While there have been steady decreases in the number of fatal car accidents over the past 15 years, motorcycle deaths have refused to follow suit. With the numbers tallied for 2013, that trend may finally be corrected. For the second time since 1997, the total number of motorcycle fatalities dropped from the previous year’s total. In 2013, motorcycle deaths were down 6.4 percent. That decrease was more than double the gains made in overall traffic fatalities throughout the country.
Americans drive a lot. As gas prices have risen, more and more people have taken to motorcycles as an alternative to cars. The increase in riders naturally came with an increase in the number of fatal accidents. The expanding ridership did not fully explain the steady rise in motorcycle deaths, however. Safety gains that came from improving auto technology were not matched in motorcycles. In addition, helmet laws became less prevalent as motorcycle lobby groups fought against them. Motorcycle riders came increasingly from an older demographic, with 50-69 year-old riders being the norm. The result has been a steady rise in deadly motorcycle collisions.
The decrease is a welcome shift. Unfortunately, it still represents 4,668 motorcyclists who lost their lives in 2013. Many of those accidents were caused by car and truck drivers who failed to properly account for motorcyclists on the roads. Some have suggested that the increase in motorcycle fatalities is linked to the rise in distracted driving coinciding with increased cell phone use by automobile drivers. There are certainly a number of contributing factors, each of which should be addressed to help more motorcyclists avoid injury or death in the new year.
Source: Los Angeles Times, “Motorcycle deaths are down sharply, NHTSA report says,” by Charles Fleming, 2 January 2015