According to the Connecticut Department of Transportation's (ConnDOT) Division of Highway Safety, in 2002, 40 percent of the state's motorcycle rider fatalities involved the use of alcohol. In fact, over the past five years, there has been a consistently high percentage of motorcycle rider crashes and fatalities that involved alcohol.

"Riding requires skill, quick reflexes and being keenly aware of your surroundings," said DOT Commissioner James F. Byrnes. "The skills required to safely ride a motorcycle simply can't be compromised in any way. Every time a rider drinks, and then rides a motorcycle, they compromise their life," he said.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), injuries occur in 90 percent of all alcohol-involved motorcycle crashes, but only in 1/3 of automobile crashes. That's more than double. When it comes to fatalities, it's an 8-1 ratio, with motorcycle fatalities occurring 8 percent of the time vs. automobile fatalities occurring 1 percent of the time.

While alcohol is the most common form of impairment, other forms of impairment contribute to this problem as well. For example, tranquilizers, which cause drowsiness and loss of coordination, have been found increasingly in crash victims. Other forms of impairment include the use of marijuana, barbiturates, amphetamines and antihistamines.

To combat this problem, Connecticut has launched a campaign titled, "Open the Throttle, Not the Bottle." The state's motorcycle rider impairment program celebrates the freedom of riding, while reminding riders about the importance of safe and sober riding. The program kicked off Jan. 3 and 4 at the Northeast Motorcycle Expo in Hartford and continues throughout the 2004 riding season

"Open the Throttle, Not the Bottle." is funded by a grant from the NHTSA with support from the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), the Connecticut Motorcycle Riders Association (CMRA) and the Connecticut Motorcycle Business Association (CMBA). For more information, visit www.ride4ever.org.