American Motorcyclist Association Releases New Distracted Driving PSA

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"Distracted driving" is a hazard to everyone on the road, as you can see in the latest Public Service Announcement from Nationwide Insurance and the American Motorcyclist Association (

    In the following interview, Ed Moreland, AMA vice president for government relations, discusses the dangers associated with distracted driving, how we can all share the road safely and what the AMA is doing to reduce the number of motorcyclist fatalities on our nation's roadways.

1.) "Distracted Drivers" is the focus of a new public service announcement from The American Motorcyclist Association and Nationwide Insurance. Why that topic?

EM: As you know, Nationwide's recent "Life on the Go" survey found that roads are full of distracted motorists, with 73 percent of survey respondents admitting they use their cell phone while driving. And, one in five admits to texting while driving. Motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians are all vulnerable to distracted drivers.

More and more evidence is pointing to distracted drivers as the cause of motorcycle crashes involving another vehicle. For many years we have known that nearly 70% of crashes involving a motorcycle and another vehicle were caused by the driver of the other vehicle. We wanted to take this opportunity to remind drivers to put down their phones, lattes, newspapers and make-up and pay more attention to the road.

2.) With gas prices reaching new highs, more people are purchasing motorcycles and scooters. What advice do you have for new riders?

EM: First, take a motorcycle training safety course. Even if you've been riding for years, you'll find new skills in a safety course. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation and other organizations offers courses in every state. Plus, some companies, like Nationwide, will give you a discount on your insurance for completing a safety course.

Second, consider your first bike purchase carefully. A smaller, less expensive bike may be the best choice for those new to motorcycling. The AMA website,, has tools for first time riders choosing a bike.

Finally, make sure you have the right gear. Carefully selecting your gloves, boots, jacket, helmet and pants will lengthen your riding season and help keep you safe.

3.) While participation in motorcycling is increasing, there are also more RVs, campers and boat trailers on the road. What tips would you offer to other drivers sharing lane space with motorcyclists?

EM: Here are two important ones. First, don't simply rely on the rearview and side mirrors to spot check who is sharing the road with you. The bigger the vehicle, the larger the blind spot - and it is especially easy for motorcycles to visually disappear within the blind spots on SUVs and recreational vehicles. Always use your signal and physically turn your head to check your line of sight before merging.

Second, make sure any items you're storing on or outside your vehicle are securely stowed and tied down. Losing even a cushion from a piece of furniture that you're towing or hauling can be disastrous to a motorcyclist following your vehicle. It's especially critical for drivers towing a trailer of any kind to secure all items and check for necessary adjustments at every stop.

4.) I have seen a number of stories lately about the rise in motorcyclist fatalities. What is causing this increase and what can be done to change the pattern?

EM: That is a very good question and one that requires a fairly in-depth answer. Part of the reason that motorcyclist fatalities are up is simply due to the fact that there are far more motorcyclists on the road than ever before. Indeed, motorcycle sales have been very strong over the past decade. According to the Motorcycle Industry Council, sales increased 34% between 1998 and 2003.

A couple of other contributing factors have been the proliferation of larger vehicles on the road such as SUVs and the ever-expanding use of cell phones and other driver distractions.

Through a grant from the US government and contributions of the motorcycle community, a comprehensive crash causation study is going to be conducted this fall by Oklahoma State University. The last major study into the causes of motorcycle crashes was completed in 1980. When the new study is completed, we will be better equipped to understand how to prevent crashes through truly effective countermeasures, and ultimately reduce the number of motorcyclist fatalities on our nation's roadways.

5.) How can the motorcycling community and the public support the new motorcycle crash study?

EM: The government has agreed to match money raised by the motorcycle community to complete the study. So far, through significant contributions of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, the Motorcycle Industry Council, the AMA and individual riders, the community has been able to make available over $3 million.

Additionally, AMA has established a web site to allow other riders to contribute to the effort through our "Fuel the Fund" program which seeks to raise money for the study - one tank's worth of gas at a time. So far, individual riders have given over $20,000. If riders are interested in joining the effort to fuel the fund, they can find more information and a pledge form at

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Liz Christopher
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