Will We See An Upsurge in Motorcycle Fatalities This Year?
Motorcycle accidents have been down recently, but is there a possible spike in incidents looming just over the horizon? That would be the stance taken in a report recently released by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), an organization that “provides leadership and advocacy for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices.”
While the report — available as a PDF document on the GHSA website — notes a drop in overall motorcycle fatalities (2.4% drop in the first 9 months of 2010), a closer look at the data unveils some disturbing trends. Jonathan Welsh, who writes the Driver’s Seat blog on The Wall Street Journal gives us the good news first:
On the surface the news is good. Motorcyclist traffic fatalities in the U.S. fell by 2.4% in the U.S. based on data from the first nine months of 2010 in the 48 states and the District of Columbia that reported monthly data for the period. The GHSA says it expects motorcyclist fatalities for the full year nationwide be 4,376 or fewer, a decrease of at least 2% from the 4,465 fatalities of 2009.
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.
With gasoline prices reaching $4 to $5 a gallon in many places, it is hardly surprising that more people would gravitate towards smaller, high-mileage vehicles, like motorcycles. But the most significant item mentioned here is the dramatic decline in helmet use while riding. While wearing your helmet won’t likely prevent a motorcycle accident, it can absolutely save your life in the event of a crash. You can’t control how others around you will drive; but what you can control is making sure you’re as well protected as possible. Wear your helmet!