With spring in full swing and summer just around the corner motorcyclists will be taking the roads for some well needed fresh air. With the warmer weather upon us the concern for motorcycle riders safety is on the forefront of our minds.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 5,290 motorcyclists were killed in 2008, an increase of 2 percent over 2007, which marks the eleventh straight year fatalities have increased. In addition, nearly 100,000 motorcyclists were injured in 2008.
According to the WV Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP), in 2004 motorcycle fatalities represented 7 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities but 3 only percent of registered vehicles; 9 percent of fatalities but 3 percent of registered vehicles in 2005; and, 9 percent of fatalities but 6 percent of registered vehicles in 2006.
The blame should not all fall on the motorcyclist, the state is also responsible for the well-being of all vehicle operators also. Only 20 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, require helmet use by all motorcyclists. Other states require just some riders (those under the age of 18 for example) to wear helmets or have no requirement at all. West Virginia has a universal helmet law.
According to estimates by the NHTSA, helmets saved the lives of 1,829 motorcyclists in 2008. Additionally, the NHTSA estimates that 823 more lives could have been saved if all motorcyclists had worn helmets.
Alcohol continues to be a major factor in motorcycle crashes, as well as fatalities. In 2008, 43 percent of motorcycle riders who died in single-vehicle crashes had blood alcohol levels (BAC) of .08 or higher.
The NHTSA says wearing a helmet and the right gear, checking equipment before riding, never drinking and riding, and getting the right training can make a big difference in motorcyclists’ safety.