Sixteen percent of all vehicle fatalities in Texas involve motorcyclists, according to David Strickland, the administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A recently licensed motorcyclist himself, Strickland was a speaker during the opening session of the fourth annual Traffic Safety Conference in San Antonio this summer.
“I love motorcyclists, and I love motorcycling, but motorcyclists don’t necessarily love me,” Strickland told the crowd of more than 200 law-enforcement personnel, transportation researchers, policy makers, public health officials, traffic engineers and other safety professionals from around the state. “I will tell anybody: wear a helmet, wear the right clothing, and get yourself into a riding class. Because statistically speaking, you’re on two wheels, so you’re at a physical disadvantage. Why stack the odds against yourself even more?”
Strickland informed the group that motorcyclists also have a much higher rate of riding impaired when compared to passenger-vehicle drivers. And although Texas crash fatality rates have steadily decreased over the last several years, that’s not the case where motorcycles are concerned. “The fatality rate with motorcycles is really keeping Texas back in term of overall fatalities,” Strickland said.
“While we saw a decline in motorcycle deaths for the first time in over a decade in 2009, we must continue our efforts to promote sharing the road safely and watching out for motorcycles,” says Research Scientist Patricia Turner of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s Center for Transportation Safety. “The most recent statistics show that motorcycle fatalities increased by 10 percent, from 435 in 2010 to 479 in 2011.”
An entire session of this year’s Traffic Safety Conference was dedicated to motorcycle safety. Speakers for the session included Turner and Jude Schexnyder, chair of the Texas Motorcycle Safety Coalition.
“Motorcyclists are 25 more times more likely than passengers in cars to be killed in an accident, and they are five times more likely to be injured,” TxDOT Deputy Executive Director John Barton said during his speech at the opening session of the conference.
Barton informed the crowd that he was involved in a crash with a motorcyclist in 1997. “I flat out did not see them,” he said, adding that motorcycle safety programs like Share the Road are necessary. “It’s important for all of us to remind each other that we have to pay attention and we have to take a second look.”