New Study: Motorcycle Deaths Decline Slightly But Concerns Develop

Fatalities decline overall by at least 2% but increase later in year

WASHINGTON, April 19, 2011 / — A report released today by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reveals that motorcycle fatalities declined in 2010 by at least 2 percent. Based upon preliminary data, GHSA projects that motorcycle fatalities declined from 4,465 in 2009 to 4,376 or less in 2010. The projection is based upon data from 50 states and the District of Columbia. The decline comes on the heels of a dramatic 16 percent drop in 2009, which followed 11 straight years of steady increases in motorcycle deaths.

The new report—the first state-by-state look at motorcycle fatalities in 2010—was completed by Dr. James Hedlund of Highway Safety North. Dr. Hedlund surveyed GHSA members, who reported fatality numbers for every state and D.C. While data are still preliminary, most states have reasonably complete fatality counts for at least the first nine months of 2010, enabling GHSA to confidently forecast that deaths will be at least 2 percent lower for the full year. Dr. Hedlund completed a similar projection for GHSA a year ago, noting a 16 percent decline in the first nine months of 2009, just one tenth of a percentage point off the final number of 15.9 percent.

GHSA is projecting declines in approximately half of the states, with notable declines in many. In Texas, for example, based upon data for the first nine months of 2010, motorcycle deaths are expected to be down 16 percent, while Oregon and Oklahoma are down 27 and 30 percent, respectively. In Oregon, GHSA Vice Chairman Troy Costales credits his state’s progress to a strong training program and a new law strengthening penalties for riders who do not have a motorcycle-specific license. Costales adds, “Oregon has worked successfully with our motorcycle clubs, who are effective advocates for riding safe and sober.”

While on the surface the national decline is good news, deeper analysis of the data reveals some areas for concern. First, 2010′s decrease of at least 2 percent is far less than 2009′s dramatic 16 percent decrease. Second, the 2010 decrease was concentrated in the early months of the year, with fatalities actually increasing by about 3 percent in the third quarter compared with the same quarter in 2009. Additionally, with the improving economy and surging gas prices, motorcycle travel is expected to increase, thus increasing exposure to risk. Finally, motorcycle helmet use dropped alarmingly from 67 percent in 2009 to 54 percent in 2010.

As part of the report, GHSA members were asked to suggest factors that may be influencing fatality changes in their state. GHSA Chairman Vernon Betkey, director of Maryland’s highway safety program, noted, “In my state, we suspect motorcycle fatalities increased 3 percent largely because of an unusual spike in crashes in one of our more rural counties. We are working closely with law enforcement agencies and highway safety partners in this area to address the issue. Additionally, Maryland has stepped up efforts in work zones to ensure motorcycle riders are as safe as possible, is placing more emphasis on training and licensure, and is increasing investment in the state’s public information and education campaign.”

GHSA’s Member in New York, the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, attributes the increase in fatal motorcycle crashes in that state to a rise in motorcycle registrations and a longer and more favorable riding season. J. David Sampson, Executive Deputy Commissioner for the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles said, “There was an extended riding season in 2010 due to less rain and warmer temperatures which led to an increased exposure to crashes. In addition, motorcycle registrations continue to rise as the baby boom generation rediscovers their passion for riding a motorcycle. New York State’s Motorcycle Safety Program is working to combat the rise in fatal crashes by continuing to increase the availability of Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) training sites throughout the state.”

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.”

To continue progress in reducing crashes, injuries and fatalities on the nation’s roadways, the report urges states to focus their motorcycle safety efforts on:

  • 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’sCountermeasures 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.

 

All data in the report are preliminary, especially for the last few months of 2010. The report presents data through September. The counts are reasonably complete for 48 states and the District of Columbia that reported monthly data for this period. Arizona and California reported data for a shorter period.

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy and enhance program management. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Contact GHSA at 202-789-0942 or visitwww.ghsa.org. Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GHSAhq.

 

When NOBLE Takes Over Your Life

By Scott Cochran, Editor
I was tempted to dig through the morgue where we keep our back issues to see how many times I’ve written an editorial on helmets.

But then I realized this rant isn’t about helmets, it’s more about  pushing back against the “nanny state” that is attacking our personal liberties with legislation designed “for our own good.”

At least that’s the position of the National Transportation Safety Board is taking.

Calling for all 50 states to enact mandatory helmet requirements for motorcycles, Christopher Hart, Vice Chairman of the NTSB (A Federal agency with little or no Congressional oversight) said that motorcycle fatalities have doubled, while total traffic deaths have declined, and that riding a motorcycle without a helmet is a “public health issue.”

I’m throwing a BS flag on that one Mr. Hart.

There’s nothing inherently dangerous to the non-riding public if a motorcyclist opts not to wear protective gear.   It’s not contagious or likely to cause innocent bystanders harm.

However, let me state unequivocally that if you choose to ride without a helmet or protective gear, you are not exercising good common sense.

But, for full disclosure, there have been times when yours truly has ridden without a helmet. I don’t make it a habit, but it happens.

So, it’s not the wearing of the helmet that I oppose, it’s our Federal government (which represents us) using its power to force individual states to usurp personal freedoms, and use taxpayer (our money) funds to accomplish the agenda.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety claims the public pays when motorcyclists go down without helmets. “Only slightly more than half of motorcycle crash victims have private health insurance coverage. For patients without private insurance, a majority of medical costs are paid by the government.”

With the passage of Obama Care, everyone will be covered, but premiums of non-riders will increase to cover motorcycle accident victims.

Can you see the logical conclusion to this agenda?

If your activity causes my health insurance premiums to increase, and the government subsidizes health insurance, then it becomes a “public health issue” and government has an obligation to regulate it, or ban it outright.

What disturbs me the most is not what the NTSB is doing, but the absence of any outrage among civil libertarians over this.

Society, (aka The Government) does not own my body. It does not own my thoughts nor what I generate from my thoughts and actions.

As an adult I am (and rightly so) free to engage in various forms of self-destructive behavior.

I can smoke or drink alcohol to excess. I can eat whatever I want as much as I can afford and refuse to exercise. I do not have to visit a doctor or a dentist. My teeth can rot out and my body fall apart if I so choose.

I can ride horses and climb mountains without the first piece of safety gear. I can operate a chain saw without a minute of safety instruction. I can go for a swim in any river or ocean without having to wear a flotation device, and I don’t have to know how to swim.

I can have casual sex with as many strangers as I like (and risk contracting AIDS) without having to wear protection.

All of these activities are inherently dangerous to my personal health, so what’s different about riding a motorcycle without a helmet?

Not much, if you think about it.

The sad fact is that If we remain complacent, and do not defend personal liberty, no matter if it affects us or not, most of what active, fun loving adults enjoy will be banned as “too dangerous” by some new alphabet nanny agency. Most likely the National Organization for Boosting Life Expectancy or NOBLE in gov speak.

One day future generations will look back and wonder how the world survived with idiots smoking in public, sweet tea, fried food and motorcycle riders who rode without ballistic armor, airbags and full face helmets.

Sadly, they’ll never know what they missed.

Ride safe and always take the road less traveled.

Motorcycle Deaths Decrease in 2009

Fewer Motorcyclists Die in 2009

PICKERINGTON, Ohio — In what can only be considered good news for motorcyclists, federal officials have reported that motorcycling deaths on the nation’s roads dropped by 16 percent in 2009 compared to the previous year, according to the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA).

“The death of any motorcyclist is one too many, so this news that fatalities are down is encouraging,” said Ed Moreland, AMA senior vice president for government relations. “While we are pleased that the number of motorcycling fatalities dropped dramatically in 2009, a one-year drop isn’t a trend. We need to determine why, and ensure that the decline continues.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported on Sept. 9 that motorcycling fatalities in 2009 decreased for the first time in more than a decade — dropping to 4,462 in 2009 from 5,312 in 2008. (Click here to read the press release from NHTSA.)

Federal officials said traffic deaths involving all vehicles nationwide fell 9.7 percent in 2009 — from 37,423 in 2008 to 33,808. The figure is the lowest since 1950. Traffic safety officials said that the decrease may be due to increased seat belt use, tougher enforcement of drunk driving laws and improved vehicle safety features.

According to NHTSA figures, motorcycling fatalities have decreased in the past — from 1980 to 1997 — but then fatalities increased steadily for 11 years. 2,294 motorcyclists were killed in 1998, and the number of fatalities rose each subsequent year, reaching 5,312 in 2008.

Moreland cautioned that there will be speculation about why motorcycling fatalities are down so significantly in 2009, and noted that there aren’t any solid answers.

“The motorcycling community looks forward to receiving some real answers about motorcycle crashes and what causes them from the new federal crash causation study that is under way at Oklahoma State University (OSU) through the Oklahoma Transportation Center in Stillwater,” Moreland said. “Then we can put our heads together to find solutions, reduce crashes and save more lives.”

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is overseeing the just-begun, four-year, $3 million OSU study, which is the first major research on the subject in 30 years.

The last major study into the causes of motorcycle crashes was issued in January 1981. Called “Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures Volume I: Technical Report,” the study became known as the “Hurt Report,” named after lead researcher Hugh “Harry” Hurt of the University of Southern California. Hurt was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2007 for his pioneering work.

That study provided a wealth of data that has been used by organizations and individual motorcyclists to help keep riders safer on the road. But the traffic environment has changed enormously in the decades since, prompting the AMA to begin campaigning for a new study several years ago.

About the American Motorcyclist Association
Since 1924, the AMA has protected the future of motorcycling and promoted the motorcycle lifestyle. AMA members come from all walks of life, and they navigate many different routes on their journey to the same destination: freedom on two wheels. As the world’s largest motorcycling rights organization, the AMA advocates for motorcyclists’ interests in the halls of local, state and federal government, the committees of international governing organizations, and the court of public opinion. Through member clubs, promoters and partners, the AMA sanctions more motorsports competition and motorcycle recreational events than any other organization in the world. AMA members receive money-saving discounts from dozens of well-known suppliers of motorcycle services, gear and apparel, bike rental, transport, hotel stays and more. Through the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, the AMA preserves the heritage of motorcycling for future generations. For more information, please visit AmericanMotorcyclist.com.


Motorcycle Fatalities Decrease 10% In 2009

A report released  by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reveals that motorcycle fatalities declined in 2009 by at least ten percent. Based on preliminary data, GHSA is projecting that motorcycle fatalities declined from 5,290 in 2008 to 4,762 or less in 2009. The projection is based on data from 50 states and the District of Columbia. The declines come on the heels of 11 straight years of dramatic increases in motorcyclist deaths.

The new report–the first state-by-state look at motorcycle fatalities in 2009–was completed by Dr. James Hedlund of Highway Safety North. Dr. Hedlund surveyed GHSA members, who reported fatality numbers for every state. While data are still preliminary, most states have quite complete fatality counts for at least nine months, making GHSA confident to forecast that deaths are down at least ten percent for the full year.

GHSA is projecting declines in approximately three-fourth of states. The declines are notable in many states and in every region of the country. In California, for example, based on data for the first nine months, motorcycle deaths are predicted to be down 29 percent, while Florida and New York are down 27 and 16 percent, respectively.

As part of the report, GHSA members were asked to suggest reasons for the decline. States offered several reasons, including: less motorcycle travel due to the economy, fewer beginning motorcyclists, increased state attention to motorcycle safety programs, and poor cycling weather in some areas. According to GHSA Chairman Vernon Betkey, “Clearly the economy played a large role in motorcycle deaths declining in 2009. Less disposable income translates into fewer leisure riders, and we suspect that the trend of inexperienced baby boomers buying bikes may have subsided.”

Betkey notes that, as with decreases in the overall highway fatality rate, progress with motorcyclist deaths can be attributed to more than just the economy. According to Betkey, “Multiple states indicated that because of the increases in motorcyclist deaths from 1997-2008, addressing this area has been a priority for state highway safety programs.” As more than half of motorcycle fatal crashes do not involve another vehicle, states have been increasingly funding targeted enforcement to ensure that motorcyclists are in compliance with laws regarding endorsements, required insurance and helmet usage. State and federal governments also have stepped up efforts to address drunk motorcyclists.

GHSA cautions that the declines in 2009, while significant and noteworthy after 11 years of increases, represent only one year of data, and much more work needs to be done to continue to achieve declines. According to Chairman Betkey, “We will need to see three to five years of decline before we are ready to say that a positive trend has developed.” The new report notes that motorcycle fatalities have significantly decreased in the past, only to rise again. For example, from 1980-1997, motorcyclist deaths dropped almost 60 percent. Sadly, those gains were wiped out during the period of 1997-2008.

To continue progress, the report notes that states need to support efforts that do the following:

  • Increase Helmet Use: The most recent data indicated that 41 percent of fatally-injured riders were not wearing helmets despite their proven effectiveness. Thirty states still do not have helmet laws covering all riders.
  • Reduce Alcohol Impairment: Highly visible drunk driving enforcement that includes motorcyclists should be encouraged as should be training efforts that help police identify impaired motorcyclists.
  • Reduce Speeding: According to the most recent data, 35 percent of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes were speeding. More than half of all motorcycle fatal crashes did not involve another vehicle, and speeding likely contributed to many of these.
  • 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 places and times when riders wish to be trained.

Preliminary data from 39 states that provided monthly totals are included in the report. Eleven other states and D.C. provided the researcher with preliminary annual totals; this information is available from GHSA.

State By State Breakdown of Fatalities