In recent years, motor vehicle accident death rates have been declining steadily. Unfortunately, this trend has not carried forward to motorcycle accidents. A recent study by the Governor's Highway Safety Association showed that motorcycle accident fatality rates stayed relatively flat between 2010 and 2011.
The GHSA recorded 3,580 motorcycle fatalities in the first nine months of 2011. It expects that the death toll for the entire year will exceed 4,500 once all the data is calculated. According to the GHSA, most motorcycle accident deaths can be attributed to one of three causes: not wearing a helmet, speeding or drunk driving.
The good news is that fatal accident rates can be reduced. To do that, however, a lot of riders will need to make changes to their attitudes about how and when to ride a motorcycle.
Firstly, all riders should wear a helmet for every trip, no matter how short. Illinois is one of only three states that do not require any motorcycle riders to wear helmets. Riders shouldn't let this exemption lull them into believing that it is safe to ride a motorcycle without a helmet. According to the GHSA, in 2008, more than 800 fatal accident victims would have avoided death if they had been wearing helmets.
The second step is to practice good safety habits at all times. Of course, it is important to never get on a motorcycle after drinking alcohol. But less-obvious changes can have a big impact, too. For example, most experts recommend that riders cut back on speed, especially in areas where they are likely to encounter passing vehicles, poor road quality or debris. It is simply too hard to maneuver quickly and safely when traveling at a high rate of speed.
If you're going to head out on the road this summer, make sure you approach your ride with an eye toward safety.
Source: The Washington Post, "As Crash Deaths Continue to Decline, the Number of Motorcycle Fatalities Have Not," Ashley Halsey III, May 21, 2012.