As the Motorcycling Community Grows, so do Fatality Rates

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) website reports on recent trends in their Motorcycle Safety Program. They state that the numbers of motorcyclists on our nation’s roads continues to expand at a rapid pace. New unit sales of on-highway motorcycles have increased approximately 91 percent since 1997. The Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) predicts continued increases in motorcycle sales over the next 5 to 7 years as well. Although the NHTSA doesn’t go into much detail about the reasons behind these increases, they do share some sobering statistics. Although helmet use is falling, leading to more fatalities, helmet usage is not now and has never been the cause of accidents. Rider impairment, lack of skill/training, and excessive speed are contributing factors in many motorcycle crashes. For fifty percent of motorcycle fatalities in single vehicle crashes (no other vehicle involved) difficulty negotiating a curve has been found to be a major contributing factor. Almost 60 percent of motorcycle fatalities, also single vehicle, happen at night. More than 80 percent of single vehicle crash fatalities occur off the roadway itself. This could be on the median, shoulder, in parking lanes, and gores (area where to roads either converge or diverge.) NHTSA also reports that motorcyclists over 40, specifically those riding larger motorcycle engine sizes, now are the fastest growing group of motorcyclist fatalities. No specific reasons for this are given. In contrast, over the past 10 years, fatalities in the 20 to 29 year old age group decreased. This was the group that had consistently had the highest fatality rate in the past. Again, no reasons are given. During this time, however, there were more driving age individuals in the 40 and over age group in the United States. According to NHTSA statistics, only 20 percent of passenger vehicle crashes result in injury or death. But a whopping 80 percent of motorcycle crashes result in injury or death. In 1997, NHTSA partnered with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). Together, they created the National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety (National Agenda). This strategic planning document was intended to provide a shared National vision for future motorcycle safety efforts. For more information about this document, and more information about motorcycle safety on our nation’s highways, please visit their site.

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