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Report: Motorcycle Deaths Down in 2009

April 28, 2010

WASHINGTON - A report released April 22 by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reveals that motorcycle fatalities declined in 2009 by at least 10 percent. 

Based on preliminary data, GHSA is projecting that motorcycle fatalities declined from 5,290 in 2008 to 4,762 or less in 2009. The projection is based on data from 50 states and the District of Columbia. The declines come on the heels of 11 straight years of dramatic increases in motorcyclist deaths. 

The new report -- the first state-by-state look at motorcycle fatalities in 2009 -- was completed by Dr. James Hedlund of Highway Safety North. Dr. Hedlund surveyed GHSA members, who reported fatality numbers for every state. While data are still preliminary, most states have quite complete fatality counts for at least nine months, making GHSA confident to forecast that deaths are down at least 10 percent for the full year, the association said. 

GHSA is projecting declines in approximately three-fourth of states. The declines are notable in many states and in every region of the country. In California, for example, based on data for the first nine months, motorcycle deaths are predicted to be down 29 percent, while Florida and New York are down 27 and 16 percent, respectively. 

As part of the report, GHSA members were asked to suggest reasons for the decline. States offered several reasons, including: less motorcycle travel due to the economy, fewer beginning motorcyclists, increased state attention to motorcycle safety programs, and poor cycling weather in some areas. 

"Clearly the economy played a large role in motorcycle deaths declining in 2009," said GHSA Chairman Vernon Betkey. "Less disposable income translates into fewer leisure riders, and we suspect that the trend of inexperienced baby boomers buying bikes may have subsided." 

Betkey noted that, as with decreases in the overall highway fatality rate, progress with motorcyclist deaths can be attributed to more than just the economy. 

"Multiple states indicated that because of the increases in motorcyclist deaths from 1997-2008, addressing this area has been a priority for state highway safety programs," Betkey said. 

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