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Department of Safety & Homeland Security, Tennessee Highway Patrol Promote Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

Tuesday, May 08, 2012 | 07:13am
NASHVILLE --- May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, and the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security and Tennessee Highway Patrol are encouraging motorists to exercise caution in response to the rise in motorcycle fatalities in the state and across the nation this year. 
 
Motorcycle fatalities accounted for 12.0 percent of total fatalities within Tennessee in 2011. As of May 7, there has been a 31 percent increase in motorcycle fatalities in the state, compared to this same time last year. Thirty-eight motorcyclists have died in crashes this year, and preliminary figures show four were killed in the first week of May alone.
 
“The unseasonably warmer temperatures this winter may have contributed to the rise in motorcycle fatalities this year,” Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Bill Gibbons said. “As the weather continues to improve, we will see more motorcyclists on the roadways. It is important for motorists and motorcyclists alike to educate themselves, be alert and follow the rules of the road to help keep everyone safe.”
 
In 2010, there were 4,502 motorcycle riders who were killed in traffic-related deaths across the nation, accounting for 14 percent of total fatalities for the year. In 2009, motorcyclist fatalities had decreased for the first time since 1997 when 4,462 motorcyclists were killed. In Tennessee, the number of motorcyclists killed in crashes decreased from 138 in 2010 to 114 motorcycle fatalities in 2011.
 
“Drinking and driving is not just a problem for motorists in cars or trucks,” THP Colonel Tracy Trott said. “Of the 114 motorcycle fatalities on Tennessee roadways last year, 22.8 percent of them were alcohol-related. By enforcing impaired driving laws, we hope to reduce serious injury and fatal crashes amongst motorcyclists.”
 
Motorcyclists must also share in the responsibility by wearing Department of Transportation-compliant helmets and other protective gear. Tennessee law requires the more than 300,000 Tennessee riders and their passengers to wear the approved helmets and protective eyewear.
 
“Motorcyclists are much more vulnerable than passenger vehicle occupants,” Governor’s Highway Safety Office Director Kendell Poole said. “It is imperative that they make themselves visible to other motorists by wearing brightly colored protective gear or reflective tape, and most importantly, a DOT-compliant helmet. For every 100 motorcycle riders killed in crashes while not wearing a helmet, 37 of them could have been saved had they worn helmets.” 
 
The Department of Safety and Homeland Security also administers the Motorcycle Rider Education Program (MREP), which provides courses on rider education, public awareness initiatives, information of the effects of alcohol and drugs, and licensing procedures. There are both basic and advanced rider courses available.
 
“The safe operation of a motorcycle requires practiced skill, knowledge, and a respectful understanding of the limitations imposed by the operator, the machine, and the environment,” Program Coordinator for MREP John Milliken said. “Motorcyclists must educate themselves by taking an accredited training course and never ride beyond their skill ability. Ultimately, it will help make them safer and more effective on the roads.”  
 
Motorcycle Rider Education Program approves courses and instructors across the state. Please visit http://tn.gov/safety/mrep.htm to learn more about the program.
 
Tennessee is also committed to creating safer roads for bicyclists as well. In 2007, the state passed the Jeff Roth and Brian Brown Bicycle Protection Act, commonly referred to as the 3-feet law. It states that a motor vehicle must give a safe zone of no less than 3 feet when passing a cyclist on a road in the state of Tennessee; a violation of this law is a Class C Misdemeanor. 
 
Motorcycle traffic fatality statistics from 1998-2011 can be found at the following link: http://www.tn.gov/safety/stats/CrashData/MotorcycleFatals1998-2011.pdf
 
Also, a list of motorcycle safety tips accompanies this release.
                                                                            
The Tennessee Department of Safety’s (www.TN.Gov/safety) mission is to ensure the safety and general welfare of the public. The department encompasses the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Office of Homeland Security and Driver License Services. General areas of responsibility include law enforcement, safety education, motorist services and terrorism prevention.  

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