Bad Weather Curbs Motorcycle Deaths

The Governors Highway Safety Association says motorcycle deaths dropped in 2014 for the second year in a row, but warns that riders still face a threat many times greater than other drivers do.

The GHSA's report, released Wednesday and based on preliminary accident numbers from every state, projects fatalities last year fell nearly 2 percent nationwide from 2013 levels, following a 6 percent decline in 2013. The GHSA notes that poor weather in much of the country last year -- including relentless snowstorms in the Northeast and Midwest -- kept many motorcyclists off highways and figured in the drop.

Weather makes a big difference. In Hawaii, 28 percent of all vehicle fatalities are motorcyclists. In North Dakota, it's 6 percent.

But the GHSA says motorcyclist deaths are still 26 percent higher than a decade ago and far outpace other vehicle fatalities, which fell 28 percent during the same period. (Note that the number of registered motorcycles has more than doubled since 1997.)

There were 3,614 motorcycle deaths reported through the first nine months of 2014, in contrast with 3,849 the previous year. The GHSA estimates the total motorcycle fatalities for 2014 will reach 4,584, compared with 4,668 for 2013.

"We are glad to see a continued decrease, but the number of motorcyclist deaths on our roadways is still unacceptable," Kendell Poole, GHSA chairman and director of the Tennessee Office of Highway Safety, said in a written statement. "While we support technology advances such as antilock brake systems and traction control, state laws and behavioral changes are critical to saving more motorcyclist lives."

The report points out that motorcycles, despite being only 3 percent of all road vehicles, are involved in 14 percent of highway deaths.

The states recording the most fatalities in the January-July 2014 recording period were:
  1. Texas: 354
  2. California: 338
  3. Florida: 321
  4. Pennsylvania: 167
  5. North Carolina: 128

Further, the GHSA says recent statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that "per mile driven, fatality rates for motorcyclists were 26 times that of passenger vehicle occupants in 2013."