Motorcycle deaths climbing in Tenn.

Associated Press • Dec 8, 2012 at 6:36 AM

NASHVILLE — As the number of motorcyclists killed in crashes continues to climb in Tennessee, an audit shows that federal grants used to increase motorcycle safety is too restrictive.

The Tennessean reports the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that there were too many restrictions on $45.9 million in federal grants given to states. The audit found states would see more benefits with fewer limitations, for instance being able to choose whether to offer driving education courses or more traffic enforcement.

The number of motorcyclists killed has surged this year. The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security says 133 people had died in motorcycle crashes by Tuesday compared to 114 for all of 2011.

The state is on pace to have the third-highest number of deaths in more than a decade.

“We’ve tried to get more people involved in training. We’ve promoted the basic rider course,” said John Milliken, state coordinator for the Tennessee Highway Patrol’s Motorcycle Rider Education Program. “There’s always work to be done. One fatality is too many.”

The state receives about $113,000 annually in federal grants for motorcycle safety. He said the money is helpful, but could provide more aid with less restrictions.

“They’ve done a lot of good,” he said. “But the more flexible it is, the better it is.”

Mid Tenn Motorcycle Education Center instructor Gardiner Jones says safety courses aren’t required by law and not enough people take them.

At a recent motorcycle safety course for advanced riders, he told participants that it’s easy to get overconfident on a motorcycle, and warmed them not to get complacent behind the wheel.

“Every single day, they’ll look me right in the eye and pull out right in front of you. ‘I’m bigger than you,’ that’s kind of the mindset,” he said. “You have to pretend like everybody out there is out to get you.”

In another effort to prevent crashes, Tennessee officials are using overhead traffic signs to show drivers the daily death toll on roadways.

Although it has gotten noticed, the deaths are continuing.

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