Motorcycle fatalities decrease slightly

The number of motorcycle fatalities in the United States decreased at least 2 percent in 2010 from the previous year, according to a report released by the Governors Highway Safety Association.

The number of deaths reported in preliminary data from 2010 was down to 4,465 from 4,376 in 2009. It was the 11th straight year of decline. The data comes from all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

Oklahoma saw the biggest decrease in fatalities, with a 30 percent drop. Oregon was down 27 percent, and Texas saw a 16 percent drop in the first nine months of 2010.

Though most of the news coming out of the report was positive, some concerns were expressed. The fatalities dropped only 2 percent after seeing a 16 percent drop in 2009. Also, most of the decrease occurred in the early months of 2010, while there was a 3 percent increase in the third quarter of 2010 over the year-ago quarter. And helmet use dropped to 54 percent in 2010 from 67 percent in 2009.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) was encouraged by the news but stressed the need for continued education, better riding and more use of high-visibility gear.

“This is certainly welcome news but more gains in motorcycle safety are possible,” MSF president and CEO Tim Buche said in a press release. “Industry surveys find that fewer than 50 percent of the riders on the road have taken formal rider education. We continue to strongly urge governors and all policymakers to implement improved, expanded rider training programs for new, experienced and returning riders.”

The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) was also pleased by the results, but emphasized its support of a comprehensive motorcycle crash causation study being conducted at the Oklahoma Transportation Center.

“We are encouraged by the further decline in rider fatalities,” Ed Moreland, AMA senior vice president for government relations, said in a press release. “We hope to see this trend in declining fatalities continue.

“But without hard data to support the reasons behind the decline, it is difficult to speculate on the reasons,” he added.

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