U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters today sent legislation to Congress that she said seeks greater flexibility for states to target one of the leading causes of motorcycle deaths across the nation – riding without a helmet.
An avid motorcyclist, Peters credits her helmet and riding gear for saving her life during a 2005 motorcycle crash.
“My helmet prevented me from being a brain injury patient when I crashed my Harley two years ago,” Secretary Peters said. “We know helmets save lives and I want states to be able to join in urging riders to take personal responsibility for their safety by wearing a helmet every time they ride.”
The legislation submitted to Congress would allow states to use federal motorcycle safety funding to promote the use of motorcycle helmets. Currently, states are limited to using the funds for motorcycle safety training and awareness programs only.
Secretary Peters noted that states need additional resources to combat a sharp increase in motorcycle fatalities. In 2006, motorcycle fatalities reached 4,810, an increase of 127 percent since 1997, Secretary said. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that motorcycle helmets not only saved the lives of 1,658 motorcyclists in 2006, but that 752 additional lives could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets, she added.
Calling motorcycles “our nation’s greatest highway safety challenge,” Secretary Peters launched a comprehensive federal initiative to improve motorcycle safety in October 2007. The action plan emphasizes more rider education and training, tougher standards for helmet certification labeling, law enforcement training, and road designs that consider motorcycle dynamics.
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