Motorcycle Fatalities Declined in 2013

wreckDespite an increase in the number of states that give motorcyclists the option to ride without a helmet, fatalities resulting from motorcycle accidents declined in 2013.

The report by the Governors Highway Safety Association, due to be released later today,  projected a 7 percent decrease in the number of motorcyclists killed last year. The final fatality total is expected to be 4,610, fewer than the 4,957 in 2012 and nearly identical to the 4,612 in 2011.

“It’s heartening that motorcyclist fatalities didn’t increase over the past couple of years, but they’re not decreasing either,” Kendell Poole, GHSA chairman, said in a statement. “Long-term gains in motorcyclist safety won’t occur because riders are deterred by bad weather, but from consistent use of proven countermeasures.”

Statistically, motorcyclists account for a disproportionate number of highway deaths as a percentage of overall vehicle registrations.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said motorcycle deaths accounted for 15 percent of highway fatalities in 2011 , though motorcycles amount to just 3 percent of vehicle registrations. 

Both the GHSA and NHTSA argue that safer crashing, (i.e. forcing motorcyclists to wear more safety gear such as helmets) is the best way to lower the numbers of fatalities, despite not having the statistics to back up that claim.

NHTSA Acting Administrator said that while helmets are important, other road users must drive safe.  “Wearing a helmet on every ride is an important way for a motorcyclist to stay safe, but we all play a part. It’s up to all motorists and motorcyclists to make our roads safer..All road users need to share the responsibility of keeping the roadways safe.”

One thought on “Motorcycle Fatalities Declined in 2013

  1. Studies show that bicycle safety increased for a handful of years after helmets were made mandatory – and then the fatality rate slid back up to match typical pre-helmet law numbers. The study’s conclusion was that people's perception of danger was altered with the 'protection' provided by the helmets – so riders began to ride in a more dangerous manner. (Note: Bicycle riders are not nearly as well supervised as motorcycle riders – the point being: there is more opportunity for bicycle riders to flaunt the rules than motorcycle riders – and suffer the consequences.)

    There is no reason to think that the corollary is also not true: That riders taking off their helmets (states repealing mandatory helmet laws) will – at least at first – ride more cautiously. The proof will be in what happens to the fatality rates in the following years. (Note: Any slide to higher fatality rates may not mimic those set by bicyclists, as motorcycle dangers are very different, and they are marshaled more rigorously.)

    One lesson here has already been noted:

    That ultimately, it is not a simple matter to legislate safety re bicycle riders – especially so long as their activity is not sufficiently marshaled. However, it seems a fair expectation that bicycle helmets should instill a better developed sense of safety-mindedness in the long run; and, regardless of one's intent, it is better to have a helmet when unforeseen accidents happen to even the most safety-conscious of riders.

    Another lesson will likely be proven in the following years: That, as per the hard facts established in the Hurt Report, fatality rates re motorcycle riders will indeed rise where helmets are forsaken; that helmets are still the best first defense.


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