NTSB Chairman Stresses Importance of Motorcycle Safety

As motorcyclists throughout the country observe May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness month, National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Mark V. Rosenker stresses the need for motorcycle safety, stating thtat that Department of Transportation Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218-compliant helmets reduce injuries and save lives.

Since 1997, motorcycle fatalities have increased 127 percent. Annually, the number of motorcycle deaths is more than double the number of people killed in all aviation, rail, marine, and pipeline accidents combined.

4,810 motorcyclists died in crashes in 2006. Approximately 41 percent (1,957) of those killed were not wearing a helmet.

"The facts are very clear- head injuries are a leading cause of deaths in motorcycle crashes," Rosenker said. "The most important step riders can take in terms of protecting themselves and staying alive is to wear a DOT- compliant helmet every time they ride." DOT-compliant helmets are designed with a hard outer shell, an impact-attenuating liner, and a retention system to protect the head, especially the brain, in a variety of impact scenarios.

Twenty states and the District of Columbia have universal helmet laws. Twenty-seven states have partial laws, and three states (Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire) do not have any helmet law.

"Fatalities in all other modes of transportation have decreased. It is imperative that we reduce the number of motorcycle fatalities and injuries immediately," Rosenker said.

In 2006, the safety board held a public forum and gathered information on ongoing motorcycle research and initiatives, as well as countermeasures that may reduce the likelihood of motorcycle accidents and fatalities. In September 2007, NTSB held a board meeting on motorcycle safety and issued recommendations regarding motorcycle helmets.

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