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Numbers About Motorcycle Fatalities

Wondering about motor accident statistics? We have some answers.

Summer is motorcycle season in Ohio. With the advent of warm weather, riders take to the highways and secondary roads throughout the state to enjoy their bikes and the company of fellow-riders. Unfortunately, with the increase in riders comes an increase in accidents. A few statistics about Ohio motorcycle crashes tells the story.

Motorcycles were involved in 169 fatal accidents on Ohio roadways in 2011. Additionally, 1,064 people were seriously injured in that year, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Motorcycle Crashes Are Seasonal

There are patterns to motorcycle accidents, whatever the year. As one might expect, motorcycle accidents in Ohio and other northern states occur primarily during the warmer months when roads are free of ice and snow and more people ride. Motorcycle accidents follow motorcycle registrations, which in turn follow gasoline prices. Rising gas prices are reflected in increased motorcycle registrations and more accidents.

Weather changes play a part in motorcycle accidents. Rainy weather reduces crashes, as shown by the numbers for 2011 in Ohio. The weather in that year was very wet, particularly in the spring, and experts have speculated that storms kept motorcyclists off the roads. The result: fewer accidents than in the previous year.

Crashes On The Rise

Nationally, the number of fatalities in 2011 was similar to that in 2010. However, between 2011 and 2012, preliminary data suggests that national motorcycle fatalities increased by around nine percent, reflecting both rising gas prices and an improving economy. Another reason for the increase is that traditionally cold-weather states like Ohio had record high temperatures in 2012, allowing riders to get on the road earlier than in other years.

Fatalities in all types of traffic accidents have been falling steadily. Between 1997 and 2011, total motor vehicle accident fatalities fell by 23 percent, from 42, 013 to 32,367. However, the trend for motorcycle fatalities goes the other way. During the same years, motorcycle accident deaths more than doubled, from 2, 115 to at least 4,612.

Helmet Use Is Key To Reducing Motorcycle Accidents, According To Experts

Advocacy groups say that the single fastest way to reduce motorcycle accident deaths is to have universal helmet laws that apply to every rider, regardless of the state or the age of the rider. Ohio repealed its universal helmet law in 1978, replacing it with a law that covered only:

  • Riders under age 18
  • Riders licensed less than one year
  • All passengers on motorcycles when driver is required to wear a helmet

Only 19 states and the District of Columbia have universal motorcycle helmet laws. Laws like Ohio's that require some riders to wear helmets are in place in 28 states. Three states, New Hampshire, Iowa and Illinois, have no helmet laws at all.

Many state legislatures have passed weakened state helmet laws, reducing the number of riders required to wear helmets. This also contributes to an increase in motorcycle deaths. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 97 percent of riders in states with universal helmet laws comply with the law and wear helmets. In contrast, only 58 percent of riders in states with limited or no laws wear helmets; in general, those states have higher fatality rates.

If you were injured or lost a loved one in a motorcycle accident, an attorney at Elk & Elk Co., Ltd. can advise you about your options.