Tennessee Department of TransportationNashville, TN – May is designated as national Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. The Tennessee Governor’s Highway Safety Office and the Tennessee Highway Patrol joined to share a unified message: Share the Road.

“As the weather gets warmer, more and more motorcyclists will be on the road,” said Governor’s Highway Safety Office Director Kendell Poole. “It takes everyone working together to stay safe. Motorcyclists take extra precaution with protective gear and being aware of their surroundings. We are asking all other drivers to do their part and take the extra time to look twice.”

According to the Department of Safety and Homeland Security, there were 2,710 known crashes involving a motorcycle in 2014 that resulted in 121 deaths.

“When a car collides with a motorcyclist, it is much different than a crash between two cars,” said Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel Tracy Trott. “A motorcyclist has little defense against the tons of steel that will hit them. While traffic fatalities statewide are declining, motorcycle fatalities have continued to rise. Over the last decade, we have seen an approximate twenty-five percent increase.”

Among those speaking at the press event included motorcycle crash survivor Wayne Fielder. In 2008, Wayne was riding his 2005 Harley Davidson “Fatboy” in Lebanon when a car cut in front of him. He hit the bumper and side wheel of the other vehicle and was thrown several feet upon impact. “I am living proof of the consequences that can occur when drivers don’t take the extra second to look twice. There are countless others that don’t survive a crash like mine. If I can communicate one thing today, it’s please share the road.” Wayne suffered extensive nerve damage and injury required him to have below the knee amputation.

Dr. Brad Dennis, Director of Trauma Outreach and Education at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, attended the event to discuss his experiences in the critical care unit. “The biggest threat to motorcyclists today is other drivers.  I encourage all drivers to be aware of those around them on roadways, especially motorcyclists.  The most important thing motorcyclists can do to protect themselves is to wear the appropriate gear.  Without a doubt, the most essential piece of protection is a full-face helmet.  There is overwhelming research that demonstrates that helmet-use is the best chance for survival in motorcycle crashes.”

There are additional steps that even a seasoned motorcycle rider can take to become more experienced. “The Tennessee Motorcycle Rider Education Program (MREP) can teach everyone to ride a motorcycle safely.  It also teaches experienced riders to ride safer.  We have a learn-to-ride program that fits everyone, from people who have never ridden a motorcycle to people who are experienced,” said MREP Instructor T. J. Tennent.

For more information about motorcycle safety, please visit the Governor’s Highway Safety Office website at www.tntrafficsafety.org