In spite of the fact that deaths on American roads fell to their lowest levels in more than half a century, motorcycle accidents showed no such decline. Closer to home, the number of fatal Portland motorcycle accidents also showed no signs of being on the wane.
It was very much a good news-bad news story from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), when they released the most recent road traffic fatality statistics on May 22. The good news was that overall motor vehicle deaths had dropped to the lowest levels recorded since 1949, but the same report showed that there was no fall in the number of fatal motorcycle accidents, in spite of an overall decrease in road deaths.
Are high gas prices leading to high death rates?
While it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact causes of the flat line in fatal Portland (and the rest of America) motorcycle accidents, there are some in the GHSA who believe that high gas prices might be responsible. Motorcycles achieve infinitely better mpg figures than even the most compact of automobiles, so the group says it’s possible that more people are being pushed onto motorcycles than would normally be the case.
People who would normally only use their motorcycles for leisure travel are now going out into busy commuter traffic every day, because they can’t afford the $4 per gallon price tag on gas. The same is true of night travel, and driving in periods of bad weather or unsafe road conditions. In times when people would normally have left their motorcycles in the garage, they are now climbing aboard to save a few dollars on fuel costs.
The figures justify mandatory helmet laws
The GHSA says five states are currently fighting mandatory helmet laws, and seven states have already repealed their laws since 1997 (most recently Michigan), so they are using the most recent statistics as ammunition in that battle. Some of the figures they point to include:
- Approximately 4,500 people died in motorcycle accidents in 2011. That number is virtually identical to the figures for 2010.
- Fatal motorcycle crashes actually increased in no fewer than 26 states for the first nine months of 2011, including a 26% increase in South Carolina and a 16% jump in Texas.
- Connecticut was the most successful state in bucking the national trends; they showed a 37% drop in motorcycle accidents that resulted in death.
- Twenty-two other states showed lesser declines, while one state, Louisiana, recorded no change whatever in the number of motorcycle deaths.
- California—a notoriously dangerous state for motorcyclists—showed a 10% increase in motorcycle fatalities for the first seven months of 2011, up from 202 to 223. Figures for the first nine months were not available to those compiling the report.
When asked why motorcycle fatalities were up in some states and down in others, the GHSA pointed to a number of factors that can affect results either way. They said that states with fewer fatal motorcycle accidents had:
- Poor cycling weather
- A reduction in the number of motorcycles registered within the state
- Decreased motorcycle travel
- Increased law enforcement
- Greater levels of rider training and motorcycle safety education
States with higher numbers of fatal motorcycle crashes had exactly the opposite; good cycling weather, more cycles registered, increased motorcycle travel and lastly, a return to normal levels of motorcycle use after an abnormally low fatality count in 2010.
The debate over helmets continues
Oregon members of the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) say that the use of helmets, while strongly encouraged, does little or nothing to prevent Portland motorcycle accidents. State officials who are pushing for a repeal of mandatory helmet laws claim that:
- Repealing helmet laws would make the state more popular to motorcycle-driving tourists, bringing in badly needed tourism dollars.
- Once someone has the appropriate training and they are 21 years of age or older, repeal advocates say wearing a helmet should be a matter of personal choice.
- Even though the figures of motorcycle road deaths didn’t decline in 2011, the total is not greater than 2010, and that followed a 16% decrease in the number of fatalities in 2009.
- Enforcing helmet mandates uses up money that could be better spent on crash prevention programs like rider training and motorist awareness.
In Portland, motorcycle accidents that have caused death have statistically remained relatively steady over the past two years. Portland motorcycle accident attorneys would, however, like to see the numbers following the overall downward trend in all road traffic fatalities.
When a motorcyclist is in a collision, be it with a car, a tree, another motorcycle or a road sign, the potential for severe and traumatic injuries is multiplied several times over. Cyclists simply have no protection between them and the hard road. Also, their small size relative to other vehicles on the road means that car, SUV and truck drivers frequently don’t see motorcyclists until it’s too late.
If you’ve been injured in a Portland motorcycle accident by a negligent driver, the odds are you’ve suffered serious injuries that will require extensive and expensive medical treatment. You may lose income because of not being able to go to work, and your family could suffer as a consequence. If this has happened to you, the best thing you can do after getting the medical help you need is to contact a highly experienced Portland motorcycle accident attorney.