As Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month gets underway, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is reminding drivers to look out for and share the road with motorcycle riders. Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month is a national initiative designed to encourage drivers of all kinds of vehicles and motorcyclists to “share the road” with each other.
According to a press release on the NHTSA’s website, the number of motorcycle related deaths in the United States has increased every year for the past 14 years except in 2009 when there was a 16 percent decline. In 2011, 4,612 motorcyclists died on U.S. roadways. Motorcycle deaths comprised 14 percent of total highway deaths despite the fact that motorcycle registrations represent only about three percent of all vehicles in the U.S. According to researchers, on a per vehicle mile basis, motorcyclists are 30 times more likely to die and five times more likely to be injured in an accident than occupants of cars.
NHTSA reports that head injury is the leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes. Researchers estimate that helmets are 36 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcyclists. NHTSA officials estimate that helmets saved the lives of more than 1,600 motorcycle riders in 2011. However, in 2011, only 20 U.S. states required helmet use by all motorcyclists. According to officials, alcohol continues to be a major factor in motorcycle fatalities. In 2011, 42 percent of motorcyclists who died in a single-vehicle crash had blood alcohol concentration levels above the legal limit.
According to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, “increasing safe riding and cooperation among all road users is essential to reducing the number of deaths and injuries on our nation’s highways. Motorists and motorcyclists have a common responsibility to safely share the road together.” To prevent motorcyclist’s deaths and injuries, NHTSA urges motorcyclists to never ride while impaired or distracted and always wear a Department of Transportation-compliant helmet and other protective gear.