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U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater Reminds Drivers to Watch for Motorcyclists

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Motorcycles American Government Topics:  Rodney E. Slater

U.S. Transportation Secretary Slater Reminds Drivers to Watch for Motorcyclists

August 5, 1999

Thursday, August 5, 1999
Contact: Rae Tyson
Tel. No. (202) 366-9550
NHTSA 36-99

As motorcyclists enjoy the summer’s most popular riding months, U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney E. Slater today reminded drivers to pay special attention to motorcyclists who share our roadways.

"Motorcycles are smaller than other vehicles on the road, and making a special effort to look out for them can greatly improve the safety of riders – President Clinton’s highest transportation priority is the safety of all," Secretary Slater said. "Checking for a motorcycle before turning or changing lanes can prevent a motorcycle crash."

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), drivers turning left into the path of oncoming motorcyclists account for more than two-thirds of all car-motorcycle crashes.

"Crashing into your car can be a deadly mismatch for the motorcyclist," said NHTSA Administrator Ricardo Martinez, M.D. "That’s all the more reason why drivers should be on the lookout for motorcycles. Making motorists aware of motorcyclists is one facet of NHTSA’s comprehensive motorcycle safety program."

Drivers can reduce the risk of crashes with motorcyclists. Dr. Martinez offered the following suggestions:

* Watch for motorcyclists when making a left turn. Be especially watchful at intersections or on the highway when changing lanes. Always signal your intentions.

* Allow a safe distance between your vehicle and the motorcycle ahead. Motorcycles can stop in much shorter distances than most cars.

* Check your blind spot carefully by turning your head or by checking mirrors before changing lanes or passing. It is easy for a motorcycle to slip into another vehicle’s blind spot.

Motorcyclists also should take steps to reduce the risk while riding. For example:

* Beginners should enroll in a rider training course. Forty-seven states now offer such courses.

* Motorcycle operators and passengers should always wear helmets and other conspicuous protective clothing. Helmets are 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries and 29 percent effective in preventing fatalities. Reflective, bright clothing makes it easier for other roadway users to see you and your motorcycle.

* Motorcyclists should not drink and ride. Nearly half of all riders who die in single vehicle crashes are drunk.

* Motorcyclists should ride with their headlights on at all times to increase their visibility.

* Motorcyclists should be aware of potentially hazardous road conditions, including road debris and summertime construction zones.

Dr. Martinez’ concern was underscored as recently as late June when veteran New York Giants running back Gary Brown was hospitalized in Williamsport, Pa., after his motorcycle was struck by a driver who ran a stop sign.

Watching out for motorcycles is particularly important this year, given the increasing popularity of motorcycling. Retail motorcycle sales are approaching $3 billion annually, the highest since 1982. The demographics of motorcycling also are changing. Of the 5.7 million motorcyclists, women constitute 8.2 percent, up from 6.4 percent in 1990. And the average number of miles traveled is up 11 percent since 1990.

According to Dr. Martinez, completing rider training and becoming properly licensed are important components of an overall motorcycle safety program. More than 1.3 million motorcyclists have completed Motorcycle Safety Foundation rider training courses since 1988. In addition, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have motorcycle operator licensing requirements.

To further promote motorcycle safety, NHTSA is working with manufacturers, state agencies, safety advocates and motorcycle groups to develop a national agenda for motorcycle safety. According to NHTSA, the ultimate goal is to preserve the enjoyment of motorcycling while reducing the risks to those who ride.


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