PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- In what can only be considered good news for motorcyclists, federal officials have reported that motorcycling deaths on the nation's roads dropped by 16 percent in 2009 compared to the previous year, according to the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA).
"The death of any motorcyclist is one too many, so this news that fatalities are down is encouraging," said Ed Moreland, AMA senior vice president for government relations. "While we are pleased that the number of motorcycling fatalities dropped dramatically in 2009, a one-year drop isn't a trend. We need to determine why, and ensure that the decline continues."
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported on Sept. 9 that motorcycling fatalities in 2009 decreased for the first time in more than a decade -- dropping to 4,462 in 2009 from 5,312 in 2008. (Click here to read the press release from NHTSA.)
Federal officials said traffic deaths involving all vehicles nationwide fell 9.7 percent in 2009 -- from 37,423 in 2008 to 33,808. The figure is the lowest since 1950. Traffic safety officials said that the decrease may be due to increased seat belt use, tougher enforcement of drunk driving laws and improved vehicle safety features.
According to NHTSA figures, motorcycling fatalities have decreased in the past -- from 1980 to 1997 -- but then fatalities increased steadily for 11 years. 2,294 motorcyclists were killed in 1998, and the number of fatalities rose each subsequent year, reaching 5,312 in 2008.
Moreland cautioned that there will be speculation about why motorcycling fatalities are down so significantly in 2009, and noted that there aren't any solid answers.
"The motorcycling community looks forward to receiving some real answers about motorcycle crashes and what causes them from the new federal crash causation study that is under way at Oklahoma State University (OSU) through the Oklahoma Transportation Center in Stillwater," Moreland said. "Then we can put our heads together to find solutions, reduce crashes and save more lives."
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is overseeing the just-begun, four-year, $3 million OSU study, which is the first major research on the subject in 30 years.
The last major study into the causes of motorcycle crashes was issued in January 1981. Called "Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures Volume I: Technical Report," the study became known as the "Hurt Report," named after lead researcher Hugh "Harry" Hurt of the University of Southern California. Hurt was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2007 for his pioneering work.
That study provided a wealth of data that has been used by organizations and individual motorcyclists to help keep riders safer on the road. But the traffic environment has changed enormously in the decades since, prompting the AMA to begin campaigning for a new study several years ago.
About the American Motorcyclist Association
Since 1924, the AMA has protected the future of motorcycling and promoted the motorcycle lifestyle. AMA members come from all walks of life, and they navigate many different routes on their journey to the same destination: freedom on two wheels. As the world's largest motorcycling rights organization, the AMA advocates for motorcyclists' interests in the halls of local, state and federal government, the committees of international governing organizations, and the court of public opinion. Through member clubs, promoters and partners, the AMA sanctions more motorsports competition and motorcycle recreational events than any other organization in the world. AMA members receive money-saving discounts from dozens of well-known suppliers of motorcycle services, gear and apparel, bike rental, transport, hotel stays and more. Through the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame, the AMA preserves the heritage of motorcycling for future generations. For more information, please visit AmericanMotorcyclist.com.