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GAO: States’ strategies for motorcycle safety need to be improved

As we have noted in a few select posts addressing motorcycle accident and safety issues, Ohio is not among the strong minority of states that imposes a universal helmet requirement on riders and passengers traveling inside the state.

Organizations such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Government Accountability Office wish that were otherwise and that the current number of 19 states having that law on the books would increase quickly and dramatically.

What underlies that hope, say safety officials, are statistics that clearly point to improved accident outcomes in cases where involved parties are wearing helmets.

In fact, note regulators, the fatal accident rate in motorcycle crashes drops by a startling 37 percent for riders wearing helmets and by 41 percent for their passengers who also have protective coverage.

Ohio’s helmet law is a “partial” enactment that provides that riders and passengers 17 years of age and under must wear helmets.

Government statistics indicate that about 4,500 people across the country died last year in motorcycle accidents, equating to one of every seven people killed in vehicle crashes.

Safety regulators find that that figure shocking and flatly unpalatable, given especially that vehicle fatalities overall are declining. That drop makes motorcycle fatalities especially perverse, with authorities noting that bike crash deaths have more than doubled over a timeframe during which passenger vehicle fatalities dropped by five percent.

Administrators of agencies such as the NHTSA and GAO strongly urge that more be done to elevate public awareness of the risks involved for motorcyclists. Along with a greater push for mandatory helmet use in every state, safety regulators would like to see more formal bike training and stronger enforcement actions taken by police officers against riders who violate road laws.

Source: Detroit News, “GAO: Give states more flexibility to reduce motorcycle deaths,” David Shepardson, Nov. 28, 2012