Sunday, August 26, 2012

doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results

To: The Hon. Gordon Rich-Phillips, Minister for the TAC, and
Ms Janet Dore, CEO of the Transport Accident Commission

Dear Minister Rich-Phillips and Ms Dore,

I was both excited and anxious to learn that the TAC had launched a new online training tool aimed at educating new and returning riders, and helping them improve their hazard detection skills.  The media release (available on the TAC website) states the following: "To develop Ride Smart, the TAC consulted with motorcycle riders, riding experts and road safety agencies."

I was hopeful that this consultation would have resulted in the best possible quality for this tool.  Over the last five years, the TAC's track record with motorcycling initiatives has been mixed at best.  Based on TAC's own data, one has to look back 10 years to the 2002 Vice Versa campaign to find evidence of motorcyclist support and positive recognition of a TAC initiative.  I have gone to great lengths to try and address this failure with the TAC, both instigating a petition calling on the TAC to change its approach to motorcycle safety, and when all attempts at dialogue with the TAC failed to receive so much as a response, launching an independent magazine to draw attention to the issues of motorcycling policy and safety and to highlight the concerning discrepancies between published research and recommendations and TAC practice and behaviour.  In short, I hoped that this new tool would be a turning point in the TAC's model of engagement with riders and riding experts, and would be the beginning of a constructive collaboration between the TAC and riding representatives that would see a steady improvement in motorcyclist safety over the coming years.
The very first exercise depicts a motorcyclist approaching a 4 way intersection (crossroads) with the rider facing a stop sign.  As the rider approaches the stop line, the video pauses and the user is asked to identify any hazards they can identify.  Having identified a couple of common hazards (oncoming traffic, road surface conditions) the voiceover goes on to make this statement:
"But the biggest risk is the motorcycle speed.  Braking at this speed while leaning into a turn will cause loss of control and a crash."
Not to put to fine a point on it, this is blatantly and demonstrably untrue.  Before the motorcycle commences turning, it must come to a complete halt at the stop sign.  The motorcycle, approaching the stop sign on a straight stretch of road, will have no lean angle whatsoever.  You can see this exercise for yourself to verify what I have said here:
This factual error providing erroneous and potentially dangerous misinformation is both disappointing and disturbing.  Not only does it call into question the usefulness of the tool that has been created, but more troublingly it reveals that the problems of consultation with appropriate experts has not been addressed in any way at the TAC.  I would challenge the TAC to produce a single motorcycle rider or riding expert who can defend the assertion stated above but there is no point in doing so.  It is evident that no experienced rider - let alone a riding expert - had any input into or review of that content prior to it being launched to unsuspecting would-be or new motorcyclists.

Ms Dore: you are on record as stating that this tool was developed in consultation with motorcycle riders and riding experts.  I would like you please to justify that claim.  Who were the riding experts and motorcycle riders with whom the TAC consulted?  What was the nature of the consultation?  Were these people asked to provide input into the content of the training?  Or was this consultation the marketing oriented focus-group "consultation" that I experienced when I participated in a focus group for the TAC in July?  In short, can you please explain how, with the consultative support of riders and riding experts, this new program has been launched with such gratuitous misinformation as to defy both common sense and the laws of physics?
Clearly such a task is not befitting the CEO of an organisation.  However it appears to me that you are being given information to include in press releases that is clearly untrue, and I think it is incumbent upon you to take responsibility both for the integrity of your organisations approach to these issues, and for your own statements in the media release accompanying the launch of this embarrassment.

Minister Rich-Phillips, you are responsible for the TAC.  You don't need me to tell you that you ought to take that responsibility seriously yet the TAC appears to suffer from a systemic problem when it comes to consulting with motorcycling representatives (and also with basic physics, given their track record of the last 12 months).  What are you doing to hold this organisation to account?  Why have you not put anything in place to prevent the recurrence of this charade of consultation whereby the TAC tests it's favourite shock-value statistics on their target audience rather than seeking their input on the root causes and underlying challenges facing motorcycle safety?  If you have put such safeguards in place, why have they failed?

Mr Rich-Phillips, I assure you that I am as tired of writing to you about the TAC's conduct as you are of reading my concerns.  I would love nothing more than for these issues to be resolved, which is as simple as having appropriate expertise and representation present during the entire lifecycle of motorcycling related projects.  Please, do us both a favour: get off the bench and get this fixed.  It's not just time, money, and your political credibility that the TAC is squandering; it is Victorian lives.  And as cynical as I am that the TAC appears to be rushing through 3 motorcycle campaigns and projects in 2012 without waiting for the findings of the parliamentary inquiry (bearing in mind that according to the Spokes website, the TAC only created 3 motorcycling campaigns between 2003 - 2011), I would rather that they just got on with the job but did it properly.  These ongoing debacles of the TAC producing poorly executed and technically flawed motorcycle material and then defending them to the hilt is an embarrassment.  If I were you, I would put a moratorium on the TAC creating new campaigns until the RSC has reported back.  There are plenty of successful campaigns produced in other states that have proven both to have a positive impact on accident rates and have received strong support from motorcyclists (the Queensland "Out Here" springs to mind, as does the NSW safe cornering campaign).  So how about instead of persisting with the modus operandi you put your foot down and instruct the TAC to source some proven safety campaigns from interstate while the parliamentary inquiry runs its course.  Given that it may save lives as well as money, is that such an unreasonable thing to ask?

Yours sincerely,

Ross Daws

1 comment:

  1. To Ross,

    Hear, Hear. I agree with your summation. I will write to them also, I think, "bad things happen when good people remain silent"(my paraphrase). I'm 67 and only had my licence for about 5 years but even I can see the inherent dangers in the example you give regarding the new TAC training video.