DOT Plan Targets Reduction in Rider Deaths

The Department of Transportation has unveiled a three-point program designed to reduce rising death rates among motorcyclists. The initiative focuses on:
  • Training — DOT will develop national standards for entry-level motorcycle riders.
  • Enforcement — DOT will create a training program to teach police officers about specific efforts to reduce crashes.
  • Education — Public service announcements will feature United States Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters on the importance of helmets and other protective gear. A "Share the Road" campaign will remind drivers to be alert for motorcyclists.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says motorcycle deaths rose by 5.1 percent in 2006, the ninth year in a row the NHTSA has marked increases in motorcycle deaths.

"Proper training, clothing, gear and, above all, helmet use are essential to reversing this deadly trend," Secretary Peters says.

Last February, during the Motorcycle Industry Council?s annual breakfast meeting at Dealer Expo 2007 in Indianapolis, Secretary Peters called on manufacturers to provide free or heavily discounted DOT certified helmets or rider safety training with the purchase of every new motorcycle sold in the United States.

"Helmets and proper training are just as important as brakes or headlights when it comes to the well-being of motorcyclists," Secretary Peters said. "We shouldn't be letting any customer take a bike out of the store without a helmet as part of the package. Safety shouldn't have to be an option when purchasing a motorcycle."

Secretary Peters quoted research showing only 58 percent of riders wear helmets today, which is down 13 percent from just four years ago. She added that manufacturers could help reverse the trend by getting helmets into riders? hands and training them how to ride safely, noting that 700 motorcyclists would survive crashes every year if they wore helmets.

During remarks to the Motorcycle Industry Council in Indianapolis, the Secretary praised those manufacturers already providing free training for riders. However, she said she was asking for help from manufacturers because while motorcycles account for only two percent of the vehicles on the road, they are involved in over 10 percent of all crashes. She added that motorcycle fatalities have more than doubled in 10 years and now account for over 4,500 highway deaths and 78,000 injuries each year. Even worse, the crash rate among motorcyclists in the 50 plus age group has increased by over 400 percent, she said.

The veteran of her own motorcycle crash, the Secretary noted that the helmet she was wearing during her 2005 get-off likely prevented severe head injury. "I know from first-hand experience how effective helmets can be," she said.

Secretary Peters says the federal government is "attacking" the challenge of motorcycle safety on several fronts. The Federal Highway Administration has established a Motorcycle Advisory Council to focus on making roads safer for motorcyclists and the NHTSA continues work on a Motorcycle Crash Causation Study to identify why motorcycle crashes occur and find ways to reduce the fatality and injury rates.