Motorcyclist Fatalities On The Rise

Three men, three motorcycles, and three deaths, all within 36 hours in the Maryland and Washington, D.C. area. Its part of a disturbing trend in our area and nationwide: motorcycle fatalities are rising.  Although the high price of gasoline has reduced driving nationally, and led to a decrease in traffic accident fatalities, motorcyle fatalities actually increased last year, according to the National Transportation Safety Board

Several factors seem to be involved:  rider inexperience and driver error; increased traffic on our roadways, and arguably the rescission of mandatory helmet laws in many states.  Additionally, the increase in the use of SUV's over the last twenty years has made the motorcyclist more vulnerable on the highways.  With more people driving larger vehicles, the likelihood of a motorcyclist being killed when a large truck like vehicle (SUV) and a motorcycle collide goes up.

According to Patricia A. Turner, who studies motorcycle accidents for the Texas Transportation Institute, in crashes involving a motorcyle and another vehicle, three out of four motorcyclist fatalities occur when the oncomming vehicle negligently turns left directly in front of, and into the path of the oncomming motorcyclist.  Half of all motorcycle fatalities, however, do not involve another motor vehicle.

Another telling federal statistic revealed that although deaths among riders 20 to 29 practically doubled from 1996 to 2006, the number of deaths among motorcyclists ages 40 to 49 TRIPLED, and for ages 50 to 59, it was FOUR TIMES AS HIGH.  According to Ms. Turner. "A lot of guys who used to ride 20 or 30 years ago are empty nesters now.  They're saying 'I'm going to get me a bike', but the bikes are larger, faster, very different bikes than what they rode before."  (As quoted in the August 24, 2009 edition of  the Washington Post.)

As a former motorcyclist who gave up the thrill of motorcycling after a near fatal collision (single vehicle-mine), I can empathize with the bikers' love of the road.  To the bikers, I beg, please wear your helmets and drive the speed limits; to the rest of us: keep an eye out for the bikers: one of them may be your friend, your son or daughter, or your husband or wife.  With the high volume of traffic in our area, and the increase in the number of motorcycles on the roadways, we all need to share the road, and above all else, drive carefully.