GHSA Alarmed by Another Year of Higher Motorcycle Deaths

The U.S. Department of Transportation's 2007 estimate of total highway fatalities, 41,059, is good news, but far too many people are still dying in preventable traffic crashes, says Christopher J. Murphy, Chairman of the Governors Highway Safety Association. Murphy posted his thoughts on the report Aug. 14, the same day DOT issued it, and he zeroed in on still-rising motorcycle deaths.

"In addition to the overall decline, the report offers a few other signs for optimism," Murphy wrote. "GHSA is very pleased that the number of people injured in highway crashes (2.49 million) was the lowest seen since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began collecting injury data in 1988. This is likely due in part to an increase in safety belt use. Unfortunately, not all the news is good. I am particularly concerned that motorcycle fatalities have increased for the tenth straight year and show no sign of easing. In fact, in 2007, the number of motorcycle riders or passengers killed on the nation's roads reached an historic high of 5,157, a 6.6 percent increase over the previous year. Motorcyclist fatalities now account for an alarming 13 percent of total traffic fatalities."

He noted GHSA's recent survey of state motorcycle safety programs identified contributing factors that include a patchwork of helmet laws, increased motorcycle ownership, inconsistent and inadequate licensing requirements, and lack of adequate safety education funding. GHSA urges states to adopt a comprehensive motorcycle safety program, including mandatory helmet laws; only 20 states have mandatory helmet laws.

Studies by states and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety indicate motorists are driving at record speeds, well above posted limits, and GHSA "remains dedicated to working closely with Congress, NHTSA and other partners to bring the issue to the forefront of the national highway safety agenda," he wrote. Murphy said another troubling trend is the sharp increase in the number of pedestrians injured in traffic crashes; these rose by 15 percent, from 61,000 in 2006 to 70,000 in 2007, but why they increased is not clear. For additional information, visit www.statehighwaysafety.org.

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