AAA Asks Motorists, Motorcyclists to Take Actions Aimed at Cutting the Rising Number of Motorcyclist Fatalities

Orlando, Fla. – 10/6/2006

Motorcyclists urged to explore new safety advances – including airbags

AAA, the nation’s largest organization for motorists, wants motorists to help motorcycle riders curtail the growing number of fatal crashes involving riders, and urges motorcyclists to do more to protect themselves.

“AAA wants all motorists to be aware that tremendous growth in the popularity of motorcycling has added millions of new motorcycles and riders to our roadways,” said AAA President, Robert L. Darbelnet. “This means drivers need to be more aware than ever of how to share the road safely with motorcycles. And motorcyclists need to take every opportunity to increase their margin of traffic safety.

If motorists will be more alert to motorcycles on the road and give them the time and room they need to safely maneuver in traffic, and motorcyclist will better protect themselves by wearing protective gear, clearly illuminating their rides and looking into new technologies such as motorcycles equipped with airbags, the road can be safer for all of us,” Darbelnet said.

According to AAA, the number of motorcycles registered in the United States has soared. Motorcycle registration has increased nearly 50 percent in just under a decade. Reasons for the growth include improved reliability, a wider array of models, fuel-efficiency and large increases in the number of female riders and riders who begin motorcycling in middle-age or older as a leisure activity. Unfortunately, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports the growth in motorcycling has been accompanied by a 115 percent increase since 1997 in the number of fatal crashes involving motorcyclists. The total number of fatalities in 2005 increased to 4,553, up 545 from the previous year.

Promising new safety technologies – such as a motorcycle airbag system recently tested by AAA in cooperation with its equivalent motoring organization in Germany, ADAC — demonstrate that motorcycles can be equipped to provide much more protection for riders, AAA said.

The airbag system — optional this year on some Honda Gold Wing models — was able to prevent fatal injury to a test subject (a highly evolved crash test dummy) in a head-on 45 mph hour crash. The same crash on motorcycle without an airbag would have produced fatal or near-fatal injuries.

AAA said the test results exceeded the expectations of staff and concluded the motorcycle airbag system had a significant potential to considerably reduce injury risk in approximately a third of all crashes involving motorcycles and passenger vehicles.

AAA said advances in the construction of motorcycle helmets make some older helmets obsolete. Motorcyclists owe it to themselves and their loved ones, to upgrade to a high quality helmet if they have not already done so, and to wear appropriate eye protection, footwear, gloves, and bright or reflective riding apparel.

Illuminating motorcycles with clearly visible head, tail, turn and stop lamps is not only the law it is crucial to seeing and being seen on the roadway. The addition of small marker” lamps can improve the chances a motorists will spot a motorcycle on the road in dim or dark riding conditions.

“Motorists too, need to play a larger role in motorcycle safety,” Darbelnet said. Approximately 50 percent all motorcycle crashes involve another vehicle, according to AAA.

With the large numbers of motorcyclists on the road, car and truck drivers need to be more vigilant in checking for oncoming motorcycles as they prepare to make turns, cross intersections and change lanes. A motorcycle’s smaller profile can make it hard to see, especially at higher speeds, in dim light or at night.

Motorist should allow motorcycles more room to start, stop, or make turns. This means other motor vehicles should always give motorcycle riders plenty of room and respect their right to use the entire traffic lane. Because of the number of relatively inexperienced riders on the road, moving in too close can cause a rider to become unsettled and potentially lose control of their motorcycle. NHTSA recommends allowing a following distance of at least three to four seconds.

Anyone who is new to motorcycling should enroll in a motorcycle safety course and repeatedly practice in light traffic before riding in areas where there may be severe congestion, higher speeds or complicated and frequent turns and lane changes, AAA said.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 49 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at www.AAA.com.