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Motorcycle deaths are down

Last week we told you in this blog that motorcycle thefts were down. This week comes another report with good news from a nationwide auto safety group: deaths in motorcycle crashes fell last year, too, by at least 10 percent from ‘08.

In New York, the decline was almost 16 percent, based on the first nine months of the year — from 159 in ‘08 to 134 last year.

However, experts say the main reasons, in both cases, are that fewer new motorcycles are being sold and fewer miles are being driven on those already on the road — in both cases because of the recession.

The report by the Governors Highway Safety Association, based in Washington, is based on preliminary and incomplete data for some states, but the group is estimating that deaths in motorcycle crashes fell nationally from 5,290 in 2008 to at least 4,762 — perhaps less — last year.

“The declines come on the heels of 11 straight years of dramatic increases in motorcyclist deaths,” the association notes.

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles’ website lists 188 motorcycle-related fatalities in 2008 — almost all of them the motorcycle drivers but including eight motorcycle passengers, four pedestrians and one passenger in another vehicle involved in the crash. More than 5,000 people were injured in cycle related crashes. The department hasn't yet published fatality and injury figures for all of last year.

More than 336,000 motorcycles were registered in New York last year, including 32,391 in Suffolk and 18,295 in Nassau, the motor vehicles department said. The statewide number was up from ‘08, when 328,800 cycles were registered, and up in Nassau, from 17,963 in ‘08. But Suffolk’s total fell slightly, from 32,429 in ‘08.

The declines in fatalities last year were even more dramatic in California, 29 percent, and Florida, 27 percent.

State officials from around the country, commenting to the association, cited as factors the weak economy, increased state attention to motorcycle safety programs, more motorcycle riding schools and poor cycling weather in some areas. Association chairman Vernon Betkey said in a statement, “Less disposable income translates into fewer leisure riders, and we suspect that the trend of inexperienced baby boomers buying bikes may have subsided.”

The group noted that from 1980 through 1997, motorcyclist deaths dropped almost 60 percent, then began rising.


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