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The latest news on motorcycle accident fatalities is mixed, with an overall national decline of 2 percent in 2010, but with an alarming increase in some states. The slight decline was a disappointment for some safety advocates, who noted that 2009 saw a 16 percent decline after 11 straight years of increases.
The data was supplied in a report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association. The report also cautioned that, although 2010 statistics did show the 2 percent decline, the rate of fatalities increased in the second half of the year. This trend was evident in the 2009 data as well.
The data was collected from all 50 states. Although most states had not released statistics for all 12 months, at least nine months of data had been collected, and the remainder was not expected to differ from the conclusions already made.
The states that experienced significant motorcycle fatalities were Texas with 16 percent, Oklahoma with 30 percent and Oregon with 27 percent. Oregon attributed its declining numbers to an effective motorcycle safety training course and a state law that stiffened penalties for riders without licenses.
The authors of the Governors Highway Safety Association study cited better enforcement, better publicity regarding motorcycle safety, increased safety training and the lack of good riding weather for the declines in those states.
New York, Michigan and Wisconsin, however, had large increases in fatalities. These states pointed to more motorcycle riders on the roads or more traveling, good weather and the lack of helmet use. Some state experts believe that an improving economy was increasing recreational use of motorcycles, while others contend that higher gas prices are causing more consumers to use bikes for commuting.
Regarding the role of motorcycle safety courses in reducing injuries and fatalities, at least one study indicated that such courses may not be a factor. Some experts do not believe that the courses change the risk-taking behavior of younger riders nor the inability of some motorists to “see” motorcycles on the roadway.
One definite factor in decreasing fatalities is the use of anti-lock brakes (ABS) on motorcycles, which have been found to reduce the risk of being in a fatal crash by 37 percent over bikes without them. One manufacturer, BMW Motorrad USA, announced that all of its 2012 models would be equipped with ABS as standard equipment.