Biker Dad: Surge in motorcycle deaths, helmet laws to blame?

Published: May. 19, 2016 at 5:50 PM CDT|Updated: May. 19, 2016 at 6:59 PM CDT
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(WMC) - A new government report cites a startling new statistic. Deaths involving motorcycle accidents shot up 10 percent in 2015. And those behind the report say the lack of helmet laws in 31 states is behind the rise in deaths.

According to the report from the Governors Highway Safety Association, which you can read here,  there were more than 5,000 killed on motorcycles last year. That's 450 more than the previous year.

"This grim news, presented in the Governors Highway Safety Association's (GASH) annual forecast of motorcyclist fatalities, comes as warm weather prompts thousands of bikers to hit the road either for the first time, or after taking their motorcycles out of storage following winter," says the report. This is only the third year in U.S. history that the death toll climbed above 5,000, and the first time since 2008.

Richard Retting of Sam Schwartz Consulting, which did the study says, "these sobering findings provide a stark reminder of how susceptible motorcyclists are to fatal and life-threatening injuries. The risk of motorcycle crashes and fatalities is compounded by factors such as alcohol and drug use, increased speed limits, the repeal of state helmet laws, and a record number of vehicles on U.S. roads. Concerted efforts are needed to reduce this tragic loss of life."

The report goes on to say the best way to stop the deaths is for the 31 states without helmet laws to restore them.

This comes as several states including Tennessee, Missouri and Louisiana have been debating to repeal their helmet laws. According to the report, "currently, only 19 states and D.C. require all riders be helmeted. Another 28 mandate helmet use by riders younger than age 18 or 21, and three have no requirement. According to a 2014 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study, the use rate of helmets in universal law states was 89 percent, compared with 48 percent in all other states."

This new report may change the minds of a few of the anti-helmet laws. But it's not likely to sway many who believe staunchly in their right to choose if they should wear a helmet.

As for my head, it doesn't matter what the law says. I'm wearing a helmet. May is motorcycle safety awareness month and WMC Action News 5 has teamed up with the Motorcycle Awareness Campaign to spread the word. You can watch and share our public service announcement below.

Please be careful out there and follow me on social media:

Chris Best is the Assistant News Director for WMC Action News 5. He's a husband and father of four, He's also a motorcycle enthusiast.

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