SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

The Nation

April 19, 2011

Motorcycle deaths drop, but trend is worrisome

WASHINGTON — Motorcycle deaths dropped 2 percent in the first nine months of last year, but the report by state transportation officials may signal just a blip, not a lasting improvement in safety.

There were 80 fewer motorcycle deaths from January through September of 2010 than in the same time frame the previous year, said the report, scheduled for release Tuesday by the Governors Highway Safety Association.

But fatalities had started to climb back up during the last three of those nine months. And that has safety advocates worried.

"The drop is all in the front half of the year," said report author Jim Hedlund, a safety consultant. "It looks very much as if we've hit bottom and may be starting back up again."

Fatalities were down 25 percent during the first three months of last year, and still down 1 percent in next three months after that. Then they went up 3 percent in the third quarter of the year, the report said.

Annual motorcycle fatalities have more than doubled since the late 1990s, peaking in 2008 at 5,312 deaths. But they plunged 16 percent in 2009 as the economy tanked. What caused the drop is a matter of debate.

Jonathan Adkins, a spokesman for the safety group that issued the report, said recreational motorcycle riding appears to have declined while the recession was at its worst, and that may explain why the number of deaths went down.

Now that the economy is showing signs of recovery, Adkins said he's concerned a rebound in recreational riding will lead to more deaths.

But Jeff Hennie, vice president of the Motorcycle Riders Foundation, disagrees. He said the economy — especially the recent rise in gas prices — appears to have increased, not decreased, motorcycle use.

"If I have a choice between driving a pickup or my motorcycle, I'm taking the motorcycle that gets 50 miles per gallon," Hennie said. "It's not sport, it's transportation."

Text Only | Photo Reprints
The Nation

AP Video
Dempsey: Putin May Light Fire and Lose Control In Case of Fire, Oxygen Masks for Pets Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites Anti-violence Advocate Killed, but Not Silenced. Arizona Prison Chief: Execution Wasn't Botched Calif. Police Investigate Peacock Shooting Death Police: Doctor Who Shot Gunman 'Saved Lives' MN Twins Debut Beer Vending Machine DA: Pa. Doctor Fired Back at Hospital Gunman Raw: Iowa Police Dash Cam Shows Wild Chase Obama Seeks Limits on US Company Mergers Abroad Large Family to Share NJ Lottery Winnings U.S. Flights to Israel Resume After Ban Lifted TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans Raw: National Guard Helps Battle WA Wildfires Senators Push to End Hamas Threat in Cease-Fire Raw: Deadly Storm Hits Virginia Campground Officials Warn of Avoidable Death in Hot Cars Death Penalty Expert: 'This is a Turning Point' House Committee at Odds Over Obama Lawsuit
NDN Video
Bill Murray Continues To Be Just Bill Murray By Eating Some Free Bill Murray Ice Cream Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect Hillary Clinton Blamed Bill's Affair With Monica Lewinsky On Abuse He Suffered As A Child 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot Samsung Pre-Trolls The IPhone 6 With New Ad Jimmy Kimmel Introduces His Baby Girl