Motorcycle deaths climb in 2002

Motorcycle fatalities were up for the fifth consecutive year in 2002, to 3,276, the most since 1990, according to statistics released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). That compares with a low of 2,116 in 1997. “Part of what were seeing is a reflection of the increased sales and popularity of motorcycles,” said NHTSA spokesperson Rae Tyson.
While deaths are up, the preliminary estimate shows that the increase in motorcyclist fatalities over the past several years has slowed, even though motorcycle sales continued at near-record levels.
“This slowdown is a hopeful sign, but there is still a lot we can do to save motorcyclists’ lives on our nation’s highways,” said Ed Moreland, AMA vice president for government relations. “The top priority for anyone interested in saving motorcyclists’ lives should be legislation in Congress to fund comprehensive research into the causes of motorcycle crashes.
“Drunk riding also needlessly causes deaths, and the AMA is launching a national Ride Straight campaign in cooperation with the NHTSA to educate riders about the dangers of drinking and riding,” Moreland said.
The upward trend of motorcycling fatalities in recent years followed 17 consecutive years of declines. From 1990 through 1999, for example, motorcycling-related fatalities dropped by 48%.
The AMA noted that one significant reason for the increase in motorcycling-related fatalities in recent years is that motorcycling has seen an enormous increase in popularity, with sales of new street bikes up more than 100% over five years — from about 243,000 in 1997 to more than 500,000 in 2001.
Moreland and his staff are working on Capitol Hill to get $3 million in funding for an in-depth study to find ways to prevent motorcycle crashes. That funding would be part of congressional reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century.
More than 60 federal lawmakers have signed a letter delivered to U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, urging him to back this study. The last such study, Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures, was conducted more than 20 years ago.

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