As chief of the Colorado State Patrol and a motorcycle rider for the past 14 years, I know there is nothing like the freedom and exhilaration of riding a motorcycle in our beautiful state.
But with that freedom comes responsibility and certainly some danger.
Every year for the past nine years, the number of motorcyclists killed on our nation’s highways has increased. And sadly, motorcycle fatalities in Colorado are on the rise — from 45 fatalities during 1995, doubling to 90 deaths last year.
The majority of last year’s deaths occurred between May and October. That’s an average of about 12 riders dying each month, or three each week.
Some of these fatalities can be attributed to drinking and riding.
In fact, alcohol was a factor in 40 percent of the fatal motorcycle crashes in Colorado last year.
National statistics show that the percentage of legally intoxicated motorcycle riders in fatal crashes is greater than the percentages of legally intoxicated drivers of passenger cars, SUV’s or pick-up trucks.
That’s why the Colorado State Patrol is urging all motorcyclists to always ride smart and sober.
In every state, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration level of .08 or higher. Still, about 1,500 motorcycle riders killed in traffic crashes each year are over the legal limit.
According to research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 27 percent of all motorcycle riders who died in traffic crashes during 2006 had BAC levels of .08 or higher.
Far too many people die or suffer debilitating injuries as a result of impaired riding, particularly among middle-aged riders and baby boomers. Of all age groups, motorcycle riders between 30 and 49 years old have the highest rates of alcohol involvement in fatal motorcycle crashes.
It is extremely dangerous to drive any vehicle while impaired, especially a motorcycle, which requires a great deal of balance and coordination. But no matter what you drive, it is a crime to do it under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Now through Labor Day, the Colorado State Patrol and law enforcement agencies across the state are intensifying DUI enforcement efforts as part of a national crackdown, “Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest.” If you choose to commit this crime, you will be caught and arrested.
People do things they regret when they’re drunk, but riding a motorcycle or a vehicle should never be one of them.
I encourage you to ride sober and to make sure you get proper training so that you can continue to enjoy riding Colorado roadways. You can find additional information about motorcycle safety and training at www.comotorcyclesafety.com.
Col. Mark Trostel is chief of the Colorado State Patrol.