Dire motorcycle fatality stats concern regulators, prompt action

Louisiana was among the front runners in states to enact a compulsory helmet law for motorcyclists, but, after the state confronted strong resistance from many riders, legislators repealed the law and requirement some years ago.

The repercussions stemming from that move were dire and immediate, with deaths from motorcycle accidents in the state increasing by more than 100 percent. The adverse fallout was so intense, in fact, that legislators reinstated the must-wear law in 2004.

Louisiana is now among 19 states to have such a law, with requirements in states providing for something less than a universal duty ranging widely in rider and passenger restrictions.

Federal agencies and regulators such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) want more stress placed on safety measures that will reduce bike crash deaths across the country.

And they want that stress applied heavily and promptly, given the notably adverse numbers associated with motorcycle fatalities in recent years. Here’s just one sobering statistic: From 1997 through 2008, the fatality rate for motorcycle riders and passengers more than doubled, whereas fatalities in all other vehicle-related accidents across the United States decreased by five percent.

And the NHTSA adds this: For each mile traveled, a motorcyclist is about 30 times more likely to die in a crash than is a motorist in a car.

The federal government has given many millions of dollars to all the states as safety grants to enhance motorcycle safety and awareness. Administrators now say that they want greater flexibility in dictating where that money goes and how it can be optimally used to curb adverse bike outcomes.

The GAO states that the economic cost to society of bike crashes that occurred during 2010 was approximately $16 billion.



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