It’s time to make safety helmets standard equipment for motorcyclists, as U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters sees it.
Peters is calling on manufacturers to provide free or heavily discounted DOT-certified helmets or driver safety training with the purchase of every new motorcycle sold in the United States.
"Helmets and proper training are just as important as brakes or headlights when it comes to the well-being of motorcyclists," Secretary Peters said. "We shouldn’t be letting any customer take a bike out of the store without a helmet as part of the package. Safety shouldn’t have to be an option when purchasing a motorcycle."
Secretary Peters said only 58 percent of riders wear helmets today, which is down 13 percent from just four years ago.
She added that manufacturers could help reverse the trend by getting helmets into riders? hands and training them how to ride safely, noting that 700 motorcyclists would survive crashes every year if they wore helmets.
During remarks to the Motorcycle Industry Council in Indianapolis, the Secretary praised those manufacturers already providing free training for riders. However, she said she was asking for help from manufacturers because while motorcycles account for only two percent of the vehicles on the road, they are involved in over 10 percent of all crashes.
She added that motorcycle fatalities have more than doubled in 10 years and now account for over 4,500 highway deaths and 78,000 injuries each year. Even worse, the crash rate among motorcyclists in the 50-plus age group has increased by over 400 percent, she said.
The Secretary noted that the helmet she was wearing during her 2005 motorcycle crash likely prevented severe head injury.
"I know from first-hand experience how effective helmets can be," she said.
Peters also said the Department of Transportation was "attacking" the challenge of motorcycle safety on several fronts. Last September, the Department awarded over $6 million in safety grants to states to support motorcycle safety.
In addition, the Federal Highway Administration has established a Motorcycle Advisory Council to focus on making roads safer for motorcyclists and will continue work begun by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on a Motorcycle Crash Causation Study to identify why motorcycle crashes occur and find ways to reduce the fatality and injury rates.