I received a sobering reminder of the dangers we face every time we ride last week. One of my good friends and riding buddies left work around the same time as me on Friday afternoon, both on our motorcycles. I got the call around 10pm that he never made it home, and was currently in surgery at the main trauma center for Charlotte. That’s all anyone knew, and let me tell you, your heart just sinks when you hear that about your friend. Granted, if you’ve been around the motorcycle community for any length of time, you’ve likely heard this same scenario played out many times. A car pulled out, they didn’t see the bike, and lives are changed. I’m not saying that I’m not sympathetic to everyone who goes through this, but it certainly hits especially close to home when it’s a good friend.
A new report released today by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA)shows that motorcycle fatalities have declined for the second year in a row. The GHSA says that based on preliminary data, motorcycle fatalities dropped by at least 2 percent in 2010, from 4,465 in 2009 to 4,376 or less in 2010.
The decline in motorcycle deaths, which started with a dramatic drop off of 16% In 2009, follows 11 years of a steady increase in motorcycle fatalities. The new report is good news, but it also has some concerned that we’ve hit the bottom, and will soon see motorcycle fatalities start increasing again.
The new report was compiled by Dr. James Hedlund of Highway Safety North. Dr. Hedlund surveyed GHSA members in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Most respondents were able to give complete reports for at least the first nine months of 2010. Based on this data, Hedlund concluded that motorcycle fatalities were down by at least 2%.
Experts say that although this is good news, death rates could go up again this year. The improving economy coupled with rising gas prices will probably lead to more motorcycle travel. And with more motorcycle travel comes more motorcycle accidents. The GHSA also notes that helmet use dropped significantly in 2010. Helmet use was at 67% in 2009 and dropped to 54% in 2010.
The report also shows that as the year went on, more people were killed in motorcycle crashes. Some experts fear that once the data is complete, the motorcycle fatality rate may not be as good as expected.
In reviewing the national data, Chairman Betkey said, “While there is a lot of good news in this report, the increase in fatalities toward the end of year is a clear red flag. Just like with overall traffic deaths, a strengthening economy presents us with the potential for more tragedy on our roads. We are going to be very aggressive in targeting our programs where they are needed the most. Additionally, we will continue to remind all roadway users that motorcycles are a legal and legitimate way of transportation and we all need to safely share the road.”
In order to promote motorcycle safety, the GHSA is urging states to focus their efforts on the following:
- Increasing Helmet Use: Helmets are proven to be 37 percent effective at preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle operators and passengers. Helmet laws are the only motorcycle safety strategy to receive a five-star effectiveness rating in NHTSA’s Countermeasures that Work guidebook for states. Alarmingly, helmet use declined dramatically in 2010, and 30 states still lack helmet laws for all riders.
- Reduce Alcohol Impairment: States should conduct high visible drunk driving enforcement that includes motorcyclists as well as implement training efforts to help police identify drunken motorcyclists.
- Reduce Speeding: According to the most recent data, 35 percent of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were speeding. More than half of speed-related fatal motorcycle crashes did not involve another vehicle.
- Provide Motorcycle Operator Training to All Who Need or Seek It: While all states currently conduct training courses, some areas may not provide enough course openings at the locations and times convenient for riders.
You can read the full report here.
Courtesy of AllAboutBikes.com