Rising Motorcycle Deaths Spur Kentucky Safety Campaign

August 8, 2007

A spike in motorcycle fatalities this summer has prompted the Kentucky State Police to mount a campaign focusing on safety.

Patrick McCabe had his third motorcycle accident this past May, a crash in which he fractured several bones and tore tissue in his knee. He thinks he might know at least part of the problem.

“Bikes are so fast and with zero protection,” McCabe said.

Out of the 1,025 motorcycle crashes reported in Kentucky through July 19, there were 57 fatalities, according to state police. In the previous full year, there were 1,776 crashes and 97 fatalities.

It’s uncertain whether the increase in deaths this year is attributable to more motorcyclists on the road, because Kentucky doesn’t have a helmet law or another reason. But state troopers will be trained to teach motorists about sharing the road, driving sober and older motorcycle riders.

Jefferson County reported that the motorcycle fatalities there have already surpassed last year’s. There were 14 fatalities out of Jefferson County’s 172 motorcycle crashes, whereas in 2006 there were 9 such deaths.

Kentucky’s statistics follow the trend nationally.

The number of motorcycle accidents has increased each year since 1997, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Most motorcycle riders in Kentucky have not been required to protect their heads since the state’s mandatory helmet law was repealed in 1998. That may have something to do with increased deaths.

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study showed motorcycled deaths increased by about 58 percent for the two years after the law was lifted.

There has also been an increase in the number of motorcycles during the past few years.

According to the state Transportation Cabinet, there was an increase of nearly 38,000 motorcycles on Kentucky’s roadways between 2001 and 2006. There were 89,721 registered motorcycles last year, according to the agency.

James Pate, president of the Kentucky Motorcycle Association, said the organization is trying to teach other drivers how to share the road with motorcycles.

“If we can educate the average motorist we can possibly cut down on the number of accidents and save lives,” Pate said.

Information from: The Courier-Journal,

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