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California motorcycle deaths rising again after 2-year decline

Posted on in Motorcycle Accidents

California's Office of Traffic Safety recently reported that after a two-year decline in the rate at which motorcyclists were killed in accidents, fatalities are creeping up again. The state hit a peak in 2008, when 560 people lost their lives in motorcycle accidents. The year 2009 saw only 394 motorcycle deaths, and just 352 in 2010. Transportation and safety experts can't say exactly why the drop happened, but they were pleasantly surprised it was so dramatic.

Then in 2011, the fatal accident rate went back up to 414, marking an 18 percent increase from the previous year. Why the sudden rise again? It's as shocking as the decline, and just as mysterious.

Experts do have some educated guesses, much of them having to do with the economy. The country's recession was nearing its peak around the time that accident rates were falling. It's possible that ridership went down as people tried to save money. Motorcycle sales also started declining in 2008, and fewer bikes on the road could have led to fewer accidents. As the economy began to strengthen again in 2011, more people may have started riding again.

A spokesman for the Office of Traffic Safety points out that most fatal crashes happen not during weekday commutes, but on weekends, when people are out riding for recreation. As the economy picked up, more riders were taking their bikes out. And people who gained confidence in their financial situation may have decided to buy a motorcycle -- a purchase that usually doesn't happen without some disposable income.

Riders who are new to motorcycles or out of practice are more likely to get into accidents, which could have driven up the death rate. The chairman of the Southern California Motorcycling Association says that recreational riding has picked up as the economy continues to improve. We can only hope that further increases in ridership won't keep driving up the motorcycle fatality rate.

Source: U-T San Diego, "Downey: Motorcycle death trend reverses after big drop, motorcycle fatalities are rising again," David Downey, Jan. 11, 2013

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