AMA ‘encouraged’ by potential drop in 2011 motorcycle fatalities

Motorcyclist fatalities for 2011 will be about the same as 2010, according to a preliminary report released on May 21 by the Governors Highway Safety Association, the American Motorcyclist Association reports.

Based on preliminary data, the GHSA reports that fatalities decreased by 1.67 percent during the first nine months of 2011. However, the association projects the final tally will be very close to the 4,502 fatalities reported for 2010. That figure is a slight increase over the number of fatalities reported for 2009 (4,469), which represented a dramatic 16 percent decline from 2008.

“Any motorcycle fatality is one too many, but we are encouraged that the report’s preliminary finding suggests that overall motorcycle fatalities in 2011 will not be greater than 2010,” AMA president and CEO Rob Dingman said.

“Interpreting crash, injury and fatality data is challenging because states have historically struggled with calculating actual motorcycle usage,” said Dingman, himself a former governor’s highway safety program administer for New York. “Measuring fatalities against motorcycle registrations is not effective because it does not take into account how many miles riders are putting on their motorcycles at any given time.”

Dingman added that the economy, gasoline prices and weather are also variables that are difficult to quantify when determining motorcycle usage.

The lack of sufficient data underscores the critical need for a new comprehensive crash causation study, such as the one currently under way at Oklahoma State University. The study is being conducted at the Oklahoma Transportation Center under a $2.8 million Federal Highway Administration grant approved by Congress, along with more than $125,000 committed by the AMA and funds from six state safety programs — New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Wisconsin — for another $750,000.

The last comprehensive crash causation study was published in 1981 by Professor Hugh “Harry” Hurt Jr. Hurt’s groundbreaking work provided a wealth of data that has been used to develop training and strategies to help keep riders safer on the road, and earned Hurt a posthumous induction into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame.

Dingman took issue with one of the GHSA report recommendations.

“We do not agree that mandatory helmet laws are a solution,” said Dingman. “The AMA strongly encourages helmet use, but helmets do nothing to prevent motorcycle crashes. Our experience with helmet mandates shows us that when they are enforced, scarce resource dollars are directed away from rider training and motorist awareness, effective programs that reduce the risk of a crash occurring in the first place.”

Rider training and motorist awareness programs are strongly supported by the motorcycling community, and are also recommended in the GHSA report.

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