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"Dear Colleague" Letter Regarding Motorcycle Safety from Congressmen DeFazio and LaTourette


July 24, 2003

Dear Colleague:

This week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that motorcyclist fatalities increased in 2002. This marks the fifth straight year of increasing rider fatalities after years of consistent improvement. The tragic increase coincides with shortfalls in rider skill training and programs to educate motorists to be aware of motorcycles. It is time to reverse this dangerous and disturbing trend.

We believe improvements to motorcycle safety training and motorist awareness are called for by these preventable accidents. Across the country, Motorcyclists' Rights Organizations (MROs) have established their rider training programs and funded the programs by self-imposed taxes and extra fees on licenses and registrations. California's experience is instructive: from 1986 (the first year of California's formal rider safety training program) to 1991, fatalities dropped by 340 and injuries by 11,348 even as motorcycle registrations increased. Now that trend is shifting toward escalating injuries and deaths, and we are presented with a unique opportunity to return to protecting riders and drivers on our roads. Within the reauthorization of TEA-21, states should be encouraged and assisted so that motorcycle accident prevention becomes a reality once again.

Please join us in calling on Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) and Ranking Member James Oberstar (D-Minnesota) to provide legislation in the TEA-21 reauthorization that will make motorcycle safety history by preventing accidents, thwarting injuries and saving lives. The letter on the reverse side urges them to do just that.

To co-sign this letter, please contact Terry McNaughton in Representative Steve LaTourette's office (225-5731) or Kathy Dedrick in U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio's office (225-6416).


Steven C. LaTourette
Member of Congress

Peter DeFazio
Member of Congress

July 24, 2003

Chairman Don Young
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
House of Representatives
2165 Rayburn HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable James Oberstar
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
House of Representatives
2165 Rayburn HOB
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman Young and Ranking Member Oberstar,

With the reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), we have a historic opportunity to make great strides in motorcycle safety and encouraging this important mode of transportation that conserves fuel, eases traffic congestion and all but eliminates road wear.

Past authorizations have protected motorcycle access to roadways and High-Occupancy-Vehicle lanes, and safeguarded the right of states to decide matters of law involving rider apparel without the threat of federal sanctions. In the upcoming reauthorization, we encourage the inclusion of new provisions aimed at improving the safety and preserving the rights of the millions of Americans who ride motorcycles.

First, we strongly support language that realigns the motorcycle safety focus of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to crash prevention as a priority over injury reduction. We also fully support new provisions to reinforce state sovereignty on deciding matters that should remain the province of state legislative and executive action. Despite the prohibition contained in TEA-21, NHTSA continues to utilize appropriated funds to influence legislators at the State and local level to favor or oppose pending legislation. To honor the prerogatives of the states, the prohibition against NHTSA lobbying should be strengthened.

Second, we encourage the establishment of a Motorcyclist Advisory Council within the Office of the Administrator of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Comprised of motorcyclists who are traffic design engineers, state transportation officials and safety advocates, this Council would coordinate with FHWA planners and advise the FHWA Administrator on matters of mutual concern to motorcyclists and FHWA, including barrier design, road design and maintenance practices and the architecture and implementation of Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) technologies. This directly fulfills important recommendations of the National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety, the November 2000 collaborative effort by NHTSA, law enforcement, the insurance industry and safety advocates that charts the future for motorcycle safety.

Third, we urge the inclusion of motorcycle safety incentive grants to assist as well as encourage states in expanding motorcycle safety programs to accommodate all who need or seek training and serve to enhance motorist awareness of motorcyclists in the reauthorization. We also support making motorcycle safety a Section 402 grant priority. These initiatives, too, are important recommendations for action by the National Agenda and will help substantially to prevent accidents, thwart injuries and save lives. We hope that you will strongly consider these important provisions as integral components of TEA-21 reauthorization, and we look forward to continuing to work with you on this historic legislation.

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