Motorcycle fatalities in California decline

During the first six months of 2009, motorcycle fatalities in California have declined, reversing a troubling 11-year trend. From January through June of 2009, 198 persons were killed in motorcycle related crashes, compared to 264 for the same period in 2008, according to preliminary figures supplied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. After seeing increases averaging 10 percent per year since the low point of 204 fatalities in 1998, this signals a decline of 25 percent.

"We are very heartened by these numbers," said Christopher J. Murphy, Director of the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS). "If they continue, it means more motorcycle riders are getting home alive, which is what we have been working for."

While every other category of traffic fatality has seen declines since 2005, motorcycle deaths have continued to rise. Overall traffic fatalities dropped nearly 21 percent in the last three years in California. During that same period, motorcycle fatalities increased over 19 percent.

Officials point to actions begun several years ago when the upward trend was noticed. Motorcycle safety has had a high priority with state traffic and transportation agencies as well as in the state’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan. Programs encouraging the driving public to be more aware of motorcyclists on roadways and urging motorcycle operators to ride more safely have been given added emphasis in recent years.

"We have really been working at encouraging riders to get training through the California Motorcyclist Safety Training Program (CMSP), no matter what their age or experience," said Joe Farrow, California Highway Patrol Commissioner. "Our efforts are paying off as 2008 saw the most students trained in any year since the beginning of the CMSP. While I’m encouraged by the good news, I can’t stress enough the importance of proper training, proper licensing, and alert driving to keep riders and motorists alive on our roadways."

Research undertaken to help stem the previously increasing rise in fatalities showed that 37 percent of riders killed were not properly licensed for motorcycles. Additionally, 70 percent of fatal crashes involving motorcycles were found to be the fault of the motorcycle operator. Particularly of interest is that while the fast accelerating ‘Super Sport’ type motorcycle favored by younger males constitute only 14 percent of registered motorcycles, they account for 38 percent of motorcyclists killed.

"We hope that increased awareness of the problem has produced a greater safety mindset among motorcycle riders and all who share the road," said Murphy. "Welcome as these numbers are, they would only return us to 2004 levels if they continue through the year. That’s still more than double 1998 levels. We can’t let up on the effort."

SOURCE California Office of Traffic Safety