Motorcycle Freedom & Safety on the Open Road
International Ride to Work Day, which is being observed on Monday, June 19, celebrates the joys of motorcycle riding. Whether you ride as part of your daily commute, for weekend fun, or as part of a community of riders, safety comes first. The unique freedom of the road that comes with motorcycles also comes with responsibilities—for your safety and for that of others.
We clearly have a great deal of work to do—both motorcyclists and drivers—to make riding safer. In 2015, there were 4,976 motorcyclists killed—an 8-percent increase from the 4,594 motorcyclists killed in 2014. Motorcyclist fatalities occurred nearly 29 times more frequently than passenger car occupant fatalities in traffic crashes per vehicle mile traveled.
Safer motorcycle riding begins with helmets. Helmets saved 1,772 motorcyclists’ lives in 2015. However, 740 more lives could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets. In States without universal helmet laws, 58 percent of motorcyclists killed in 2015 were not wearing helmets, as compared to 8 percent in States with universal helmet laws.
While the law varies from State to State, your use of a helmet should not. You are needlessly increasing your risk of serious injury or death by not wearing a helmet. Always wear a helmet that meets the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218. When shopping for a helmet, look for the DOT symbol on the back. That is the manufacturer's way of certifying that the helmet meets the DOT standard.
Safer motorcycle riding—and road safety in general—also means avoiding alcohol and drugs. Forty-two percent of motorcycle riders who died in single-vehicle crashes in 2015 were alcohol-impaired. Motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were found to have the highest percentage of alcohol-impaired drivers than any other vehicle types (27% for motorcycles, 21% for passenger cars, 20% for light trucks, and 2% for large trucks). If you’ve been drinking, you shouldn’t be on the road.
Drivers also need to respect motorcyclists, give them room, and look out for them. Drivers should understand the safety challenges faced by motorcyclists such as size and visibility, and motorcycle riding practices like downshifting and weaving to know how to anticipate and respond to them.
Motorcyclists know that the freedom and exhilaration of riding is like nothing else. NHTSA wants you to be able to enjoy a full lifetime of that joy because you’ve chosen to ride safely—while wearing a helmet and while sober. Use Ride to Work Day as a time to review the facts about motorcycle safety, to share them with riders and drivers alike, and to recommit yourself safe riding.