High-Performance Motorcycles Contributing to High Death Toll: IIHS

"Supersports" motorcycles, popular models that are built on racing platforms but modified for the highway and sold to consumers, are contributing to near-record motorcycle rider deaths, according to new analyses released Sept. 11 by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (www.iihs.org). Bikers who ride supersports have driver death rates per 10,000 registered motorcycles that are nearly four times higher than for riders of all other motorcycle types, IIHS said.

"Supersport motorcycles are indeed nimble and quick, but they also can be deadly," said Anne McCartt, the institute's senior vice president for research. "These bikes made up less than 10 percent of registered motorcycles in 2005 but accounted for over 25 percent of rider deaths. Their insurance losses were elevated, too."

The institute said supersports are especially popular with drivers younger than 30. They are light in weight but have powerful engines and more horsepower than typical motorcycles. An IIHS analysis said supersport riders had a death rate of 22.6 per 10,000 registered motorcycles in 2000 and a death rate of 22.5 in 2005. Sport and "unclad" sport bikes, which are similar, had the next highest rates of 10.8 in 2000 and 10.7 in 2005, while cruisers and standard motorcycles had combined rates of 5.3 in 2000 and 6.5 in 2005, IIHS said.

Helmet use among motorcyclists has declined with the repeal of mandatory helmet laws; DOT urged just this week a return to mandatory laws nationally. Motorcyclist fatalities in 2006 totaled 4,810, representing 11 percent of total highway fatalities; the motorcyclist fatality total has more than doubled in the past 10 years. Ridership also is up sharply, rising 51 percent from 2000 to 2005 and contributing to the rise in deaths, IIHS said.

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