Do you own and operate a motorcycle in Maryland? How safe do you feel sharing Maryland’s back roads, Baltimore city streets, highways, and bridges with cars, trucks (including commercial trucks), SUVs, vans, and other motor vehicles? Do you feel Md.’s traffic safety laws are adequate to protect motorcycle operators and their passengers?
As Baltimore County motorcycle accident injury lawyers, we’ve seen the devastating results of what can happen when a motorcycle traffic accident occurs in Maryland. Now a new national governors’ study sheds some interesting light on motorcycle traffic safety laws and motorcycle accident deaths — and the results are mixed.
The Governor’s Highway Safety Association released preliminary data that suggests accidental deaths from motorcycle crashes in the U.S. declined overall by 2 percent in 2010. That’s down to 4,376 motorcycle accident deaths estimated for 2010 as compared to 4,465 fatalities in 2009. The GHSA looked at all 50 states and our neighbors in Washington, DC. However, some of that initially encouraging news may be tempered by other factors, such as…
- Rising gas costs keeping bikers and other motorists at home (risk for traffic accidents will rise as gas prices go down and more bikers and auto drivers hit the road).
- The 2 percent decline in deaths is based on states that reported data for the first ninth months of 2010; motorcycle crash fatalities may increase for the last months of the year.
- The reluctance of some states to adopt and/or add teeth to motorcycle helmet laws. A disappointing 30 states still lack helmet laws for all riders. Note: Maryland is among the 20 states and the District of Columbia that have universal helmet laws on the books.
- The refusal of some free-wheeling motorcycle enthusiasts to put on helmets in states that don’t have universal helmet laws requiring all operators (not just young adults) to wear helmets. Helmets can save lives and prevent catastrophic head and spine injuries.
- The 2% decline is a modest gain compared to the 16 % decrease in motorcycle deaths recorded for 2009. Prior to 2009, motorcycle traffic accident deaths had steadily increased.
Maryland Motorcycle Accident Deaths Up in 2010 : Md. Safety Official Speaks Out
GHSA Chairman Vernon Betkey, director of Maryland’s highway safety program, was quoted in a GHSA press release about the motorcycle accident statistics. He spoke about motorcycle traffic safety in the state of Maryland — where motorcycle accident deaths actually rose in the past year.
“In my state, we suspect motorcycle fatalities increased 3 percent largely because of an unusual spike in crashes in one of our more rural counties. We are working closely with law enforcement agencies and highway safety partners in this area to address the issue. Additionally, Maryland has stepped up efforts in work zones to ensure motorcycle riders are as safe as possible, is placing more emphasis on training and licensure, and is increasing investment in the state’s public information and education campaign.” (GHSA Press Release, April 19, 2011)
In Maryland, 91 people died from motorcycle traffic accidents in 2008. Updated data will be reported as it is made available. The GHSA urges all states to continue their motorcycle safety promotion efforts, including strengthening helmet laws, cracking down on drug- and alcohol-impaired driving, and offering motorcycle operator training and safety education for all bikers of all ages.
Related Maryland Motorcycle Accident Attorney article:
Maryland Motorcycle Traffic Accidents in the News, Though National Motorcycle Accident Death Rates Have Declined May 1, 2010
New Study: Motorcycle Deaths Decline Slightly But Concerns Develop
Fatalities decline overall by at least 2% but increase later in year GHSA Press Release April 19, 2011
Motorcyclist Traffic Fatalities by State : Preliminary Data 2010 (PDF)
Q&As: Motorcycle Helmet Use
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety May 2011
Summary of State Motorcycle Helmet Laws (PDF)
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration current through Jan. 4, 2011
2011 Maryland Motorcycle Safety Program
Maryland Dept. of Transportation, Motor Vehicle Administration