The annual study for the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) provided by state highway safety offices revealed that 2015 U.S. motorcycle deaths increased 10 percent compared with 2014; the total number of deaths exceeded 5,000 for only the third time in U.S. history, and first time since 2008. Statistics nationwide show that motorcyclists are far more likely to be injured or killed while driving than motor vehicle occupants. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), per mile driven, motorcycles have a fatality rate that is 26 times higher than passenger vehicles. A large contributing factor to a higher fatality rate for motorcyclists is the absence of helmet laws across America. Currently, only 19 states and the District of Columbia require all motorcycle riders to wear helmets. According to the NHTSA’s 2014 study, 89 percent of riders wore helmets in states that required by law that riders do so, while only 48 percent in all other states; wearing a helmet decreases motorcyclist’s chance of dying in a crash by 37 percent. According to the 2015 GHSA study, the number of motorcycle deaths in several states was as follows: Alaska, 11; California, 489; Idaho, 27; Oregon, 57; and Washington, 76. In Washington, motorcycle fatalities were 15 percent of total traffic deaths.
The GHSA study suggests several measures that can be taken by motorcyclists to reduce the risk of being involved in a fatal crash, which include the following: 1) Always wear a DOT-compliant helmet; 2) Wear bright-colored clothing to make it easier to be seen by other drivers; 3) Never ride impaired by alcohol or drugs; 4) Obey posted speed limits; and 5) When purchasing a new motorcycle, opt for a model with antilock brakes.
Washington state is taking several measures to increase motorcycle safety, which includes expanding its “A Fine Line” motorcycle safety program and conducting a High Visibility Enforcement motorcycle safety project. At Kraft Davies Olsson we support all safety measures taken by motorcyclists and the state of Washington to increase rider safety and decrease fatalities. Here are several safety tips for motorcycle riders that we suggest: 1) Attend a Motorcycle Safety Foundation riding course in your area; 2) Avoid riding in bad weather; 3) Be alert for road hazards (sand, debris, pot holes); 4) Wear proper attire (gloves, boots, leather clothing); 5) Drive with the awareness as if no other commuter has mirrors.