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Virginia Highway Safety Office News Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 15, 2008

DMV Contact: Melanie Stokes
Department of Motor Vehicles
(804) 367-6623 (Office)
(804) 840-9756 (Cellular)

AAA Mid-Atlantic Contact: Martha Meade
(804) 323-6510 (Office)
(804) 543-7190 (Cellular)

Motorcyclists Reminded to Ride Safely During Motorcycle Month
All Drivers Encouraged to Share the Road

RICHMOND - Motorcycle rider behavior contributed to 126 motorcycle deaths on Virginia's roadways in 2007. The top three reasons for the crashes were failure to maintain control, following too closely and exceeding the speed limit.

According to the Department of Motor Vehicles' (DMV) Virginia Highway Safety Office, there were 2,595 crashes involving motorcycles and 2,247 motorcycle drivers or riders were injured in 2007. In 2006, 70 motorcycle-related fatalities occurred, compared to 44 motorcycle deaths in 2001.

"This steady increase in fatalities represents one of Virginia's greatest highway safety challenges," said John Saunders, director of DMV's the Virginia Highway Safety Office. "Through DMV's enhanced efforts surrounding training, testing, enforcement, public awareness and partnerships, our goal is to significantly reduce the number of crashes and deaths involving motorcycles in the coming years."

Governor Timothy Kaine proclaimed May 2008 as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, and DMV, AAA Mid-Atlantic, the Virginia Department of Transportation and Virginia State Police are joining together to raise awareness about motorcycle safety through the Virginia Highway Safety Challenge. The Challenge asks motorcycle operators to follow these five calls to action to avoid being the next traffic fatality.

Highway Safety Challenge logo
  • Share the road
  • Always wear a helmet
  • Ride drug and alcohol free
  • Avoid distractions
  • Obey speed limits

In addition, AAA Mid-Atlantic is reminding all motorists to safely "Share the Road" with motorcycles and be extra alert when driving to help keep motorcyclists safe during Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and year-round.

"With the arrival of warmer weather and record high gas prices, more motorcycles are on the roads, so drivers of all vehicles need to be extra alert," said Martha M. Meade, manager of Public and Government Affairs at AAA Mid-Atlantic. "Motorcycles are some of the smallest vehicles on the road so motorists need to really look out for them and to take extra care to safely 'Share the Road'."

Because of their smaller size, motorcycles are often hidden in a vehicle's blind spot. "It's crucial that motorists always make a visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections," added Meade.

Motorcyclists are much more vulnerable than passenger vehicle drivers in the event of a crash. Research shows that approximately 80 percent of motorcycle crashes injure or kill a motorcycle rider, while only 20 percent of passenger car crashes injure or kill a driver or passenger in their vehicle.

AAA Mid-Atlantic offers additional tips for drivers to help keep motorcyclists safe on our roadways:

  • Always allow a motorcyclist the full lane width; never try to share a lane. Although it may seem as though there is enough room in a traffic lane for a motorcycle and an automobile, the motorcyclist needs the full room to maneuver safely.
  • Always signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic. This allows the motorcyclist to anticipate traffic flow and find a safe lane position.
  • Don't be fooled by a flashing turn signal on a motorcycle. Motorcycle signals are often not self-canceling and riders sometimes forget to turn them off. Wait to be sure the motorcycle is going to turn before you proceed.
  • Remember that road conditions that are minor annoyances to other vehicles pose major hazards to motorcyclists. Be aware that motorcyclists may need to change speed or adjust their 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 motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. And don't tailgate. In dry conditions, motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars.

In Virginia, motorcycle operators must hold a Class M Designation on their driver's license, or have a license restricted to the operation of a motorcycle. Motorcyclists and their passengers must wear a helmet that meets the standards of the Snell Memorial Foundation, the American National Standards Institute or the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The Virginia Rider Training Program offers motorcycle classes for both beginning and experienced riders. Classes, taught by certified motorcycle safety instructors, are offered at community colleges and other locations throughout the state. For more information about the program, go to www.dmvNOW.com or call 1-800-435-5137.

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