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Spotlight On Motorcycle Safety As Deaths Rise

In April, Texas joined in the national campaign for motorcycle safety called "Share the Road." This campaign is organized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) explained that the campaign's goal is to shed light on the unsettlingly high number of motorcycle fatalities and Texas motorcycle crash trends in recent years.

In Texas alone, motorcyclist fatalities accounted for 14 percent (434) of all traffic crash fatalities in 2009. Another 5,800 motorcycle riders suffered serious injuries that year. TxDOT has estimated that, if drastic safety reforms are not implemented soon, the state's motorcycle fatality toll will double within the next four years.

"We know that 66 percent of motorcycle crashes result in death or serious injury for the motorcyclist," said Carol Rawson, Traffic Operations director for TxDOT. Rawson commented that motorcycle safety is important now more than ever "as more and more people turn to motorcycles for affordable transportation and recreation."

Along with the rest of the country, Texas has seen a huge increase in the number of new motorcyclists. The number of registered motorcycles in Texas has reached almost 423,000, more than double the number of bikes in the state ten years ago. Traffic analysts believe that spiking fuel prices have prompted many passenger vehicle drivers to make the switch to an economical motorcycle.

Unfortunately, many of these new riders are inexperienced and can be at risk for serious accident injuries.

According to TxDOT, going through intersections and changing lanes are the deadliest moments for motorcycles. Many motorcycle accidents are caused by other drivers' failure to watch for bikers on the road. Accustomed to larger vehicles, drivers may not take the time to look over their shoulders or around the corner for the smaller, less-visible motorcycles.

Severe Head Injuries in Motorcycle Accidents

Motorcyclists should wear a helmet at all times. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, severe head injuries are the leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes. Studies have shown that helmets are 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries.

In 1997, helmet laws in Texas changed to only require certain motorcyclists (those under 21 and those without $10,000 in insurance) to wear helmets. After the legislative change, helmet use dropped by almost a third and motorcycle fatalities rose by 31 percent.