AAA: Female Motorcyclists Up, Fatality Rates Down


WINCHESTER, Va. - As motorcycle safety month kicks off, AAA Mid Atlantic and the Richmond Ambulance Authority say women are one of the reasons motorcycle fatalities are down.

According to Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles, since 2011 for every male who has gotten a motorcycle license, two females have gotten theirs.

"From a sales point of view, that's probably the largest growing group that we have right now, are the lady riders," said Ralph Orndorff, sales manager at Grove’s Winchester Harley Davidson.

Simultaneously, motorcycle fatalities across the state are down 33 percent. AAA and RAA attribute the trend to the rise in women riders.

"As a new female motorcycle rider, it really is not a surprise to me at all, to see the statistics come out the way they did,” said Martha Meade, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic, and a licenses motorcycle rider herself. “With our group, the women are much more cautious. We're just much more cautious by nature."

"I think men are much more risk takers,” said Lieutenant Warren Gosnell, head of the traffic division for Frederick County, Va. “A man might pull out into traffic sooner that a women would, and i think that goes for both motorcycles and cars when you see it."

Women riders aren't the only reason for the positive trend. Recently safety precautions are so much more than what they used to be.

"I used to just ride with just a t-shirt, but in my opinion, as we get older we should also get smarter,” said Debbie Orndorff. “Now I wear a jacket, no matter what the temperature is outside."

AAA says motorcycle injuries are also at their lowest in four years. Only three percent of all transportation accidents in the state involved motorcycles.

"I think women can truly make men safer riders. We can make them think about things that we as women would think about, but as men, they wouldn’t think about."

Grove’s Winchester Harley Davidson is hosting a Ladies-Only Garage Party, Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The event will teach women all they need to know about biking, and give advanced riders and opportunity to socialize with other lady bikers. Follow the link for more information.

Below are safety tips for motorists and motorcyclists, courtesy of AAA Mid-Atlantic and the Richmond Ambulance Association.

Tips for Motorists:

  1. Share the road. A motorcycle has the same privileges as any other vehicle on the road. Be courteous and give the motorcyclist a full lane of travel.
  2. Position your mirrors to minimize blind spots. Adjust the rearview mirror so it shows as much of the rear window as possible. While in the driver's seat, place your head near the left window and adjust the left side-view mirror so you can just see the side of your vehicle. Then, position your head near the middle of the vehicle, above the center console, and adjust the right side-view mirror so you can just see the side of your vehicle.
  3. Look out. Look for motorcyclists on the highway, especially at intersections when a motorcyclist may be making a turn or changing lanes. Clearly signal your intentions.
  4. Anticipate a motorcyclist's maneuvers. Obstructions (debris, potholes, etc.) that you may ignore or not notice can be deadly for a motorcyclist. Anticipate their possible evasive actions.
  5. Allow plenty of space. Do not follow a motorcycle too closely. Allow enough room for the motorcyclist to take evasive actions.
  6. Keep your cool. Even if you get agitated seeing a motorcyclist making unsafe moves, do not attempt to play games on the road.

Safety Tips for Motorcyclists:

  1. Make yourself visible. Choose protective gear that provides visibility and protection. This includes wearing bright colors. If riding at night, wear clothing with reflective materials.
  2. Allow space. Position your bike in the lane so that you can be seen. Allow additional space for emergency braking and room to maneuver.
  3. Avoid riding in a motorist's blind spot. Make lane changes gradually and use appropriate signaling.
  4. Never share a lane beside a car. A driver may be unaware of your presence. Most drivers are looking for larger vehicles, not motorcycles.
  5. Clearly signal your intentions. Use turn signals before changing lanes and never weave between lanes.
  6. Don't speed. Obey the posted limits and adjust your speed to the changing road conditions.
  7. Wear protective gear.
    1. Helmet - Always wear a U.S. DOT-approved helmet. It can save your life and it is the law in Virginia.
    2. Eye protection - Visibility is key to riding safely. Many motorcycles do not have windshields. Riders should protect their eyes with goggles that can shield the face from wind and debris, both of which can cause tearing and blurred vision.
    3. Body Protection - Jackets with long sleeves and trousers protect limbs from injury.
    4. Gloves - Durable gloves should be a non-slip type to permit a firm grip on controls.
    5. Footwear - Proper over-the-ankles footwear should be worn to help prevent injuries.
  8. Complete a motorcycle rider education and training course. The overwhelming majority of motorcyclists have had no formal training - they were self-taught or learned from family and friends. Before operating a motorcycle in Virginia, a rider must pass the motorcycle knowledge exam, hold a motorcycle learner's permit for 30 days and pass the motorcycle road skills test. Completing a Virginia Rider Training Course exempts the rider from taking the exams.

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