Drinking, riding not a good idea any time of year

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Fresh on the heals of a call from college presidents to consider lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18 in an effort to discourage binge drinking, the U.S. Department of Transportation is reporting that drinking-related fatal crashes have declined nationally.

Mark Rosenker, acting chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, credited forcing kids to wait until 21 to drink legally

"Age 21 drinking laws have been proven time and again effective in preventing deaths and injuries, Rosenker said. "Repealing them is a terrible idea."

Drunken-driving deaths fell in 32 states in 2007, but Nebraska, was one of the group of states where the fatality number has increased. Alcohol-related fatalities increased among motorcycle riders in half of the states.

Seventy-one people were killed in alcohol-related deaths in 2006 in Nebraska, and 77 in 2007.

The transportation department is paying special attention to motorcycle fatalities resulting from alcohol impairment, and Nebraska had nine of those last year, compared to eight the year before.

Motorcycles are enjoying increasing popularity, with riders attracted by retro designs and the better gasoline mileage they offer.

But motorcycle riders and passengers are vulnerable in the event of a crash, and it's amazing how many riders decide to ride after having even one, let alone several drinks.

"The skill set you need in terms of the coordination and balance and things like that, you cannot choose to drink and ride," said Dean Thompson, a spokesman for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. "It's just the wrong choice to make."

MSF riders who conduct training courses always stress the dangers involved and drinking alcohol before riding.

Operating any type of vehicle after drinking, and especially one as challenging as a motorcycle, is not only dangerous, it's against the law. Anyone who has had a driving while intoxicated conviction can tell you just how costly it is, in fines, increased insurance rates and the inconvenience of having a suspended license.

Yet that cost is nothing compared to the possibility of killing or injuring yourself or others.

Don't spoil this, the closing holiday weekend of the summer, by attempting to operate your car or motorcycle after drinking.

We've noticed more and more motorcycles and scooters on the streets and in title transfer reports from the Red Willow County Courthouse as drivers cope with rising fuel costs.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers training courses at several sites in Nebraska, including the Nebraska Safety Center in Kearney. We urge anyone new to motorcycling, returning after many years away, or needing to brush up their skills to contact trainers at (308) 865-8256, or one of the other training centers in the region.

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