In some countries, it is a lot more common to ride a motorcycle than a car. You can get to a destination quicker, dodge traffic, and even save on gas. In the United States, California dominates with over 800,000 registered motorcycles as of 2013, and states like Florida, Texas and Pennsylvania are not too far behind.
Though motorcycles are more popular in the warmer climate states, they are popular all throughout the nation. However, despite their popularity, a recent study reveals that motorcycle fatalities are still a problem.
“Motorcyclist traffic fatalities in the United States decreased about 7 percent in 2013 to 2012,” the author of the Governors Highway Safety Association study wrote. “…This will only be the second year since 1997 that motorcyclist fatalities decreased.”
The author also pointed out that despite the decrease in motorcycle deaths, the reason was mostly due to colder and wetter weather, which caused a lot of motorcycle owners to forego riding. Overall, motorcyclist safety has not improved in the last 15 years. The dangers of motorcycle riding and risk of death continue primarily for three reasons.
A Lack Of Universal Helmet Laws
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, helmets can prevent fatal injuries to motorcyclists by 37 percent, and over 40 percent for the passenger. Yet, not all states have adopted universal helmet laws.
The study points out that only 19 states (including the District of Columbia) practice universal helmet laws, while 28 states only require motorcyclists under 18 or 21 to wear a helmet, and 3 do not have a requirement at all. The NHTSA finds that states that require the universal helmet law experience a lower fatality count than those who do not.
“In 2012, helmet use among all motorcyclists was 89 percent in states with laws requiring helmet use by all motorcyclists and 49 percent in other states,” the author wrote. “Nationwide, helmet use dropped to 60 percent in 2012, down from 66 percent in 2011. Helmet use has hovered around 60 percent since 1994.”
According to the GHSA study, nearly 30 percent of motorcyclists that were involved in a fatal crash had a blood alcohol concentration above .08 – the legal limit in most states – for the 2011 year. The percentages for alcohol impaired drivers involved in fatal accidents were 24 percent for passenger cars, 21 percent for light trucks and only 1 percent for large trucks, reported the NHTSA.
The NHTSA added that the reported helmet use of motorcycle riders killed in traffic accidents with BAC levels over the legal limit was substantially lower than those who were riding without the influence of alcohol.
Though the percentage of motorcyclist fatalities – where the motorcyclist had a BAC above .08 – was 30 percent, the percentage is a lot higher for other states, such as Vermont (63 percent).
Just like it is required to have a license and valid registration to legally drive a motor vehicle, it is important for motorcycle owners to have the proper license as well as receive the proper training to safely ride a motorcycle.
The most recent data shows that in 2011, over 20 percent of motorcyclists that were in a fatal accident were not properly licensed. The GHSA study notes that many newbie riders are encouraged to complete a training course before taking their motorcycle license test. “SHSO [State Highway Safety Office] officials in Washington indicated that ‘many riders involved in fatal crashes lacked certified training or a legal endorsement,'” the author wrote.
Without the proper training, motorcyclists miss out on the opportunity to get educated on what can harm them when they’re riding on the road.