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Thursday, March 15, 2007
Only 58% of Motorcyclists Wear Helmets
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters, saying "the time has come to make the helmet standard safety equipment," called on manufacturers to offer free or heavily marked down DOT certified helmets or rider safety training with the sale 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," said Secretary Peters. "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."
According to Peters, only 58 percent of today's riders wear helmets, down 13 percent from only four years ago. Manufacturers could help reverse the trend, she added, by getting helmets onto riders' heads and training them to ride safely. Peters also noted that 700 motorcyclists would survive crashes every year if they wore helmets.
The Secretary praised those manufacturers already providing free training for riders during remarks to the Motorcycle Industry Council in Indianapolis. While motorcycles account for only two percent of the vehicles on the road, she said she was asking for help from manufacturers because they are involved in over 10 percent of all crashes. In 10 years, motorcycle fatalities have more than doubled and now account for over 4,500 highway deaths and 78,000 injuries each year. What's worse, she said the crash rate among motorcyclists in the 50 plus age group has increased by over 400 percent.
Peters noted that during her 2005 motorcycle crash, the helmet she was wearing likely prevented severe head injury. "I know from first-hand experience how effective helmets can be," she said.
According to Peters, the Department of Transportation was "attacking" the motorcycle safety challenge on several fronts. The Department awarded over $6 million in safety grants to states to support motorcycle safety last December. In addition, the Federal Highway Administration has established a Motorcycle Advisory Council to focus on making roads safer for motorcyclists. They will continue work begun by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on a Motorcycle Crash Causation Study to ascertain why motorcycle crashes occur and find ways to reduce the fatality and injury rates.
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