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Motorcycle Fatalities Down 2% in 2010

Helmet use down 13%

U.S. motorcycle fatalities declined by 2% in 2010, according to a report by the Governors Highway Safety Association.

The preliminary report, completed by Dr. James Hedlund of Highway Safety North, examined the GHSA’s motorcycle fatality reports across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Year-end totals are still being compiled but most states have provided data from January through September (the exceptions being California and Arizona which have completed reports for less than nine months). The preliminary data projects 4,376 fatalities or less on the year, down from 4,465 fatalities in 2009.

Though the projected fatality figures are down, the GHSA notes the news is not entirely positive. The 2% decrease is not as dramatic as the 16% decrease reported in 2009, and most of the decreases took place in the early months. Fatalities actually increased from July to September.

“While there is a lot of good news in this report, the increase in fatalities toward the end of year is a clear red flag. Just like with overall traffic deaths, a strengthening economy presents us with the potential for more tragedy on our roads,” says Vernon Betkey, GHSA chairman. “We are going to be very aggressive in targeting our programs where they are needed the most. Additionally, we will continue to remind all roadway users that motorcycles are a legal and legitimate way of transportation and we all need to safely share the road.”

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also found that DOT-compliant helmet use is also down at 54% in 2010 compared to 67% in 2009. Only 20 states have universal helmet laws. Another 27 states require helmets for specific riders while 3 states do not have a motorcycle helmet law.

States were split nearly 50-50 between those reporting fewer fatalities and those reporting more. States showing fewer fatalities in 2010 cited increased safety education, rider training, colder and wetter weather, decreased motorcycle sales and fewer new riders as potential reasons for the decrease. Conversely, states reporting higher fatality figures cite increased motorcycle registrations, good riding weather, and decreased motorcycle use as possible reasons for the increase.

The GHSA report urges states to focus motorcycle safety efforts on promoting helmet use, increasing motorcycle training, cracking down on speeding and reducing alcohol-impaired riding.

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