The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that Maryland motorcycle traffic accident deaths reached a five-year low in 2009 -- at 69 motorcycle crash fatalities in 2009, compared to 91 deaths in 2008, and 96 deaths in 2007. Data is still pending for 2010, although preliminary data released by the Governors Highway Safety Administration (GHSA) showed an uptick in motorcycle accident deaths in Maryland for the first nine months of 2010.
Other statistics of note, from the GHSA report:
> Motorcycle traffic accident fatalities for all of 2010 nationwide are expected to be 4,376 or fewer -- a decrease of at least 2% from the 4,465 fatalities of 2009.
> The year 2009 saw an encouraging decline in motorcycle accident deaths nationwide -- down by 16%. Prior to 2009, the US experienced 11 straight years of increases that more than doubled motorcyclist fatalities from 2,116 in 1997 to 5,312 in 2008. The GHSA credits the reduction in biker road deaths to state helmet laws, law and traffic enforcement, motorcycle operator training programs, and increased public awareness regarding driving safety.
> The GHSA study looked at the first nine months of the year. Maryland had 59 motorcycle accident deaths in the first nine months of 2009, and 61 motorcycle accident deaths for the same months in 2010. The numbers could go up as data for the remainder of 2010 become available.
> Use of DOT-compliant helmets dropped alarmingly in 2010, down by 13% nationally. Helmets can protect motorcyclists from suffering deadly and debilitating head injuries in traffic crashes.
(Maryland, it's worth noting, is among 20 states and Washington, DC, that have universal motorcycle helmet laws on the books. Some states only require helmets to be worn by younger riders and passengers, while still other states have no helmet laws at all. Helmet use remains higher in states with universal helmet laws, not surprisingly.)
Experienced Baltimore County motorcycle accident lawyers know from their work with Maryland clients -- motorcycle accident injuries can be devastating, and fatal. Motorcycle operators and passengers are physically more vulnerable when a traffic accident with a car, SUV, or truck occurs. Single-vehicle motorcycle crashes -- where the motorcyclist loses control of the bike and strikes the pavement, highway barrier, trees, or other objects -- also account for a large percentage of motorcyclist accident deaths (44% reported by NHTSA in 2005).
The GHSA theorizes that increased motorcycle travel could account for why the reductions in motorcycle accident fatalities have levelled off. The GHSA concludes, "To prevent an increase in motorcyclist fatalities in 2011, states should work to increase helmet use, provide motorcycle operator training to all who need or seek it, and reduce motorcyclist alcohol impairment and speeding."
Traffic accident statistics help law enforcement and public safety advocates get a picture of what's working to save lives, from state to state. But statistics don't always reveal the human side of the story. A Maryland motorcycle accident attorney knows from work with bereaved families -- even one motorcycle crash fatality is one too many. Given Maryland's alcohol-related traffic fatalities increased in 2009 (up to 162 deaths in 2009, compared to 145 deaths in 2008) -- we still have plenty of work to do when it comes to making Maryland roads and highways safer for automobiles, pedestrians, and motorcycles.
NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts Maryland: 2005 - 2009 (PDF)
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
Motorcyclist Traffic Fatalities by State: 2010 Preliminary Data (PDF)
Governors Highway Safety Administration
Fatal Two-Vehicle Motorcycle Crashes (PDF)
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Sept. 2007
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