Officials say motorcycle deaths in Colorado have reached a record high.
According to CDOT statistics released Thursday, 98 people were killed in motorcycle crashes in 2008. Now CDOT and Colorado State Patrol are joining forces to put the brake on those numbers.
"The first thing that goes into my head is it's probably more serious," said Major Barry Bratt of Colorado State Patrol. "If they're involved in an accident it probably means they've hit the road and they're probably going to be injured."
Major Bratt has spent years patrolling the streets of Western Colorado as a State Trooper and riding them as an avid motorcyclist. He says he's seen his fair share of fatal motorcycle crashes, but nothing like the numbers he's seen recently.
"That ninety-eight deaths is very high," said Bratt.
And he says the rising death count -- up from 90 in 2007 -- is not the only alarming statistic out there. A new CDOT report says although motorcycles only make up 3% of registered vehicles in Colorado, they accounted for 18% of traffic deaths in 2008.
In 80% of those crashes, the motorcycle driver was at fault. And 7 out of 10 riders killed were not wearing helmets.
"I've been to many accidents where the riders weren't wearing helmets," said Bratt. "And unfortunately, that can be the difference between them surviving or not."
Officials say these are all trends they would like to see come to a screeching halt. And that's why they're launching "Live to Ride" -- a campaign to educate motorcycle drivers and get them to be safer.
"That's very important that you go through and have the knowledge to operate a motorcycle," said Bratt. "It's not like a car where you can just get on it and go."
During the campaign, officials are encouraging all riders to take CDOT certified Motorcycle Operator Safety Training class that is offered around the state. They say all participants will automatically receive their required motorcycle endorsement on their license without having to take additional tests.
Because 39% of riders killed did not have that endorsement, troopers say you can also expect to see them step up enforcement.
"You will see some efforts specifically towards motorcycles so we can impact those people," said Bratt.
Colorado State Patrol also plans to tour the state this summer in a new trailer to promote motorcycle safety. But officials say it's going to take effort on the part of riders as well to make the 2009 statistics something they're happier to report.
"I think our trend will continue unless we take the efforts we're talking about today," said Bratt.
The report also states that one-third of motorcyclists killed last year were driving drunk, and the number of riders aged 18 to 34 who were killed shot up 40 percent from 2007.