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News release:

May 9, 2013
GOHS

For Immediate Release:


Georgia public health, highway safety officials seek fewer motorcyclist fatalities in 2013

Governor's Office of Highway Safety, Department of Public Health and Driver Services encourage motorists and motorcyclists to share the road.

(Buford, GA) - While Georgia experienced fewer motorcycle deaths overall in 2012, motorcyclists in the state are killed at a rate disproportionate to their counterparts in passenger cars, according to an analysis by the Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety.
As the state's motorcycle riding season nears its peak, highway safety advocates on Thursday called for both motorcyclists and motorists to share the road in an effort to continue to eliminate tragedies in Georgia this year.
The event, held at Lake Lanier in Hall County, was part of a national motorcycle safety awareness campaign.
In Georgia and across the country, the consequences for motorcycle riders in crashes are dire. Crashes are more likely to kill riders of the more than 200,000 registered motorcycles in Georgia than they are passengers of any other vehicle.
"With its mountains, long summer season and abundance of rural roads, Georgia is one of the best states in the country to ride a motorcycle," said Harris Blackwood, director of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety. "But if you don't know what you're doing, a motorcycle is a dangerous, dangerous thing."
Last year, some 132 motorcyclists died on Georgia roads.
The 2012 death toll is slightly smaller than the 148 recorded motorcyclist deaths for 2011, but Blackwood said Georgians should not be content with only a slight decrease in fatalities.
"We are seeing the numbers of motorcyclists killed in Georgia decline, but consider the families of these 132 motorcycle riders," Blackwood said. "Surely, they do not feel as if Georgia's roads are safer for motorcycles today than in 2011."
Last year, motorcycle deaths comprised some 11 percent of all deaths on Georgia roads, though they only make up 2.3 percent of vehicle registrations across the state.
Motorcyclists are also killed at a disproportionate rate elsewhere in the country.
Nationally, motorcycle registrations represent only about 3 percent of vehicle registrations, but in 2011, motorcycle deaths made up 14 percent of U.S. highway deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Every May, advocates for highway safety across the country observe Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. The "share the road" message associated with the month is as important as ever as the national death toll for motorcyclists continues to climb year over year.
Motorcycle deaths rose nationally by 2 percent from 2010 to 2011, resulting in a total of 4,612 motorcyclist fatalities across the country, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
And while data for 2012 is not yet verified, the Governors Highway Safety Association projects that the death toll for motorcyclists rose again -- this time, by 9 percent -- in 2012.
Georgia seemed to buck the national trend last year, however, according to preliminary data compiled by the Georgia Department of Transportation.
In 2012, fatality rates for motorcyclists in Georgia dropped to numbers not seen since 2005.
Still, death rates for motorcyclists in urban areas and in Georgia's mountain counties remained too high, with fatal crashes largely blamed on driver loss of control and illegal speed.
Motorcyclists, with little to protect them from the road, are 30 times more likely to die in a collision than passengers of any other vehicle, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
In a crash, the proper helmet could be the the difference between life and death or a debilitating brain injury. On Thursday, Patrick O'Neal, director of health protections for the Georgia Department of Public Health, urged riders to leave "novelty helmets" home when hitting the road. Only helmets approved by the Department of Transportation can guarantee protection in a crash.
O'Neal attributed helmet use to improving motorcycle crash victims' survival rate in Georgia trauma centers.
In 2005, O'Neal said 10.1 percent of the 600 motorcycle crash victims who were taken to Georgia trauma centers died. 
The survival rate of motorcyclists involved in crashes had improved by 2011, when 5.7 percent of the 900 crash victims taken to Georgia trauma centers that year died.
"Hopefully, this is the start of a positive trend," O'Neal said. "DOT-approved helmets make a major improvement in survival rates."
Proper education and licensing are also factors in motorcyclist fatalities across the country.
Twenty-two percent of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes in 2011 were riding their vehicles without a valid motorcycle license at the time of the collision, while only 12 percent of drivers of passenger vehicles in fatal crashes did not have valid licenses, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
A valid motorcycle license includes a rider having a valid driver license (Non-CDL License Status) with a motorcycle endorsement or a motorcycle only license.
"High fuel prices and the beautiful weather unfortunately bring out a lot of people who may not know how to handle a motorcycle," said Jim Kelly, coordinator of the Georgia Motorcycle Safety Program for the Georgia Department of Driver Services.
Kelly on Thursday urged new motorcycle owners seeking to take advantage of spring weather on their bikes to first take advantage of training programs provided by the agency.
Georgia's Department of Driver Service operates 22 motorcycle safety training sites and certifies 14 private sites across the state. 
Already, the program seems to be making a positive impact on motorcycle safety in Georgia. In 2009, the program had its highest enrollment levels of its 25-year history; likewise, motorcyclist fatalities dropped that year by 21 percent from the previous year.

To further prevent motorcyclists deaths and injuries, take the following safety precautions:

For motorcyclists:

  • Never ride impaired or distracted.
  • Obey traffic laws, wear DOT-compliant helmets and other protective gear.
  • Make yourself visible by wearing bright colors and using reflective tape.
  • Avoid riding in poor weather conditions.
  • Use turn signals for every turn or lane change, even if you think no one will see it.
  • Combine hand signals and turn signals to draw more attention to yourself.
  • Position yourself in the lane where you will be most visible to other drivers.

For drivers:

  • Never drive distracted. Doing so can result in tragic consequences for motorcyclists.
  • Allow a motorcyclist a full lane width. Although it may seem that there is enough room in the traffic lane for a motor vehicle and a motorcycle, the motorcycle needs the room to maneuver safely. Do not share the lane.
  • Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic. This allows motorcyclists to anticipate traffic flow and find a safe lane position.
  • Because of its smaller size, a motorcyclist can be hidden in a vehicle's blind spot. Always check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections.
  • Turn signals on motorcycles are not the same as those on motor vehicles – motorcycle signals are usually not self-canceling and riders sometimes forget to turn them off. Allow enough time to determine the motorcyclist's intention before you proceed.
  • Remember that road conditions that are minor annoyances to motorists can pose major hazards to motorcyclists. Motorcycle riders may change speed or adjust position within a lane suddenly in reaction to road and traffic conditions such as potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces, pavement seams, railroad crossings, and grooved pavement.
  • Allow more following distance, three or four seconds, when following a motorcycle so the motorcycle rider has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. In dry conditions, motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars.
Copyright © 2013 GOHS, All rights reserved.
For more information:
Ashley Fielding
afielding@gohs.ga.gov
404.657.9105 (o)
404.985.1342 (c)