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No Progress in Reducing U.S. Motorcycle Deaths: Report

TUESDAY, May 22 (HealthDay News) -- The United States made no overall progress in reducing motorcyclist deaths in 2011, according to a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association.

An analysis of preliminary data from 50 states and the District of Columbia indicates that there were about 4,500 motorcyclist deaths last year, the same number as in 2010.

But some individual states did see decreases in these fatalities in 2011, while rates rose in other states, according to the report released Tuesday.

Compared to the first nine months of 2010, motorcyclist deaths decreased in 23 states during the first nine months of 2011. For example, motorcyclist deaths decreased 37 percent in Connecticut and fell 21 percent in North Carolina and 16 percent in New York State.

The decrease in fatal motorcycle crashes in New York is due to a mix of countermeasures focusing on enforcement, education and engineering, according to Barbara Fiala, commissioner of the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and chair of the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee.

"In New York, we are educating motorists to watch for motorcycles, riders to wear bright protective gear to make themselves more visible, and law enforcement officers on conducting efficient and effective motorcycle checks," Fiala said in a news release from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). "It is encouraging to see that these efforts, which have been conducted with our state and local partners, are making a difference."

However, motorcyclist deaths rose in 26 states and the District of Columbia, including increases of 26 percent in South Carolina, 16 percent in Texas and 10 percent in California, the investigators found.

Earlier this month, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that, in 2011, overall motor vehicle fatalities dropped 1.7 percent, hitting their lowest level since 1949, according to the news release. But, the experts pointed out, motorcycle deaths remain one of the few areas in highway safety where progress has stalled.

Troy Costales, GHSA chairman, also commented on the report. "It is disappointing that we are not making progress in motorcycle safety, particularly as fatalities involving other motorists continue to decline. As the study notes, the strengthening economy, high gas prices and the lack of all-rider helmet laws leave me concerned about the final numbers for 2011 and 2012. Every motorcyclist deserves to arrive at their destination safely. These fatality figures represent real people -- they are family, friends and neighbors," Costales said in the news release.

"The good news is that we know how to prevent crashes and the resulting injuries and fatalities involving motorcycle riders and their passengers. There are effective strategies that, if implemented, can make a difference," Costales added.

Specifically, the report recommends states address five motorcycle safety issues: increase helmet use; reduce alcohol impairment; reduce speeding; provide motorcycle training for all who need or seek it; encourage all drivers to share the road with motorcyclists.

More information

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has more about motorcycle safety.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Governors Highway Safety Association, news release, May 22, 2012

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