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Forum on Motorcycle Safety can be Catalyst to Reverse Fatality Trend

"I am delighted to participate in the National Transportation Safety Board's (NTSB) Forum on Motorcycle Safety and commend the Board and Member Debbie Hersman for their leadership on this issue."

"Last year, motorcycle fatalities increased 13 percent to 4,553 total deaths. This was the eighth straight year that fatalities increased and an increase of 115 percent since 1997. More disturbing, in 2004, 41 percent of fatal motorcycle crashes involved riders who were unlicensed or improperly licensed and 24 percent of the fatalities involved impaired riders."

"Clearly, we need a national focus on the problem. Motorcyclists continue to be over-represented in traffic crashes, and coupled with the greater vulnerability of the motorcyclists, this represents a very serious highway safety problem."

"GHSA urges increased support for the development, implementation and evaluation of statewide comprehensive motorcycle safety programs. At a minimum, these programs should address rider training programs, protective gear, impaired riding, operator licensing, and motorist awareness."

"Helmet laws are the lynchpin of any effort to reduce motorcycle fatalities. Only 20 states currently have helmet laws that apply to all riders. In fact, my home state of Louisiana is the only state in the country to actually reenact a universal law in more than a decade. This occurred only after a repeal of the previous law led to a 137 percent increase in fatalities. In Pennsylvania, which repealed its law in 2004, motorcycle fatalities increased 30.5 percent in 2005. Fatality figures from Kentucky, Texas, Florida and Arkansas—states which have recently repealed theirs laws—are strikingly similar. "

"However, helmet laws, while a proven, effective countermeasure for reducing motorcycle fatalities and injuries are only part of the solution. Training and education are also key elements of an effective motorcycle safety program. GHSA believes all states should require motorcycle operator training for minors and novices, as well as for older riders who are resuming motorcycle riding. GHSA urges the federal government, in partnership with other stakeholders, to develop a model motorcycle operator training program complete with quality guidelines for instructors."

"On the education front, states have an important role in developing awareness programs to discourage impaired riding and raising motorists' awareness about sharing the road with motorcycles. General driver education programs should also include a component on sharing the road."

"Effective motorcycle licensing programs are also a critical need. All states should require motorcyclists to obtain a motorcycle operator license before they ride on a public highway, unless the rider completes a state-approved training program. GHSA is pleased that a model operating licensing and testing program is being developed and the Association urges this new program to be fully evaluated."

"Motorcycle safety is a huge problem. Progress can only be accomplished by an effective partnership between federal and state governments along with motorcycle organizations and other stakeholders. I thank the NTSB for organizing this Forum as a first step, and I commit GHSA's full support for this effort."