Warm, sunny weather means that Tennessee can be a great place to be a motorcyclist, and with high prices at the gas pump, driving a motorcycle is an economical option as well. But new statistics from the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security (TDSHS) shows that riders need to consider the dangers of motorcycling as well.

TDSHS reports that motorcycle fatalities are up with 97 fatal motorcycle accidents on Tennessee roads so far this year. This represents a roughly 10 percent increase over last year.

An official with the Tennessee Motorcycle Rider Education Program noted that the warm weather may have played a role. This year’s dry, sunny weather may have enticed more riders to take to the roads.

Of course, warm, clear weather generally doesn’t cause motorcycle accidents; an element of human error is usually involved. The goal of the Tennessee Motorcycle Rider Education program is to show motorcyclists, even experienced riders, how to improve their safety when they’re on the road. Riders who complete the course are 60 percent less likely to get into an accident. They’re also around 60 percent less likely to be at fault when they do have a collision. An official associated with the program notes that the most important thing riders can do to improve their driving safety is not to drive outside of their comfort zone.

Driving outside one’s comfort area isn’t the only reason for fatal crashes, however. Last year, nearly a quarter of fatal motorcycle accidents involved alcohol. Thirty-seven percent of fatalities could have been prevented if the driver had been wearing a helmet. And, of course, automobile drivers need to be prepared to watch out for motorcyclists on busy roadways.

Motorcycle fatalities are a preventable tragedy, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure that all motorists can share the road safely. With a few simple steps, we can make Tennessee roads a much safer place for our motorcyclists.

Source: Middle Tennessee Public Radio, “Tennessee Motorcycle Fatalities Up Dramatically in 2012,” Shawn Anfinson, Aug. 31, 2012