Motorcycle deaths decreased in the U.S. by around 7% in 2013 because of poor riding weather in some parts of the country, according to a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), as David Shepardson writes for The Detroit News. The report expects that, by the end of the year, the nation’s fatality toll will be 4,610, as compared with 4,957 in 2012. The new figure is almost identical to the 2011 number, Shepardson notes.
A GHSA press release says 2013 is only the second year since 1997 that there has been a decrease. Unfortunately, motorcycle safety has not improved in 15 years, according to the latest Spotlight on Highway Safety report, according to the press release.
Dr. James Hedlund, author of the GHSA report and a former senior official with the National Highway Traffic Safety Admininistration, has analyzed the data for GHSA annually since 2009 “with remarkable accuracy,” the statement says. The release quotes GHSA’s chairman, Kendell Poole, Director of the Tennessee Office of Highway Safety, as saying that motorcycle safety will increase via “consistent use of proven countermeasures.”
Requiring riders to wear helmets is “the single most effective way” to prevent serious injury and death in motorcycle accidents, Poole said. However, he notes, states are “going backward” in that regard. Only 19 states and the District of Columbia have universal helmet laws. Another 28 states require helmet use by riders younger than age 18 or 21, and three states have no helmet requirement, GHSA writes.
Although helmets are proven to save lives, riders age 18 and over are not required to wear helmets in Colorado. However, if the motorcycle operator or passengers are under age 18, they must wear DOT-approved helmets.
The report recommends that, in addition to requiring riders to wear helmets, states should:
- Discourage people from riding while impaired by alcohol, as 29% of fatally injured riders have a blood alcohol concentration over the legal limit of .08;
- Discourage speeding, as 35% of riders involved in fatal crashes were speeding, and almost half of those accidents did not involve another vehicle;
- Offer courses in safe motorcycle riding at times and locations that are accessible to as many riders as possible;
- Make sure all riders are licensed, because that encourages riders to get training;
- Via campaigns, encourage motorists to share the roads with motorcyclists. NHTSA says that often crashes between motorcycles and other vehicles occur because the other vehicles violate the motorcyclist’s right of way.
GHSA, a nonprofit association, is asking Congress to allow states to fund effective programs to increase motorcycle safety, such as ones to encourage helmet use and to reduce drunk driving, the association writes. At present, Congress restricts state programs, permitting them only to address those that encourage motorists to share the road with motorcyclists, GHSA writes.