Are your state highway safety planners spending their time and your tax dollars addressing your issues?
Are they paying enough attention to what's needed for Motorcycle Awareness and Motorcycle Safety?
One way to answer these questions is to analyze each of the 50 state's current highway safety and performance plans for
content relevant to motorcycle safety and awareness issues--including inattentive, distracted and cell phone conversation
impaired drivers--and rank each state's relevance scores against those of the remaining 49.
That's exactly what I did, and the
results are summarized in the
above and the table at right. Here is the supporting research:
Background and Data Source
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA):
"In order to receive federal highway safety grant funds, State Highway Safety Offices (SHSO) must submit an annual
Highway Safety Performance Plan (HSPP). Every state has a different process for preparing the annual plan and the
content of those plans. While similar in many respects, the plans also differ from state to state."
And according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):
"Every State is required to submit two plans:
a Performance Plan and a Highway Safety Plan. Many States submit the two required plans as one single document."
"The Performance Plan must set measurable highway safety goals for the State.... The Performance Plan must also include
[a] description of all highway safety processes for:
Setting performance measures
Selecting projects or activities
Involving constituency groups in the planning process
A list of data sources and information used in its development."
"In addition, every State must submit a Highway Safety Plan (HSP) that describes specific highway safety programs and
projects and relates how performance goals can be reached through these programs and projects. The HSP functions as
a State strategic safety plan or road map and describes how the State will reach its goals.... The HSP must, at
Include one year's worth of Section 402-funded projects
Include a list of projects by program area (occupant protection, impaired driving, etc.)
Indicate which organization or agency will receive funding
Identify the funding amount
Ensure that at least 40 percent of the 402 funding either goes directly to local governments or benefits local governments
Be approved by the Governor's Representative."
NHTSA further explains:
"In the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users
Congress directed that NHTSA make publicly available, on its web site, State highway safety plans, State annual
accomplishment reports and NHTSA's management review and special management review guidelines."
As so required, most of the state highway safety plans for FFY07 (Federal Fiscal Year 2007, which began October 1, 2006)
have been posted to the NHTSA website here:
Relevance Ranking Methodology
One way to gauge what issues highway safety planners are focusing on (and how much attention they are paying to them)
is to identify key phrases associated with those issues, and determine how many times those phrases appear in their
plan documents. These statistics can then be used to compute contextual relevance scores (relative rank weights
descending from 50 to 0) that in turn serve as the basis for relevance rankings (relative ranks ascending from 1 to n).
The logic behind the approach is similar to that applied by search engine ranking algorithms. And while the results
are rarely perfect, the popularity of search engines like Google and Yahoo are a testament to their overall
effectiveness and utility.
The key phrases I used to gauge relevance to Motorcycle Awareness included "motorcycle awareness", "inattent",
"distract", "cellular" and "cell phone". The rationale for the first key phrase is obvious. The second identifies
all references to "inattentional blindness", driver "inattention", and "inattentive" drivers. The third picks up
driver "distraction" and "distracted" drivers, the fourth "cellular" phones and calls, and the fifth drivers impaired by
"cell phones" and "cell phone" bans.
Note: This methodology did not identify phrases analogous to "motorcycle awareness", e.g. the use of
"public awareness" in a motorcycle context. Some may view this as a flaw, while others might see it as an encouragement
for state highway planners to use more specific and appropriate terminology. (Either way, any appeals for a revised
ranking should be accompanied by a check payable to "Cash" with a few zeroes at the end of the amount, as all
research to date has been provided at no cost to the taxpayers and funded solely by yours truly! ;-)
The key phrases I used to gauge relevance to Motorcycle Safety included "motorcycle safety", "motorcyc",
and any mentions of the name or abbreviation for that state's leading motorcyclists rights organization
(SMRO), e.g. "ABATE of South Dakota" or the "Rhode Island Motorcycle Association". The rationale for the first
key phrase is obvious. The second identifies all references to "motorcycle", "motorcycles", "motorcycling",
"motorcyclist" or "motorcyclists". The third test credits those state highway planners who explicitly acknowledge
their SMRO, or engage them in their planning processes as NHTSA recommends:
"States are encouraged, but not required, to involve constituency groups in the planning process. Constituency groups
can be local governments, other State agencies, nonprofit organizations, community programs, State or local chapters
of national organizations, or even members of the public at large."
Using these criteria and key phrases, I conducted relevance ranking analysis on each of the most recent state highway
safety plans on file here with NHTSA (or obtained directly from state websites) as of 14 December 2006:
For all but a few states, these were the plans for Federal Fiscal Year 2007 (FFY07).
I was unable to apply our methodology to the safety plans of three states: Alabama, Alaska
The reason is that the PDF documents filed for these three states do not contain searchable text.
They are actually "images" of the state plan documents, rather than the documents themselves. This is an undesirable
filing practice by these states for a number of reasons, and hopefully ranking last in our analysis
will encourage them to file their reports properly in the future.
Relevance Ranking Results and Recommendations
Applying the methodology just described, we were able to compute the Motorcycle Awareness ("MA"),
Motorcycle Safety ("MS") and Combined Relevance ("CR") rankings presented in the
above and the table below it. A worksheet summarizing the raw data, relevance
scoring and ranking is also available here:
And what should you do with all this? I recommend the following:
- Check out the relevance rankings for your state, and then take the time to READ THE ACTUAL PLAN it is based on.
Once again, you can retrieve the PDF document here:
If you disagree with what you read, LET YOUR STATE LEGISLATORS AND HIGHWAY SAFETY PLANNERS KNOW ABOUT IT.
If you agree with what you read, LET YOUR STATE LEGISLATORS AND HIGHWAY SAFETY PLANNERS KNOW ABOUT IT.
Remember, this is still the good ole USA! We are a democracy. The government is there to serve YOU. The politicians
work for YOU. The bureaucrats work for YOU.
Let them know what matters to YOU. Let them know YOU are watching.
Until Next Time ... Ride Long, Ride Free!