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What does the yearly data show about motorcycle accidents?

People in the New Orleans area may be aware that 2015 was a relatively bad year for traffic fatalities across the country. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 35,000 people lost their lives in traffic crashes last year. This marked a significant 7.2 percent increase over the number of traffic fatalities from 2014. While the overall numbers were alarming, how did motorcycle accidents weigh in compared to prior years?

A recent post on this blog reported details about preliminary motorcycle accident data from the Governor's Highway Safety Association. Finalized figures from the NHTSA affirm the GHSA's estimates that 2015 was not a good year for motorcycle accident fatalities.

Compared to 2014, fatal motorcycle accidents increased by 382, or 8.3 percent, in 2015. On the other hand, the number of motorcyclists who were injured in accidents dropped by 4.3 percent, or 4,000, last year. Although that decrease sounds promising, some of the more serious accidents may have simply resulted in death rather than injury, meaning that the drop in injuries could be at least partially attributable to the rise in motorcyclist deaths.

Another concerning piece of data for motorcyclists is an NHTSA statistic that compares the number of people killed outside of vehicles -- which includes motorcyclists and other non-vehicle occupants -- against the number of people killed inside of them. Between 1996 and 2000, about 20 percent of accident deaths were people who were outside of vehicles like cars and trucks. By contrast, between 2012 and 2015, that number jumped to 32 percent. This means that a higher proportion of the overall traffic fatalities involve motorcyclists and other people who are not riding in automobiles.

Experts have a number of theories as to why motorcycle fatalities are on the rise, but the investigation into the data will likely continue. The nation's highway and traffic safety experts, and even the Obama Administration, have moved to better understand and try to solve this problem. In the meantime, motorcyclists in New Orleans should do everything that they can to ride safely. Moreover, drivers in other vehicles have a legal obligation to watch out for motorcyclists and take reasonable steps to help keep them safe while on the roadways.

Source: NHTSA.gov, "2015 Motor Vehicle Crashes: Overview," Accessed on Aug. 25, 2016

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