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Motorcycle deaths stay at same level despite overall safer roads

Alan Spearman / The Commercial Appeal file

While vehicle fatalities are down, progress in reducing the number of motorcycle deaths nationally is proving difficult. Fortunately, this March 26, accident in Memphis, Tenn., was not fatal.

A report released Tuesday by the Governors Highway Safety Association finds that no progress was made in reducing motorcyclist deaths in 2011, even as overall highway traffic deaths declined.

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Based upon preliminary data for the first nine months of the year, from 50 states and the District of Columbia, GHSA projects that motorcycle fatalities remained at about 4,500 in 2011, the same level as 2010.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration projected that overall motor vehicle fatalities declined 1.7 percent in 2011, reaching their lowest level since 1949.

Motorcycle deaths remain one of the few areas in highway safety where progress is not being made.

"It is disappointing that we are not making progress in motorcycle safety," said GHSA Chairman Troy Costales in a statement, "particularly as fatalities involving other motorists continue to decline. As the study notes, the strengthening economy, high gas prices, and the lack of all-rider helmet laws leave me concerned about the final numbers for 2011 and 2012. Every motorcyclist deserves to arrive at their destination safely. These fatality figures represent real people – they’re family, friends and neighbors."

Comparing the first nine months of 2010 with 2011, motorcyclist fatalities decreased in 23 states, with notable declines in many.

On the other hand, 26 states and the District Columbia showed an increase in motorcyclist deaths.

The economy influences motorcycle travel in several ways. With the economy improving in 2011 and furthering strengthening in 2012, more people will have disposable income for purchasing and riding motorcycles. At the same time, rising gas prices may cause more people to choose motorcycles for transportation because of their fuel efficiency.

The Governors Highway Safety Association is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

The full report is available here.