The number of vehicle fatalities for 2011 was recently released and reactions are mixed. Although vehicle fatalities have decreased, motorcycle deaths have remained the same- neither increasing or decreasing dramatically since 2010. To fully understand the accuracy of nationwide fatality rates, you have to look at how the numbers are estimated. Ultimate Motorcycling explains it well in their article “No Progress in Reducing Motorcycle Deaths”.
“The new report – the first state-by-state look at motorcycle fatalities occurring in 2011 – was authored by Dr. James Hedlund of Highway Safety North. Most states have reasonably complete fatality counts for at least the first nine months of 2011, enabling GHSA to confidently project the full year.
Comparing the first nine months of 2010 to 2011, motorcyclist fatalities decreased in twenty-three states, with notable declines in many. In Connecticut, for example, motorcycle deaths dropped 37 percent, while in New York and North Carolina they fell 16 and 21 percent, respectively. GHSA’s member in New York State is the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC).
Barbara J. Fiala, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and Chair of GTSC, says the decrease in fatal motorcycle crashes in that state is due to a mix of countermeasures focusing on enforcement, education and engineering.” (www.ultimatemotorcycling.com) or click here for a link to the specific article.
So, why the pessimistic outlook if the numbers are improving in individual states? Twenty-six additional states reported dramatic increases in the rate of motorcycle fatalities- resulting in a plateau of fatalities, no overall improvement and no overall increase. There are many theories behind the numbers and ways in which states can influence the rate of fatalities. Education, for both motorcyclists and car drivers, is still the key in most fatality reducing efforts. Whether you’re in a car or riding your bike, each driver sharing the road has a responsibility to those around them. Even the most seasoned riders are brushing up on techniques in continued education programs. Safety precautions are also being examined. There is controversy around current helmet laws- Michigan recently repealed their law requiring the use of helmets. Governor Snyder decided to repeal the bill citing freedom of choice and the increase in tourism that may result by being a helmet free state. However, there are several other strings attached to this decision. Motorcyclists driving without a helmet must be at least 21 years old and have passed a safety course no more than two years ago. They must also carry an additional $20,000 in medical insurance if going helmet free. Many health groups are enraged by Governor Snyder’s decision, saying the increase in tourism revenue is not worth the potentially life changing damage that could occur. Michigan is the 31st state to provide this option to riders. Where do you stand on this issue? Should it be left up to the drivers or does the increase in health care costs prove to be too high a price to pay? Give us your opinion- leave a comment!