Motorcycle deaths rose dramatically in 2012, according to a study just released by the Governors Highway Safety Assn.
Why? A better economy and higher gas prices mean more riders, the study said, and fewer states with helmet laws means more fatalities.
Motorcycle deaths in 2012 increased in 34 states and were up 9% nationwide over 2011, rising to more than 5,000 deaths. In some states, the increase was higher. Oregon saw a rise of 32%, and Indiana 29%, the study said. In California, fatalities dropped slightly, from 321 deaths in 2011 to 318 in 2012 -- but the report cautioned that the 2012 numbers represented only the first nine months of the year, and that the 2012 total might actually be higher.
The study posited several reasons for the continued high motorcycle fatalities -- which account for about 14% of all annual traffic fatalities -- citing a National Highway Transportation Safety Administration study from 2010. Among them:
Lack of helmets: Only 19 states require all riders to wear helmets at all times, down from 26 states in 1997.
Alcohol: In 2010, 29% of fatally injured motorcyclists were legally drunk.
Speeding: More than 35% of fatal motorcycle riders were speeding when they crashed. Half of the fatal crashes didn’t involve another vehicle.
Licenses: In 2010, 22% of riders involved in fatal accidents didn’t have valid motorcycle licenses.