The preliminary motorcycle crash data for 2013 has been released by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. The news is good. Motorcycle crashes, injuries, and fatalities are down dramatically from last year. While this is very good news, it is a cause for some concern for 2014. I will explain that in a moment. First, let’s look at the data.
In 2013 there were 60 motorcycle crash fatalities compared to 77 in 2012. That is a decrease of 22%. Further, there were 571 crashes involving serious injury in 2013 compared to 846 in 2012. That is a 32.5% decrease in motorcycle crashes involving serious injury.
The numbers become even starker when we look at total motorcycle related injury crashes over the last four years. In 2010 there were 1,848 motorcycle related injury crashes compared to 1,875 in 2011 and 1,987 in 2012. In 2013 there were 1,222 motorcycle related injury crashes. Additionally, in each of the three previous years, motorcycle related injury crashes made up 4% of total injury crashes in Virginia. In 2013 motorcycle related injury crashes made up 3% of total injury crashes in Virginia.
Now here comes the part that causes me concern. People will look at this data and ask what it means. I would hope that continued focus on training and education had something to do with these numbers. However, crash data can vary from year to year based upon factors that have nothing to do with training, education or equipment. For example, weather and gas prices can affect motorcycle crash data. If one year is dry and warm and the next is cold and damp, we would expect to see fewer motorcycle crashes in the cold and damp year since fewer motorcycles are on the road. When gas prices go up we see more motorcycles on the road as people opt for their most fuel efficient vehicle.
My concern is that such a significant drop in crashes, injuries, and fatalities has to be due in part to factors outside of the control of both motorcyclists and the government. It is the latter group that concerns me the most. In 2014 the uncontrollable factors could very well change and we could see a significant rise in motorcycle crashes. Historically when that happens, our elected officials become eager to step in to take legislative action. It is an inherent need on their part to take action even if that action will, in all reality, have no impact on motorcycle safety.
So what can we as motorcyclists do about this if some of what affects motorcycle crash data is outside of our control? We can continue to focus on those things over which we do have control. We can continue to pursue a strategy for motorcycle safety which focuses on crash avoidance. We can continue to hone our skills both on our own and through the many quality motorcycle training courses that are available to us in Virginia. We can also police ourselves. If we as riders want to protect and preserve riding as we know it, then we need to step in when appropriate and make sure that others understand that their reckless behavior not only has a potential impact on them, it has a potential impact on all of us. If we do those things, we may not be able to erase the effect that outside forces have on motorcycle crash data, but we can certainly lessen the impact.
As always, if you have any questions or comments concerning anything that I have written please feel free to contact me.
McGrath & Danielson
Tom McGrath’s Motorcycle Law Group