Motorcyclist Fatalities Rise Statewide

Impaired Riding, Driver Awareness Key Issues

GLEN BURNIE, Md.—Each year, between 60 and 70 motorcyclists are killed in Maryland and another 1,400 riders and passengers are injured. In 2014, motorcycle fatalities in Maryland increased while total traffic fatalities dropped to its lowest level in 60 years.

“We’ve managed to drive down traffic fatalities in general, but the number of motorcyclist deaths remains unacceptably high. There were 66 riders killed last year, up from 62 the previous year,” said Milt Chaffee, Administrator, Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) and Governor Larry Hogan’s Highway Safety Representative. “We must Share the Road. Our mission is zero traffic deaths, because even one motorcyclist lost is one too many.”

Warmer weather brings more motorcycle riders into the transportation mix, and the increase in motorcycling coincides with an increase in motorcycle-involved crashes and injuries. Three out of every four police-reported motorcycle crashes results in an injury to the rider.

On Thursday, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) joined with members from the Maryland Motorcycle Safety Coalition to announce the launch of a new campaign to remind motorcycle riders and vehicle drivers how important it is to Share the Road.

“There is a reoccurring pattern we see every spring. As soon as the weather warms up, riders who have been inactive for several months get out on the roads and we start to see crashed bikes coming in for repair,” said Bob Henig, Vice President of the Maryland Motorcycle Dealers Association, a member of the Coalition. “Experienced dealers can repair most damage and replace scraped up body parts on most any bike to look and operate like new again in fairly short order, but we can’t repair or replace body parts on the rider.”

This year’s campaign focuses on riders and motorists sharing the road and has also added a message to prevent impaired motorcycle riding. Beginning in May, and throughout the summer riding season, the campaign will use highway message signs, radio and web advertisements, banners at MVA offices and motorcycle dealerships, direct outreach at motorcycle events and yard signs throughout the state to increase awareness and reduce crashes.

“Drinking and riding just don’t mix,” said Tom Gianni, Chief of the Maryland Highway Safety office, and a motorcycle rider for more than 25 years. “Four out of every 10 riders killed had been drinking, and many have very high blood alcohol concentrations. Balance, vision, judgment and quick reflexes are all critical to riding a motorcycle safely—and alcohol affects all of those.” Fatal motorcycle crash reports show that areas of east Baltimore County, northern Anne Arundel County and Prince George’s County are overrepresented in impaired motorcyclist crashes.

Over the last five years, Baltimore City has led the state in the total number of motorcycle crashes, and Baltimore County, second in the number of fatal motorcycle crashes. In 2014, Baltimore City and County were two of just four jurisdictions statewide to see a decline in fatal motorcycle crashes, falling from four to two in Baltimore City and from eight to four in Baltimore County. Despite these bright spots, motorist inattention continues to be a problem.

“In a crash between a car and a motorcycle, the rider has little protection against injuries,” said State Highway Deputy Administrator Douglas Simmons. “Drivers need to look twice for motorcycles before turning or changing lanes; it could literally save someone’s life.”

Every year during riding season, SHA displays safety messages on overhead digital signs to promote the Share the Road message.

“No matter who is at fault in the crash, the motorcyclist always loses,” said Michelle Holcomb, State Director of ABATE of Maryland. “We don’t have a metal cage or bumpers to protect us. My body is my crumple zone.” A motorcyclist is six times more likely to be injured and 27 times more likely to die in a crash, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “We are asking drivers to put down the cell phone, and to look twice before making turns or changing lanes. You could save my life.”

The Maryland Motorcycle Safety Coalition includes members from motorcycle organizations and clubs, state and local law enforcement, motorcycle dealerships, motorcycle safety training centers, emergency medical services, state and federal agencies and the military. During the month of May, and throughout the summer riding season the coalition will use highway message signs, radio and web advertisements, banners at MVA branch offices and motorcycle dealerships, and motorist-awareness yard signs throughout the state to raise awareness to try to reduce crashes. The MVA will also include a “Share the Road” message with registration renewal packets mailed to Maryland residents.

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