Increased Motorcycle Deaths Amps Up Helmet Concerns
GHSA Motorcyclists Traffic Fatalities by State 2012 Report
In what could be a bellwether of mounting concern about motorcycle safety, the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) has recently released a report that paints a grim picture about the rising fatality rate among motorcyclists.
According GHSA’s report, titled “Motorcyclist Traffic Fatalities by State,” the number of deaths resulting from motorcycle accidents has risen in 14 out of the last 15 years. From 2011 to 2012 alone, motorcycle-crash related deaths have risen nine percent to approximately 5,000 lives lost.
This report has amped up concern from the GHSA, which offers some strategies that Governors should implement to increase motorcycle safety, such as targeting helmet use.
Based on GHSA’s data collected during the first nine months of 2012, the motorcycle-crash related death rate rose in 34 states and decreased in 16, while staying about the same in the District of Columbia.
The report states that since 1997, motorcycle-crash related deaths have more than doubled, approaching the highest rates ever recorded. But during this same period, overall fatality rates from automobile-traffic crashes have declined 23 percent.
The report attributes two factors in the rising numbers: increasing motorcycle ridership as indicated by increasing numbers of bike registrations and increasing miles ridden driven by higher fuel prices.
It also indicates that the warmer-than-usual summer of 2012 resulted in more motorcycle travel, which also may have been a contributing factor.
The alarming report offers a number of strategies that Governors should consider in response to the trends, including the following related to helmet use:
- States seeking to reduce motorcyclist fatalities should adopt strategies to increase helmet use, reduce alcohol impairment, reduce speeding, train all motorcycle operators and ensure that they are properly licensed, and encourage other drivers to share the road with motorcyclists. The most effective strategy by far is to enact a universal helmet use law in the 31 states that lack them.
- Helmets are by far the single most effective method to prevent motorcyclist fatalities and serious injuries. Helmets are 37% effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders (operators) and 41% effective for passengers. NHTSA estimates that 706 of the motorcyclists not wearing helmets who died in 2010 crashes would have lived if they had worn helmets (NHTSA, 2012).
- More than 30 years of experience have confirmed that state motorcycle helmet use laws are the single most effective method to increase helmet use. In 2011, helmet use among all motorcyclists was 84% in states with laws requiring helmet use by all motorcyclists (universal helmet laws) and 50% in other states (NHTSA, 2012).
To read a PDF file of the entire report, click here.