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Increased Ridership Puts New Focus on Motorcycle Safety

(NewsUSA) - When Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger severely injured himself on his motorcycle in the off season, it was yet one more example of how dangerous motorcycles can be.

But promising new technologies are being introduced to increase safety for motorcyclists. For example, a motorcycle airbag system -; optional this year on some Honda Gold Wing models -; was independently tested by AAA and its affiliate in Germany, ADAC.

Results showed that the airbag was able to prevent fatal injury to a test dummy in a 45-mph crash. The same crash on a motorcycle without an airbag would have produced fatal or near-fatal injuries in a front-to-side collision with a passenger vehicle. Researchers concluded that the motorcycle airbag system had a significant potential to considerably reduce injury risk in approximately one-third of all crashes involving motorcycles and passenger vehicles.

There has been a 115 percent increase in fatal crashes involving motorcyclists since 1997, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The total number of fatalities in 2005 climbed to 4,553, more than a 12-percent increase from the previous year.

These figures, according to experts, serve to underscore the importance of road safety for both motorcyclists and automobile drivers.

"The tremendous growth in the popularity of motorcycling has added millions of new motorcycles and riders to our roadways," said AAA President Robert L. Darbelnet. Motorcycle registration has increased nearly 50 percent in just under a decade, according to the organization's statistics.

"This means drivers need to be more aware than ever of how to share the road safely with motorcycles," Darbelnet said. "And motorcyclists need to take every opportunity to increase their margin of traffic safety."

AAA advises motorcyclists to wear bright or reflective clothing and a quality helmet. NHTSA estimates helmet use would reduce the likelihood of a crash fatality by 37 percent. Safety tips for drivers include providing motorcyclists with adequate room to maneuver; following at least three to four seconds behind a motorcycle to allow for hazardous road conditions such as pavement transitions, potholes or railroad crossings; and checking their side mirrors before changing lanes.

For more information, log on to www.AAA.com.







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