Motorcycle crash fatalities increasing

Motorcycle crash fatalities are on the rise, according to a recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. While the number of passenger vehicle occupant deaths has been declining in the past few years with advances in vehicle safety, the number of motorcycle fatalities has increased.

According to NHTSA, the largest factors in motorcycle fatalities are helmet use and driving while intoxicated. The highway safety department said the number of riders wearing helmets has increased greatly. The latest figures show that between 2005 and 2009, helmet use jumped from 48 percent to 67 percent. Still, many riders suffer injuries that cause head trauma – often these injuries could have been prevented by wearing a helmet. Motorcycle crash data show helmets are about 29 percent effective in preventing crash fatalities.

A NHTSA report also stated that nearly one-third of fatally injured motorcycle drivers didn’t have a proper license. In Georgia, a Class M license is required to operate a motorcycle or moped with an engine size greater than 50CC. State law mandates applicants pass a knowledge exam, road skills test and vision exam to obtain a Class M license. Applicants can also complete the Georgia Motorcycle Safety Program Basic Course to waive the license test. All moped and motorcycle operators must wear a helmet.

Half of motorcycle deaths occur when negotiating a curve and more than half of motorcycle deaths are associated with speeding. Obeying speed limits and being aware of road conditions are crucial factors when driving a motorcycle. Safety courses like Georgia’s basic course can help teach drivers to maneuver properly when facing difficult hazards or road conditions.

Motorcycle crash-related injuries and deaths totaled $12 billion in medical costs and productivity losses in just one year.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests the following safety tips to avoid serious injury or death when operating a motorcycle.

  • Always wear a DOT-approved helmet.
  • Never ride after drinking.
  • Wear protective clothing that provides some protection. Clothing with bright colors and reflective material will also allow other motorists better visibility.
  • Avoid tailgating.
  • Maintain a safe speed and negotiate wet surfaces or gravel with caution.

According to the CDC, motorcycle crashes killed 4,502 people in 2010. Many crashes are preventable with proper safety training, following state regulations and laws and wearing a helmet. The best way to stay safe is to follow the safety guidelines, ensure the motorcycle is functioning properly and taking basic safety and instruction courses.

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