Motorcycle deaths rose 10% in 2015, according to data from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA).
The study, which used preliminary data from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., found that 5,010 motorcycle deaths occurred last year. This figure is up 450 from last year 2014. 2015 is the third year to have a motorcycle-related death toll over 5,000.
In California, motorcycle deaths dropped by 7%. Because of the state’s large motorcyclist population, it was second only to Florida in terms of number of fatalities, despite the percentage decrease. Motorcycle fatalities comprised 17% of all road-related deaths in California.
What could account for the increase in fatalities? One factor that could have contributed to the increase is a longer riding season brought about by warmer temperatures, and a therefore longer spring. The longer riding season– which enables more rider to ride for longer periods of time– leaves a larger window for tragic accidents to occur.
Motorcyclists are more vulnerable than drivers in cars, and several factors can increase motorcycle accident risk. As one of the authors of the GHSA report, Richard Retting, notes, “These sobering findings provide a stark reminder of how susceptible motorcyclists are to fatal and life-threatening injuries. The risk of motorcycle crashes and fatalities is compounded by factors such as alcohol and drug use, increased speed limits, the repeal of state helmet laws, and a record number of vehicles on U.S. roads. Concerted efforts are needed to reduce this tragic loss of life.”
Indeed, wearing proper gear is paramount to reducing injury.. Only 19 states and D.C. require all motorcyclists to wear helmets; the rest require riders under 21 to wear a helmet, or else have helmet regulations at all.
To mitigate risk, the GHSA recommends riders wear a Department of Transportation (DOT)-compliant helmet as well as bright colors that increase their visibility on the road. Motorcycles with anti-lock brake systems (ABS) can stay more stable during a sudden swerve, potentially limiting injuries and saving lives. Motorcyclists (and in fact, all drivers) should always obey speed limits and never drive while under the influence of alcohol or other mind-altering substances.
To read the GHSA study, click here. Stay safe out there.