The number of motorcyclists killed in road accidents fell at least ten
percent in 2009 compared to 2008, the first decrease in 12 years.
Industry wide, motorcycle sales were down around 40 percent year-on-year
during the same time period. Coincidence? >
The Governor's Highway Safety Association Motorcyclist Traffic Fatalities By State, 2009 Preliminary Data report, reprinted here in full, actually cites the economy as potentially the main causation behind this. The suggestion is that, since bikes are toys here in the land of recreation as replacement for struggle, people were either too busy working their butts off to pay their sub-prime mortgages or couldn't afford to maintain, insure or make payments on a frivolous luxury item like a motorcycle. The report also notes that Baby Boomers, the lifeblood of the industry during its near two-decades of sales growth, have likely stopped becoming new bikers for good. Less old guys trying to overcompensate with a bike they can't handle also equals less fatalities. Another potential causation was freak weather, with some states reporting that 2009 was an abnormally wet and cold year, keeping many badass bikers off the road.
The report does try to suggest that ongoing safety campaigns could also have been responsible for the reduction in fatalities, but looking at the chart of fatalities over time, you can see a general increase through the last decade or more that those campaigns have been running. It's unlikely that they alone would have been responsible for such a reversal in the statistics since 2009 didn't see any dramatically new efforts or radically increased spending in that area.
Its creators are eager to remind readers that this report is preliminary only, including firm data from the first nine months of the year only. Also, a one year decrease does not necessarily indicate a trend and fatalities could continue to increase year-on-year into the future.
What's all this mean for motorcycle safety? Well, fatalities increasing and decreasing roughly in proportion to sales, invariably leads to the conclusion that we're not doing a good enough job educating new riders or encouraging experienced bikers to ride safely. Let's hope the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's new training programs prove effective. But that's only a part of the picture. As the study notes, basic common sense like wearing a fucking helmet for god's sake can reduce the chances of dying in a crash by 37 percent. And that statistic includes those ridiculous piss-pots and German army helmets that people from the shallow end of the gene pool love wearing. Imagine if everyone was smart enough to wear a full-face helmet, body armor, anti-abrasive clothing and a back protector every time they got on a bike? Maybe the real problem with motorcycle safety is motorcyclists themselves.