May is Motorcyclist Awareness and Safety Month

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

Helmet use, operator training and motorist awareness are factors that could be contributing to a three-year leveling off of motorcycle deaths in Louisiana, according to highway safety officials.

Gov. Bobby Jindal has proclaimed May as Motorcyclist Awareness and Safety Month in Louisiana. In recognition of the designation, the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission on Sunday helped sponsor the annual Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Rally in front of the state Capitol.

"Louisiana citizens recognize the fact that all licensed vehicle operators have the same rights and privileges on our state roads and highways; and all motorists should be aware of their surroundings while driving," the governor said in the proclamation.

Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, said motorcycle safety involves operators of both motorcycles and other vehicles sharing the road.

"Operator training, proper use of safety equipment and keeping sober are key factors in motorcycle safety," LeBlanc said. "Also very important is that drivers of other vehicles be aware and respectful of motorcycles that are sharing the road."

Preliminary data for 2012 shows that 75 people were killed in motorcycle crashes that year, down moderately from 79 in 2011. Motorcycle fatalities in Louisiana spiked in 2009 when 104 people died in crashes. In 2011, the most recent year for which statistics are final, motorcycle fatalities represented almost 12 percent of all highway deaths in Louisiana. One-third of 2011 motorcycle fatalities involved alcohol and 44 percent of the deaths involved a single vehicle.

Observational surveys have shown near 100 percent compliance with Louisiana's law that requires all motorcycle riders to wear approved helmets.

The Louisiana Department of Public Safety sponsors motorcycle operator training courses that, when completed successfully, facilitate the process for obtaining the required endorsement on a motorcycle operator's driver's license. In order to obtain a motorcycle endorsement on their driver's license, state law requires motorcycle operators to pass tests specifically designed for operating a two-wheel motorized vehicle. However, persons who successfully complete an approved motorcycle safety training course, such as those offered by the Department of Public Safety, can obtain the necessary license endorsement without taking additional tests.

Information about the DPS courses is available at www.lahighwaysafety.org.