The National Safety Counsel reports that traffic fatalities are at the lowest level ever recorded. However, motorcycle deaths are on the rise for the ninth straight year.In 2006, 4,810 motorcyclists were killed nationwide, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This number has increased by 104% in the last decade.
The National Safety Counsel cites the fact that many motorcyclists still do not wear helmets.In fact, only 20 states and the District of Columbia currently require bikers to wear helmets.The NHTSA estimates that in 2005 alone, helmets saved the lives of 1,546 riders.However, only 59% of motorcycle riders wear them on a regular basis, a number down about 13% from four years ago.
The NSC believes that an increase in the number of motorcycle riders has also contributed significantly to the rise in motorcycle fatalities.Since 1995, there has been a 48% increase in motorcycle registrations.Interestingly, motorcycle sales have been driven by an increase in purchase by Baby Boomers.The NHTSA says that the motorcycle industry has seen a tremendous level of sales to adults born between 1946 and 1964.
Ray Ochs, of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, believes that the increased challenges faced by today’s riders have contributed to the increase in accidents and fatalties.Ochs says that today’s traffic is more congested, bikes are more powerful, cell phone usage distracts more drivers, and the ever-present intoxicated motorist creates a risky environment for motorcyclists.
Drunk driving remains a problem for motorcycle riders as well.NHTSA data shows that 41% of the riders who died in 2005 had a blood alcohol content of .08 or greater; which is over the legal limit in Virginia and D.C. A higher percentage of motorcyclists die from drunk riding than any other type of driver.