Motorcycle Safety Report Series

As part of our Helmet City’s passion for motorcycling safety, we are beginning a series to keep you informed about important safety topics! We will be reviewing a fascinating report issued by the The Governors Highway Safety Association from last year. The report, titled Motorcyclist Traffic Fatalities By State 2011 Preliminary Data, was authored by Dr. James Hedlund from Highway Safety North. As one might expect, the report recommends several common sense strategies for states to adopt to lower the number of motorcycle fatalities, including:

  • Increasing helmet use
  • Reducing alcohol impairment
  • Reducing speeding
  • Training all motorcycle operators
  • Encouraging other drivers to share the road with motorcyclists

It concludes that the most effective strategy for drastically reducing motorcycle related fatalities on the nation’s roadways is to enact a universal helmet use law in the 31 states that do not yet have such a law.

The preliminary data from this report, as well as previous reports, bears this out. Data supplied by all 50 states and the District of Columbia in February and March 2012 suggests that the number of motorcyclist fatalities in the United States was about the same in 2011 as in 2010.

While fatalities decreased by 1.7% during the first nine months of 2011, the 2010 data suggests that the final numbers are unlikely to show a decrease; e.g. the 2010 motorcyclist fatality total for the first nine months was 2.0 % greater in the final data than in the preliminary data. Unfortunately, the fatalities recorded in 2011 will probably be strikingly similar to the 4,502 fatalities recorded in 2010.

Through the first nine months of 2011, motorcyclist fatalities decreased in 23 states, increased in 26 states and D.C., and were unchanged from 2010 in only one state. The states that saw fewer fatalities attributed the decrease to a number of factors:

  • Poor cycling weather
  • Reduced motorcycle registrations
  • Reduced motorcycle travel
  • Increased law enforcement
  • Increased rider training and motorcycle safety education

The 26 states that saw increased fatalities mostly attributed the inverse:

  • Good cycling weather
  • Increased registrations
  • Increased travel
  • Return to normal levels after unusually low 2010 numbers

Perhaps most ominously, data from 1976 to 2012 shows a clear correlation between increased fatalities and registrations, and the same correlation between motorcycle registrations and gas prices.

As gas prices continue to climb, more and more people are looking to save money with motorcycle travel, and the most effective way to curb a steady increase in fatalities is to enact universal helmet laws. The clearest argument for this:

  • When worn, helmets prevent 37% of motorcycle-operator fatal injuries in a crash and 41% of passenger fatal injuries.

Despite this staggering statistic, universal helmet laws are in place in only 19 states and the District of Columbia. The report’s conclusions (and common sense) clearly dictate the use of a motorcycle helmet. We hope that the information seen here will encourage more riders to invest in protective gear. Stay tuned for more vital information on this critical topic soon!

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