From the Gainesville Sun
It's getting more dangerous to ride a motorcycle at the same time that it's getting less dangerous to ride in a car.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that traffic deaths in the U.S. increased 1.4 percent in 2005 over the previous year. It was the first time that fatalities increased from one year to the next since 1986.
Of particular note was a sharp rise in motorcycle fatalities, which went up 13 percent in 2005, while deaths in other traffic accidents went down. "Without the increase in motorcycle deaths, we would be announcing another historic low," an NHTSA spokesman said.
Motorcycle fatalities have increased 115 percent since 1997 and now account for 10.5 percent of the total traffic deaths. Motorcycle injuries also rose 14 percent, while injuries in other accidents declined.
It's tempting to attribute the jump in motorcycle deaths and injuries to the decision by Florida and several other states to repeal mandatory helmet laws.
But the evidence is not yet conclusive. While accident reports take note of whether motorcyclists involved in accidents wore helmets, they don't differentiate between those who died of head injuries as compared to injuries unaffected by helmet use. Also, motorcycle registrations have been rising in recent years which could account for some of the increase in fatalities.
Motorcycle riders blame drivers of cars and trucks who don't pay enough attention to two-wheelers. That's true. But it is equally true that some motorcyclists don't get the training they need.
What's puzzling is why Americans aren't more concerned about traffic safety.