The rising number of motorcyclists killed in South Carolina is being caused by several problems, and will therefore need several different solutions, members of the state's Motorcycle Safety Task Force say.
Motorcycle deaths are up almost 50 percent in just five years nationwide, with more people dying in South Carolina, too. Last year, there were 109 motorcycle deaths in South Carolina. The state has 80 so far this year, which is more than there were at the same point last year.
Frankie Nelson, a member of the task force and a member of a motorcyclists' advocacy group, says most of the fatalities are men over 40 who are inexperienced riders. She says the task force needs to raise the awareness of rider safety courses.
"We have an excellent rider education program that other states, in fact, model their program after," she says. "Bringing awareness to that program is going to be, I think, A number one, because many bikers in South Carolina are not aware that we do have an excellent training program here."
One of the other major problems is the state's licensing program. Someone with no motorcycle riding experience can get a permit by passing a written test, then keep renewing that permit indefinitely and never pass a driving skills test or get a permanent license.
Ed Harmon, planning and evaluation manager for the state Office of Highway Safety and a member of the task force, says the group will make a number of recommendations to address education, training, licensing and law enforcement issues.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sponsored a statewide assessment of motorcycle safety in South Carolina that was conducted in May. NHTSA is now recommending a mandatory helmet law.
Harmon says he doesn't know if the task force will recommend that. "NHTSA may very well be looking at providing some sanctions to states that do not implement that kind of legislation. I could see that as being realistically on the horizon. But we'll just have to see how that plays out," he says.
The task force will meet again in September
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