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Directions in Highway Safety, Summer 2008 Cover Page Download Newsletter pdf
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Late Winter 2008 | Vol. 10 | No. 4

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U.S. DOT Secretary Urges Funding Flexibility for Motorcycle Safety Grant Program

Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters has sent legislation to Congress that would allow states to spend their motorcycle safety grant funds on efforts to encourage helmet use. Currently, state highway safety offices can only use the funds for training or education programs.

Secretary Peters is a selfdescribed avid motorcyclist, and she credits her helmet and riding gear with saving her life during a motorcycle crash in 2005. The Secretary noted that states need additional resources to combat a sharp increase in motorcycle fatalities. In 2006, motorcycle fatalities reached 4,810, an increase of 127 percent since 1997. NHTSA estimates not only that motorcycle helmets saved the lives of 1,658 motorcyclists in 2006, but also that 752 additional lives could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets.


Motorcycle advocacy groups were predictably concerned with the Secretary's position. Jeff Hennie, Vice President of Government Relations for the Motorcycle Riders Foundation, issued a statement that they are "extremely disappointed that Mrs. Peters would choose this small, yet critical, grant program to raid. We understand her desire to encourage helmet use, but couldn't the Secretary of Transportation find a more suitable program to fund her personal helmet hunt?"

The Secretary has called motorcycles "our nation's greatest highway safety challenge." To address the challenge, she launched a comprehensive motorcycle safety initiative last fall. Her plan emphasizes more rider education and training, tougher standards for helmet certification labeling, law enforcement training and road designs that consider motorcycle dynamics.

For more information on the Secretary's initiative, visit