Blog Archives

Putting the Recent Rise in Motorcycle Fatalities into Perspective

Our friends at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have put out their yearly report on motorcycle crashes and fatalities.  The latest report focuses on data collected for the year 2016.  According to NHTSA, motorcycle fatalities rose 5.1% between 2015 and 2016.  The report also states that 25% of those fatalities were related to alcohol impairment.  Finally, NHTSA indicates that the lack of mandatory motorcycle helmet laws nationwide is a contributing factor to the rise in motorcycle fatalities.  When you read the report, it is easy to conclude that motorcyclists have a serious safety problem on our hands, and to some degree I concur.  All motorcyclists should be concerned when we see motorcycle fatalities rise.  However, when we look at the 2016 data as a whole we get a more accurate picture. 

When we look at the overall 2016 motor vehicle crash data that NHTSA published in a separate report, we see that while motorcycle fatalities were up by 5.1% in 2016, motor vehicle fatalities as a whole rose by 5.6%.  The truth is that traffic fatalities as a whole have been on the rise for the past few years.  For some reason, either intentionally or unintentionally, NHTSA seems to publish data on motorcycle fatalities in a subtly different way than it does data on motor vehicle fatalities as a whole.  In its overview of fatal motor vehicle crashes, NHTSA reported that the 5.6% increase in motor vehicle fatalities in 2016 is lower than the 8.4% increase from 2014 to 2015.  No such language appears in NHTSA’s publication concerning motorcycle fatalities, despite the fact that the 5.1% increase in motorcycle fatalities in 2016 is lower than the 8% increase in motorcycle fatalities from 2014 to 2015.

Similarly, when we read the two NHTSA reports together, we see that fatalities due to alcohol impairment are an overall traffic safety problem, not just a motorcycle problem.  Because NHTSA issues a yearly report which focuses only on motorcycle fatalities and injuries, it is easy for people to conclude that many contributing factors are unique to motorcyclists.  In its latest report on motorcycle traffic fatalities, NHTSA claims that the 25% rise in alcohol related motorcycle fatalities is the highest percentage of any other vehicle classification.  Yet in its overview of fatal motor vehicle crashes, NHTSA reported that 28% of overall motor vehicle traffic fatalities in 2016 were due to alcohol impairment.  That represents a 5.6% increase from 2015.  From 2015 to 2016, there was only a 0.1% increase in motorcycle fatalities due to alcohol impairment.  Let’s be clear: any traffic fatality due to alcohol impairment is one too many.  That being said, alcohol impaired driving is not a problem unique to motorcyclists.     

Finally, and here is where I get in trouble with some of my readers, there is the assertion that the lack of motorcycle helmet laws nationwide is contributing to the rise in motorcycle fatalities.  I am not advocating that anyone wear or not wear a motorcycle helmet if they happen to be in one of the thirty-one states that allow adults to make their own choice on the matter; I am merely presenting NHTSA’s own data as a whole so that each reader can make up his or her own mind.  First, NHTSA fails to explain why the lack of helmet laws has had an impact on the rise in motorcycle fatalities but not on motor vehicle fatalities as a whole, which have risen at a greater rate than motorcycle fatalities.  Secondly, when we look at the motorcycle fatality rate per 100,000 registered motorcyclists between the jurisdictions that have mandatory motorcycle helmet laws and those that don’t, we see less than a 1% difference.  Finally, and perhaps most troubling, is what NHTSA considers to be a motorcycle for the purposes of the entire report on motorcycle fatalities.  The report on motorcycle fatalities includes data from crashes involving not only two and three-wheeled motorcycles, but off-road motorcycles, mopeds, scooters, mini bikes, and pocket bikes.  Data from accidents involving off-road motorcycles, mopeds, scooters, mini bikes, and pocket bikes, should not be used in any serious study of motorcycle fatalities, nor should such data be cited in any serious discussion on ways to reduce motorcycle traffic fatalities; doing so would be comparable to using data from fatalities involving four-wheelers and go-carts to formulate safety strategies for our nation’s highways.
 
At the end of the day, motorcycle fatalities have been up, and that is a bad thing.  We motorcyclists have the primary responsibility to reverse this troubling trend.  But it is not a trend unique to us; it is a problem shared by all motorists, and it is the responsibility of all motorists to solve the problem.  While we could debate this complex issue for years, let me offer my personal advice.  First, if you want to have a drink, leave the alcohol for after you are finished riding or driving for the day.  Secondly, slow down and pay attention to others on the road.  Put down the telephone, that message can wait.   Look less at the GPS and more at traffic around you. Missing a turn won’t run you nearly as late as plowing into the car or motorcycle in front of you.  Stop playing with that sleek touch screen that your new vehicle came with (Yes motorcyclists, I’m talking to you too).  Whether we are riding or driving, our primary responsibility is the safety of ourselves, our passengers, and each and every other motorist with whom we share the road. 

Matt Danielson
McGrath, Danielson, Sorrell & Fuller
1-800-321-8968
Motorcyclelawgroup.com

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2017 Motorcycle Giveaway

We have a winner.  Congratulations to Landers Gaskins of New Bern, NC!  Pictures will be posted upon delivery of the 2017 Indian Scout Sixty.

Motorcycle Law Group to Host Reddit Forum

This is a reminder that we are hosting our first ever, Reddit Ask Us Anything (AUA) forum today at 2:00 pm EST. We invite all of you to join in the conversation as Matt Danielson, Chad Fuller, and Liz Sorrell from Motorcycle Law Group answer questions about:

• Motorcycle laws and statutes
• What to do in the event of an accident
• How much and what type of motorcycle insurance you really need
• Anything else motorcycle law related

Details:

Login to Reddit.com on:

• Tuesday, November 15
• 2pm EST – 4pm EST
• Submit questions for our team to answer!

What is Reddit?

Reddit is a social news aggregation and discussion website. Reddit’s community members can submit content, like we are doing for this Ask Us Anything event. If you want to join in the conversation but do not have an account, it very easy to sign up (and free).

We would be pleased to have as many of you from our MLG community active and participating on this day. We will send a reminder out the week before and the day of the AUA conversation to direct you to the forum.

If you have any questions please let us know!

Matt Danielson
McGrath, Danielson, Sorrell & Fuller
The Motorcycle Law Group
Motorcyclelawgroup.com
1-800-321-8968

Save the Date: Motorcycle Law Group to Host Reddit Forum

We are hosting our first ever, Reddit Ask Us Anything (AUA) forum on Tuesday, November 15, 2016. We invite all of you to join in the conversation as Matt Danielson, Chad Fuller, and Liz Sorrell from Motorcycle Law Group answer questions about:

  • Motorcycle laws and statutes
  • What to do in the event of an accident
  • How much and what type of motorcycle insurance you really need
  • Anything else motorcycle law related

Details:
Login to Reddit.com on:

  • Tuesday, November 15
  • 2pm EST – 4pm EST
  • Submit questions for our team to answer!

What is Reddit? 

Reddit is a social news aggregation and discussion website. Reddit’s community members can submit content, like we are doing for this Ask Us Anything event. If you want to join in the conversation but do not have an account, it very easy to sign up (and free).

We would be pleased to have as many of you from our MLG community active and participating on this day. We will send a reminder out the week before and the day of the AUA conversation to direct you to the forum.

If you have any questions please let us know!

Matt Danielson
McGrath, Danielson, Sorrell & Fuller
The Motorcycle Law Group
Motorcyclelawgroup.com
1-800-321-8968

Motorcycle Fatalities Rise by 8.3 % According to Recent NHTSA Report

The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) announced the release of a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) concerning traffic crashes and fatalities for 2015.  Of particular interest to motorcyclists is the fact that motorcycle fatalities rose 8.3 % between 2014 and 2015.  This report comes roughly four months after a similar report was issued by the Governors Highway Safety Administration (GHSA) which predicted a 10% rise in motorcycle fatalities for 2015.  I have included links to both reports at the end of this article.

While any increase in motorcycle fatalities is unwelcomed news, this latest report should not be met with panic or knee jerk reactions.  It is important to keep in mind that traffic fatalities as a whole rose in 2015.  According to the NHTSA report, traffic fatalities rose by 7.2 %, with many segments of the transportation community seeing larger increases than motorcyclists.  Van related fatalities rose by 9.3%, while SUV related fatalities rose by 10.1%.  Pedestrian fatalities rose by 9.5%, and pedalcycling related fatalities rose by 12.2%.  It is also important to point out that the 2015 increase in motorcycle fatalities comes after two straight years in which motorcyclists saw decreases in fatalities.

The report failed to draw conclusions as to the reason for the rise in either motorcycle fatalities or traffic fatalities as a whole.  However, with regard to motorcycle fatalities, the NHTSA report points out two specific findings.  One is that all age groups saw increases in motorcycle fatalities except for riders nineteen and under; they saw a decrease of 8.7%.  The other issue specific to motorcycle fatalities concerns states with universal helmet laws versus those which do not have such laws.  The report states that 58% of those killed in states without universal helmet laws were not wearing a helmet, compared to 8% in states with universal helmet laws.  I am not sure why NHTSA felt it was important to point that out.  One would expect more un-helmeted fatalities in states which allowed adults to choose whether or not to wear a helmet.  Motorcyclists as a whole are generally law abiding, and in the nineteen states which require motorcyclists to wear helmets we tend to wear helmets.  If NHTSA was attempting to draw a correlation between the lack of universal helmet laws and the 2015 rise in motorcycle fatalities, it failed to effectively do so.  The data does not support such a correlation.

According to this year’s GHSA report, thirty-one states saw motorcycle fatalities increase while only sixteen states saw a decrease. Of the nineteen states which currently have a universal helmet law, twelve experienced an increase in motorcycle fatalities in 2015.  Of the sixteen states which saw a decrease in motorcycle fatalities, only six have a universal helmet law.  The other ten either allow adults to make their own choice or have no law at all.  The sad truth is that motorcycle fatalities increased across the board.

So what does the NHTSA report mean?  As far as this humble writer can tell it means that 2015 was a bad year for motorists in the United States.  It means nothing more and nothing less. But that does not mean that motorcyclists should do nothing.  Regardless of whether motorcyclists see an increase in fatalities as we have this year, or whether we see a decrease as we have in the past few years, we should always be striving to improve motorcycle safety.  So here is a suggestion:  If you have not taken a course to improve your skills in the past few (or twenty – you know who you are) years, sign up for one.  There are great skills courses offered throughout the country.  If you are not a member of a state motorcycle rights organization which promotes motorcycle awareness and education, consider finding one.  Every state has them.  All of us have an interest in motorcycle safety.  Let’s make it a priority.

To go one step further, I’ll make each of you a deal.  In the next year I will take at least one of the many motorcycle courses offered which helps correct the bad habits that we all pick up, and which help us to hone the skills which can be critical in surviving an emergency situation.  I will also promise to take a more active role in promoting motorcycle awareness and education.  All I am asking is that you promise to do the same.  If we all agree to do this, not just in the next year but in all of the upcoming years, we may see fewer years like 2015.  You never know.  The life you save may be your own – or mine.

Matt Danielson
McGrath, Danielson, Sorrell & Fuller
The Motorcycle Law Group
Motorcyclelawgroup.com
1-800-321-8968

https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812318

http://www.ghsa.org/files/pubs/spotlights/motorcycles_2015.pdf

Motorcycle Conspicuity Study

Government Study Announced on Motorcycle Conspicuity

September 1, 2016
The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) has reported that there are plans on the federal level to conduct a study aimed at addressing motorcycle crash prevention.  The reported study will apparently examine the impact of high-visibility clothing and how such clothing effects motorcycle crashes.  Being that the study is in the infant stages, there is not enough information to either endorse or oppose the study.  That being said, it is good to see our friends in Washington looking at ways to prevent motorcycle crashes rather than focusing solely on surviving them.

I have copied the MRF release below for those who wish to read it.  We will pass on additional details on this study as information becomes available.  As always, if anyone has any questions or comments please feel free to contact me.

Matt Danielson
McGrath, Danielson, Sorrell & Fuller
The Motorcycle Law Group
1-800-321-8968
Motorcyclelawgroup.com

For Immediate Release
August 30, 2016

Government Study Announced on Motorcycle Conspicuity

WASHINGTON, DC – The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) held its annual meeting this week in Seattle, WA. The theme for this year’s event emphasized the importance of safe driving behavior in an era of rapid technological advancement. More than 500 state highway safety officials and advocates were in attendance including government officials from the Department of Transportation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as well as representatives from State Motorcycle Rights’ Organizations and the Motorcycle Riders Foundation.

During the course of the conference, plans regarding an upcoming motorcycle study, funded by money in the highway bill passed by Congress late last year, were announced. Though in the early planning stages, the study is aiming to address motorcycle crash prevention. This is a pivot from previous positions from government officials whose sole focus appeared to be geared towards “safer crashing” through the practice of universal helmet laws.

Though details of the upcoming study remain limited, it appears that it will examine the impact of high-visibility clothing and effects on motorcycle crashes. The project is in the solicitation process but the details suggest a hypothesis aiming to prove high visibility clothing can prevent motorcycle accidents. Details including available data, the entities or contractors conducting the study and when the study will be released will be available in the coming months. Depending on the outcome and findings of the study, legislative and regulatory activity by states and the federal government could follow.

About Motorcycle Riders Foundation: The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) provides leadership at the federal level for states’ motorcyclists’ rights organizations as well as motorcycle clubs and individual riders. The MRF is chiefly concerned with issues at the national and international levels that impact the freedom and safety of American street motorcyclists. The MRF is committed to being a national advocate for the advancement of motorcycling and its associated lifestyle and works in conjunction with its partners to help educate elected officials and policymakers in Washington and beyond.

All Information contained in this release is copyrighted. Reproduction permitted with attribution. Motorcycle Riders Foundation. All rights reserved. Ride With The Leaders ™ by joining the MRF at http://motorcycleridersfoundation.wildapricot.org/page-1654836 or call (202) 546-0983

 

GHSA Predicts a Ten Percent Increase in Motorcycle Fatalities

Last month the Governors Highway Safety Administration (GHSA) published a report utilizing preliminary motorcycle crash data for 2015.  The report predicts a 10% increase in motorcycle fatalities nationwide for 2015 (http://www.ghsa.org/files/pubs/spotlights/motorcycles_2015.pdf).  According to the report, thirty-one states saw motorcycle fatalities increase while only sixteen saw a decrease.

Unsurprisingly, the GHSA report did not merely provide facts.  It advocated a position that motorcycling is becoming increasingly dangerous, and that states need to implement restrictions on risky behavior responsible for the rise in motorcycle fatalities.  Specifically, the GHSA report draws a correlation between the rise in motorcycle fatalities and the failure of all states to implement a universal helmet law.

Let me be clear.  The purpose of this article is not to advocate riding without a helmet or to question the effectiveness of motorcycle helmets.  I will leave each reader to reach their own conclusions on that topic.  My purpose is to question the accuracy of the correlations that the GHSA draws in explaining the rise in motorcycle fatalities.

While motorcycle fatalities did increase, traffic fatalities as a whole are predicted to be up 10% for 2015. (http://www.ghsa.org/html/media/pressreleases/2016/20160524uber.html).  This would suggest that the rise in fatalities in 2015 is not unique to motorcyclists.  It does not mean that the rise is linked to risky behavioral traits shared by many motorcyclists.  It would seem the rise in motorcycle fatalities in 2015 is part of an overall trend affecting all motorists.

Further, the report fails to provide data supporting it’s correlation between the rise in motorcycle fatalities and the lack of universal helmet laws.  Currently, nineteen states have a universal helmet law in place.  Thirty-one do not.  Of the nineteen states that currently have a universal helmet law, twelve experienced an increase in motorcycle fatalities in 2015.  Of the sixteen states that saw a decrease in motorcycle fatalities, only six have a universal helmet law.  The other ten either allow adults to make their own choice or have no law at all.

The report also points out that Michigan saw an increase in motorcycle fatalities in 2015.  It suggests that the increase is due to the state’s modification of its helmet law in 2012, which allowed adult riders to choose whether or not to wear a helmet.  However, the report fails to explain the 18.8% decrease in motorcycle fatalities between 2013 and 2014.  (http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/departments/nrd-30/ncsa/STSI/26_MI/2014/26_MI_2014.htm)

Compare this report to past GHSA reports which showed decreases in motorcycle fatalities.  In May of 2015 the GHSA reported a drop in motorcycle fatalities for the second straight year.  That report stated the following:
There is little evidence that risk factors for motorcyclists have been reduced in recent years, and fluctuations in motorcyclist fatalities are likely to have more to do with economic factors and weather patterns affecting exposure.
Then there is the following from the 2014 preliminary report which showed a 7% reduction in motorcycle fatalities:
Weather, according to the report, was the predominate factor to explain the drop in motorcyclist fatalities from 2012 to 2013.
My concern is not simply with this particular report.  It is the way the mainstream views motorcycle fatalities as opposed to overall traffic fatalities.  When motorcycle fatalities fluctuate upward, the motorcycling community is responsible.  It is their risky behavior causing the rise.  However, when fatalities decrease from one year to another, it is due to outside factors unrelated to efforts within the motorcycling community to improve motorcycle safety.

The fact is that, according to the latest figures published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcycle safety has been steadily improving since 2005.  Motorcycle registrations have increased by more than 35% since 2005 while fatalities per 100,000 registered motorcyclists have decreased by almost 26%. (http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/812261.pdf)  Estimated motorcycle vehicle miles traveled have increased 91% since 2005.  Fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled have decreased by more than 47%.

While any increase in motorcycle fatalities is unwelcomed news, this latest report should not be met with panic.  There is no need for a legislative rush to the state and federal code books in order to enact more regulation.  Motorcyclists are in the midst of a sustained period of improvement in motorcycle safety.  Let’s continue to emphasize training, education and awareness.  They are the pillars of a safety strategy which prevent the crashes that are taking too many riders from us. Since 2005 we have seen an overall improvement in both the quality and quantity of rider training available to both new and experienced riders.  Now is the time to double down on what has proven to be effective.

Matt Danielson
McGrath, Danielson, Sorrell & Fuller
The Motorcycle Law Group
1-800-321-8968
Motorcyclelawgroup.com

Motorcycles & the Environmental Protection Agency

The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) has recently reported that members of both houses of Congress have introduced legislation that would protect the rights of United States residents to modify their motor vehicles for racing purposes. The Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act of 2016 (RPA) would ensure that converting any motor vehicle (including street motorcycles) into a competition-only vehicle remains legal. This proposed legislation became necessary after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under the guise of maintaining emissions as outlined by the Clean Air Act, announced plans to regulate the conversion of street motorcycles and other motor vehicles into race vehicles.

This attempt is reminiscent of the EPA’s efforts back in 2003 to regulate motorcycling through unrelated regulations aimed at heavy equipment, steam engines and diesel engines. That legislation would have prohibited owners from modifying anything on their motorcycles except for paint color and/or chrome. The MRF was successful in separating motorcycles from the EPA’s regulations, and created exemptions to protect the custom and aftermarket industries, as well as motorcyclists who wished to take advantage of those industries.

In response to the recently introduced legislation, the EPA has announced that it would cease its attempts to use the Clean Air Act to regulate competition vehicles. The MRF asks all riders to contact their U.S. representative and senators and ask them to support H.R. 4715 and S. 2659, the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act of 2016. The passage of this legislation would send a clear message to the EPA that motorcyclists will continue to actively protect their rights.

As always, if you have any question or comments concerning this matter please do not hesitate to contact me.

Matt Danielson
McGrath, Danielson, Sorrell & Fuller
The Motorcycle Law Group
1-800-321-8968
Motorcyclelawgroup.com