Motorcycle traffic fatalities increased by about 9% in 2012, says a new report by the Governors Highway Safety Association. The report examined data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and produced a preliminary estimate based on data collected from the first nine months of 2012.
Based on those figures, the report projects 5,027 fatalities in 2012, a 9% increase from the 4,612 fatalities reported in 2011. Again, this is a preliminary estimate based primarily on data from the first nine months of 2012 and the final total may turn out to be a bit higher or a bit lower than 5000. Last year’s GHSA report, for example, estimated a toll of 4,500 fatalities, a figure that turned out to be 2.4% lower than the actual year-end tally.
The report attributes the increase in motorcyclist deaths to record high temperatures last spring. A warmer spring means a longer riding season and therefore more riders on the road. From January to March, the study counted 690 motorcycle fatalities in 2012, a 24.3% increase from the 555 deaths tallied in the same months of 2011. Statistics from April to June saw a much smaller increase of 6.4%, rising to 1,570 deaths from 1,476. There were fewer deaths from July to September however, with the numbers decreasing 3.9% to 1,662 from 1,729 for those three months.
And of course, when there are more riders, there are likely to be more accidents and, unfortunately, more fatalities. According to the report, motorcycle fatalities closely follow trends in the number of motorcycle registrations over the last 14 years. High gasoline prices also lead to more riders, and spikes in gasoline prices have also translated to more registrations and more fatalities.
According to the report, traffic fatalities more than doubled from 1997 to 2008. The report found a decrease in fatalities in 2008, but the numbers have slowly risen since then.
Broken down by state, the report saw a decrease in fatalities in 16 states, while fatalities increased in 34 states (D.C. stayed even with three fatalities in the first nine months in both 2011 and 2012). The largest increase was reported in Indiana, with 130 deaths reported in the first nine months of 2012 compared to 101 deaths in 2011.
Texas saw the largest decrease, with 358 fatalities in the first nine months of 2012 compared to 392 in the same period of 2011. That being said, Texas still leads the nation in motorcycle fatalities followed by California at 318 and Florida with 287 (although Florida is the only state that did not include motorcycle passenger fatalities in its accounting; including passengers, Florida’s statistics would be higher.)
The GHSA report recommends four strategies for decreasing the number of motorcycle fatalities. The GHSA has long been a champion for universal helmet laws so it’s no surprise the report recommends legislation mandating helmet usage.
The report also suggests fighting alcohol impairment, reducing speeding, providing motorcycle operator training to all who need and/or seek it, enforcing licensing requirements and encouraging other motorists to better share the road with motorcyclists.