Fatal motor vehicle crashes are on the rise for the second year in a row according to the New Hampshire Department of Safety.
The numbers released on Monday include all fatalities from Jan. 1 to Dec. 22, 2008. A fatality includes those who died at the scene, as well as people who were taken to the hospital with serious injuries and died within 30 days of the accident.
This year, 138 people died in motor vehicle accidents, a 7.6 percent increase over the same period last year. The largest increase in fatalities was in drivers older than 71. In 2007, four people 71 or older died in a car accident, but this year, the number rose to 13.
Peter Thomson, coordinator of the New Hampshire Highway Safety Agency said the agency doesn’t believe this is an alarming change. In 2006, there were 15 fatalities in this age group, so this year’s numbers are not unusual, he said.
Thomson said state safety officials are concerned about the rise in motorcycle fatalities, which have been trending upward for the last five years.
In 2008, 30 people died in motorcycle accidents, up from 25 last year. Thomson said there has been an upward trend in motorcycle fatalities since the early part of the decade.
In 2003 there were nine fatal motorcycle accidents, but in 2004, that number jumped to 27. The next year motorcycle fatalities spiked at 42 and although they went down the next year, the number has steadily climbed in the years since.
Thomson said considering most motorcycles are on the road 8 months a year, this number is particularly high. After the 2005 spike in deaths, he said, the state implemented a driver safety program for motorcyclists.
“More and more baby boomers are getting back into riding motorcycles,” said Thomson. These boomers rode as teenagers, gave it up and are now getting back into riding without updating their skills, Thomson said. “The motorcycles 20 and 30 years ago compared to those today, there’s a big difference. They’re more powerful, a bigger bike really.”
There were some areas that saw a decrease in fatal car crashes, including accidents involving minors. The number of children passengers and pedestrians killed in accidents was down, as was the number of 16 and 17 year old drivers killed.
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