 recorded fatalities; in 2011 there were 6 recorded rider fatalities and 1 pillion passenger; in 2010 there were 8 riders and 2 pillion passengers and in 2009, 16 riders.

For serious injuries the figures from 2009 indicate 138 riders and 7 pillion passengers with a decrease to 2013 when there were 91 riders and 5 pillion passengers.

For slightly injured for 2009 there were 260 riders and 13 pillion riders while in 2013 there were 210 riders and 11 pillion passengers.

For all motorcycle casualties recorded in 2009 there was a total of 414 riders and 20 pillion riders while in 2013 there were 311 riders and 16 pillion riders.

For 2014 with three months to go to the end of the year there have been 11 fatalities so far, although from what we have been made aware, one of those fatalities was not on a bike that was registered for use on the road (road legal).  This figure is higher than in the previous three or so years, but in spite of that, there is still a downward trend for recorded motorcycle casualties.

To The Moon And Back

The DOE can spin these fatalities with other factors – kilometres travel – population – how many riders have a licence – how many bikes are registered for use etc, but what is possibly more relevant than these trends or extrapolation of figures, is that they do not explain the reasons behind the collisions that lead to injuries – slight, serious or a fatality, because as we all know,  “each road traffic collision is unique.”

The response from the DOE may be that statistics are needed to get an understanding of what is happening and we would be the first to agree.

However it’s the analysis of these statistics which requires more in-depth consideration.

For example, if the majority of motorcyclists crash because of panic braking, isn’t the cause and effect relevant?

Isn’t it important to know that simply looking at a set of numbers and then using a set of dodgy surveys to draw conclusions, doesn’t really help to understand what happens?

Apart from appeasing a few politicians, what does the DOE hope to achieve by informing us that the distance ridden to the moon and back is relevant to the reduction of casualties?

Just to make a point – if we haven’t already done so, you may want to watch the video of two Australian riders who try to understand the often used statistic that motorcyclists are so many times more likely to be killed/ seriously injured and so many times more likely to be killed than drivers per mile ridden.

“I don’t know anyone who drives a 100 million kilometres – they should tell us when the 100 million is going to happen then we can stay at home!”

Links

The Northern Ireland Road Safety Strategy to 2020 – Annual Statistical Report 2014- DOE Website – Click Here

PSNI Road Traffic Statistics – Click Here

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  1. David L. Hough says:

    pmdave here, over on the other side of the pond. It’s very interesting to me to see the general downward trend of fatalities in NI over the years. Here in the US of A, motorcyclist fatalities have been on the rise ever since 1997, except for a modest dip following the 2008 financial meltdown.

    In the past, we have typically used motorcycle registrations as the base, typically calculating the rate, fatalities per 100,000 registrations. That produces a history, but registrations are a very poor base, for several reasons, especially that a registered bike parked in the garage isn’t typically involved in a crash.

    The rider who owns several machines can’t ride them all at the same time. IOW, registrations don’t indicate a rider’s exposure to danger.

    And the motorcycle industry can tweak the results by reporting creative registration totals. For instance, in the USA there are no motorcycle/sidecar combinations, because the Motorcycle Industry Council (tasked with reporting registration and sales numbers) has no members marketing sidecar rigs.

    NHTSA, the federal agency responsible for highway safety, is now adding fatalities per x vehicle miles traveled (VMT) That should be an improvement, because it relates exposure to the fatalities. But, the rate can be tweaked by changing the system of how VMT is calculated. NHTSA recently changed the VMT reporting system, which changed the numbers and made it very difficult to compare the old fatality/VMT rate with the new rate.

    A third way to calculate a fatality rate is to compare total motorcyclist fatalities to total population for a given area and time frame. For instance, the rate could be Motorcyclist Fatalities per million population. That rate is relevant assuming the number of motorcyclists is relatively constant, which it is–around 4% of vehicles on the road in the USA. Both fatalities and population census are very reliable.

    To see the fatality numbers, go to http://www.nmcti.org and look for “data.”

    NMCTI is a small, not-for-profit corporation that is rapidly becoming a thorn in the side of the motorcycle industry, who have so far been blind to the 4,000 or so motorcyclist fatalities per year as “collateral damage” for the sales of motorcycles.

    Perhaps NMCTI will have an effect, once it becomes known that there is a proven system for training riders that doesn’t increase the fatality count (as the current system does).