Study: Number of motorcycle accident deaths keeps climbing

Some weeks ago, this blog covered efforts in the Tennessee legislature to do away with the state's helmet laws, at least for riders over age 21. That effort later failed in the legislature, after critics argued that the move would lead to more fatal motorcycle accidents and serious injuries.

A new study of motorcycle accidents nationwide seems to support that argument. Last year, motorcycle deaths in the United States rose nine percent over the year before, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Researchers said the biggest factor in the increase was milder weather, which encouraged more riders to get out on the roads earlier in the year. Other factors played a part as well, including an improving economy, which allowed more people to afford motorcycles.

One factor the researchers cited should be of particular interest to Tennessee residents, and that is the increased number of states that have relaxed their helmet laws. Michigan made helmets voluntary a year ago, and researchers were expecting an 18 percent increase in that state's motorcycle deaths.

The overall number of traffic accidents rose as well last year, but only by seven percent, less than the number for motorcycles. That overall increase was unusual because over the past 15 years, deaths in traffic accidents involving all kinds of vehicles have dropped by 23 percent. At the same time, motorcycle deaths have increased almost every year.

Motorcyclists are in a uniquely vulnerable position on the road. What could be a minor accident to a passenger in a car can lead to catastrophic injury when it happens to a motorcyclists. When motorcyclists are injured due to another driver's negligence, the injured may be eligible for compensation through a personal injury lawsuit.

Source: NBC News, "Warm weather helps drive surge in motorcycle deaths," Mark Schone, April 24, 2013

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