Georgia Launches Rider-Intervention Program to Prevent Motorcyclists from Riding while Intoxicated

"Riders Helping Riders" seeks to have other motorcyclists to intervene to keep riders from drinking and riding

The state of Georgia is rolling out a new program to prevent people who have been drinking alcohol from getting on their motorcycles. While there have been many programs with that aim over the years, the Georgia project takes a fresh and potentially very effective approach—it asks other riders to intervene and prevent drinking riders from getting on their bikes.

The "Riders Helping Riders" program is based on the idea that while many motorcyclists may not value the opinions of non-riders, they do react to peer pressure from fellow motorcyclists. Thus the program seeks to use rider intervention to keep riders from drinking on rides and keep them from riding it they have been drinking. The program also seeks to educate riders who might feel that drinking and riding is not as dangerous as it actually is. Riders still cling to many misperceptions about drinking and riding. The most common sees to be "_I_ can handle it," but other include the fallacy that drinking riders who crash are less likely to be injured, that they aren't endangering anybody but themselves, and that someone is looking out for them (other than cops seeking to enforce DUI statutes).

Alcohol is particularly lethal for motorcyclists, with a third to a half of motorcyclist fatalities showing alcohol in their systems. It takes much lower blood-alcohol levels to impair a motorcyclist than otyher drivers. A rider who has had more than a single beer is over 40 times more likely to crash than a sober motorcyclist. Unfortunately, some beer and other alcoholic-beverage vendors seem to target motorcyclists with special displays, advertising, giveaways and other promotions at motorcycle events, which promotes a drink-and-ride culture.

A press release about the Georgia "Riders Helping Riders" program follows.

_'Riders Helping Riders': Alcohol and Motorcycling Growing Problem, Target of New State Safety Program in Georgia

ATLANTA, Oct. 18 (AScribe Newswire) -- Deaths from traffic crashes have leveled off in recent years nationwide, but motorcycle fatalities are climbing ominously, nearly doubling in the last eight years. Experts believe one cause is the same culprit in many auto crashes -- alcohol.

Beginning this week, Georgia will host a statewide pilot project to confront the problem of riding while intoxicated through a program in which motorcyclists will hear the message from a source they trust the most -- other riders. "Riders Helping Riders" begins training Georgia motorcycle safety instructors, part-time state employees ranging from mechanics to office workers who are committed to motorcycle safety. This is an effort to help create a culture change in the motorcycling community, where the importance of sober riding needs to grow.

Riders Helping Riders is based on research showing that motorcyclists view themselves as members of a distinct community, and take care of each other when they see one of their fellow riders in need. However, surveys show that riders are often unwilling to intervene in another rider's drinking, preferring instead to tell him: "Don't ride near me."

Changing that attitude could save lives and reduce injuries, said Les R. Becker, Ph.D., a researcher with PIRE Public Services Research Institute, which designed the Riders Helping Riders program. "You can't leave it up to the drinking rider to decide if he or she can ride safely," he said. "If riders are going to help out their fellow riders when they're in trouble, then this is one time when another rider really needs your help."

"Research shows that alcohol contributes to a much higher percentage of fatal motorcycle crashes than it does for any other type of vehicle. In Georgia, 111 people died on motorcycles last year."

"It's just tragic that one-third of those motorcycle fatalities may have been preventable because they involved alcohol," said Director Bob Dallas of the Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety. "Georgia has been focusing a DUI and speed enforcement effort called 'Operation Fast & Furious' on riders who act out these high-risk impaired driving behaviors on our highways. Now 'Riders Helping Riders' will help provide the critical educational component needed to reinforce the 'ride sober' message from within the motorcycling community."

Even a little alcohol can pose a big threat to riders. Because of the special skills it takes to operate a motorcycle, Director Dallas says it's not surprising that a higher proportion of riders killed in crashes are at lower blood alcohol concentrations than drivers of other vehicles. Mistakes made while riding on two wheels can be much less forgiving. Impairment sufficient to threaten a rider's life can occur well before that rider is visibly intoxicated, Dallas said.

The Georgia Department of Driver Services has decided to include Riders Helping Riders in all its motorcycle safety training programs. Georgia motorcycle safety instructors will make presentations at club meetings, rallies, dealer events and other rider gatherings, focusing on how to keep riders away from alcohol when they're riding, keeping alcohol away from rider gatherings and teaching ways to discourage fellow riders from riding when they've been drinking.

"Focus groups show that motorcyclists who use alcohol and ride still embrace many archaic reasons, such as that they are only endangering themselves, they can handle it, crashing will never happen to them and so on," said Chad Burns, administrator of the Georgia Department of Driver Services' Motorcycle Safety Program. "Obviously, the motorcycling community needs to change that way of thinking."

Riders Helping Riders is funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If the Georgia pilot program is successful, it may be instituted nationwide. PIRE, or Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, is a national nonprofit research institute funded largely by federal grants and contracts that focuses on public health and safety issues.

The first trainings will be at 6 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 19 and 20, at the American Honda Motor Co. Rider Education Center at 1450 Morrison Parkway in Alpharetta. Media is invited.

CONTACTS: Les R. Becker, Ph.D., PIRE, 301-520-5642, becker@pire.org

Jim Shuler, Director, Public Affairs, Governor's Office of Highway Safety, 404-657-9105, jshuler@gohs.state.ga.us

Chad Burns, Administrator, Georgia Dept. of Driver Services, 404-669-2945, cburns@dmvs.ga.gov

Jim Gogek, PIRE Media Relations, 619-251-4675, jgogek@pire.org_

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