Report: Motorcycle Fatalities Decreased in 2013 (A Closer Look)

May 21, 2014 View Comments by

Report: Motorcycle Fatalities Decreased in 2013 (A Closer Look)According to a recent report released by the Governors Highway Safety Administration, the number of motorcyclists killed in accidents on the country’s roadways is projected to have gone down seven-percent in 2013, only the second such decrease since 1997. Using data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the GHSA predicts that the final national count for motorcycle deaths in 2013 will stand at 4,610 compared to 4,957 in 2012. Over the same period of time total highway fatalities declined as well, but only by 3.7-percent.

While on the surface this seems like great news (and it is) the report goes on to postulate that the cause for fewer deaths was primarily due to weather. The first nine months of 2013 (the time period when the data was collected) was colder and rainier than the same span in 2012, which lead to fewer motorcycle miles being traveled. In fact, the study states that rider safety has not increased significantly at all in the past 15 years, while overall road safety has continued to improve. The report established that, overall, passenger vehicles were twice as safe in 2011 as they were in 1997, while motorcycle safety had not changed. The GHSA’s chairman and Director of the Tennessee Office of Highway Safety, Kendell Poole, states, “It’s heartening that motorcyclist fatalities didn’t increase over the past couple of years, but they’re not decreasing either. Long-term gains in motorcyclist safety won’t occur because riders are deterred by bad weather, but from consistent use of proven countermeasures.” He continues, “By far, helmets are the single most effective way to prevent serious injury and death in the event of a motorcycle crash. But states are going backward when it comes to enacting this proven, lifesaving countermeasure.” Proving his point, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that, compared to states with universal helmet laws, states without had ten times more un-helmeted motorcyclist fatalities in 2012. Predictably, the GHSA study concludes that other contributing factors to motorcycle deaths include alcohol (and/or illegal drugs), speeding, and other vehicles violating the motorcyclist’s right of way.

Recently, the American Motorcyclist Association also reported on the GHSA findings. Unfortunately, they only took the bits and pieces that paint a peachier picture than reality, leaving out most of the important information and taking what data they did report out of context. This is very disappointing for an organization that purports to have motorcyclist’s best interests at heart.

So what’s the takeaway here? It’s that headlines can be misleading and what looks to be good news on the surface may require deeper digging to get at the truth. So yes, motorcyclist fatalities did decrease last year, however, that does not mean that the roadways are safer for two-wheeled travel. As motorcyclists, we need to be proactive in protecting ourselves through the use of proper riding gear and a healthy dose of common sense.

GHSA Report

AMA Article


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About the author

There’s something relentlessly romantic about riding a motorcycle. I’m blessed to know that feeling. With a background in photography and a love for motorcycles, I’m interested in the beauty and honesty of the open road. You’ll find me riding Carolina’s roads on my Suzuki SV650.