According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, motorcycle accident deaths remained about the same from 2010 to 2011. At first glance, this might not seem like a significant finding. A closer look, however, shows that states could make changes that would dramatically lower the number of deaths.
In 2011, the number of automobile accidents fell to their lowest number. Estimates show that about 32,310 people died in car accidents. That’s 1.7 percent lower than 2010. It shows a steadily falling rate that has been the result of several factors, including improved technology that keeps passengers safer and laws that ban drivers from operating cars while distracted or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Unfortunately, states have not made as much headway when it comes to protecting motorcyclists.
Deaths Have Fallen in Some States, Risen in Others
On a state-by-state level, motorcycle deaths do not show a cohesive trend:
- In Connecticut, deaths fell an astounding 37 percent.
- In North Carolina, they fell 21 percent.
- Deaths fell by 16 percent in New York.
Those positive numbers are offset by increased motorcycle deaths in other states:
Deaths increased 26 percent in South Carolina and 16 percent in Texas.
They also increased 10 percent in California, but that say a 37 percent drop between 2008 and 2010. A 10 percent rise is always bad news, but it could simply indicate that California had a few extremely lucky years and that the current rate is closer to its real average.
Why Have Motorcycle Death Rates Remained Flat in Recent Years?
There isn’t an obvious reason that explains why the national average has remained flat in recent years while certain states have seen significant increases and decreases in motorcycle accident deaths.
Many safety experts worry about state resistance to universal helmet laws. Helmets are by far the most effective way of preventing motorcycle accident death. For operators, they have been shown to reduce death rates by 37 percent. Helmets are 41 percent effective for passengers.
Despite this, many states refuse to pass laws requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets. In fact, the number of states with universal helmet laws has actually fallen in recent years. In 1997, 26 states required helmets. Today, that number has fallen to 19.
Helmet laws could improve rates, but they aren’t the only factors that play important roles in accident deaths.
Other important ways to reduce fatalities include:
- Awareness education that encourages automobile drivers to share the road with motorcycles
- Education that encourages motorcyclists to wear bright, visible colors
- Teaching law enforcement officials how to check motorcycles for safety hazards
- Enforcing DUI laws (29 percent of fatalities involved motorcyclists with BACs at or over .08)
- Offer better training for motorcyclists so they understand how to operate the vehicles properly and the risks of reckless driving (35 percent of fatalities involve speeding)
Although states have not done much to reduce fatalities, studies show what measures could lower death rates. We know how to save lives. That’s the good news. States just have to take action to help motorcyclists keep themselves safe.
May is Older Americans Month