Fatal motorcycle accidents down, but helmet use also dropping

According to a recent report by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the number of fatal motorcycle accidents in the U.S. was down last year — the second year in a row in which motorcycle and moped fatalities were down. That’s great news after the previous 11 years, when motorcycle deaths had been steadily rising.

Not all of the news is so good, however. While the overall rate of fatal motorcycle accidents was down in the first half of last year, the rate in the third quarter — the last one studied — actually rose three percent over the same period in the previous year. And, at the same time, motorcycle helmet use dropped 13 percent over the previous year.

“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,” said Vernon Betkey, chairman of the GHSA and director of Maryland’s highway traffic safety program.

The report was based on preliminary data from the first three quarters of 2010. The analysis included reports from all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Reducing speeding and drunk riding, increasing helmet use are top priorities for GHSA

According to Betkey, states need to focus their motorcycle safety efforts in four major areas:

  • Increasing helmet use among motorcycle and moped riders
  • Reducing the rate of drinking and riding
  • Reducing speeding among motorcyclists and other drivers
  • Providing motorcycle safety training to anyone who wants or needs it

“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,” said Betkey.

While the news of the reduced rate of helmet use is disappointing, the study does stress that 89 fewer people were killed in motorcycle accidents in 2010 than in 2009. That’s the kind of news we can all be glad to hear.

Source: HealthDay, “Motorcycle Deaths Drop for Second Straight Year: Report,” April 19, 2011