Colorado has the eighth-worst rate of motorcycle deaths in the nation and is the only state in the top 10 that does not require helmets, government statistics show.
Colorado’s death rate was 1.77 per 100,000 people, the Rocky Mountain News reported Monday, citing statistics from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
The figures show motorcycle deaths nationally rose to 4,008 in 2004, up from 2,116 in 1997. At the same time, the number of registered motorcycles rose 40 percent but miles driven declined slightly.
Highway deaths in general are declining, and authorities credit auto safety standards and seat belt use.
“This has been pretty frustrating for us,” said Rae Tyson, spokesman for the NHTSA. “We are allowed to stay active on issues like auto seat belts. But on helmet laws, we’ve had to sit back and watch the motorcycle fatalities go up for eight straight years.”
Colorado is one of only four states with no mandatory helmet law. The state had a helmet law for almost a decade in the 1960s and ’70s, but it was repealed.
Al Mewborn, legislative affairs officer for the Colorado Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs, helped lead the fight to repeal the old law.
“When they see the real facts, there is no case for it,” Mewborn said. “We had an eight-year trial period and (the helmet law) didn’t work.”
He said highway safety statistics on motorcycle deaths are “twisted.” NHTSA Spokesman Eric Bolton defended the numbers as unbiased.
Dr. Craig Rabb, chief of neurosurgery at Denver Health, said he believes more motorcycle riders would survive wrecks if helmets were required.
“Motorcycles in general have a higher incidence of bad, bad injuries because you have no protection,” Rabb said.
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