Motorcycle fatalities continue to rise; super bikes, alcohol use cited

February 26, 2010
Santa Paula News

State motorcycle fatalities continued to spiral upward, from 518 in 2007 to 560 in 2008, showing that such fatalities have increased 10 consecutive years and are at their highest level since 1990, according to a recently released report.

The State Office of Traffic Safety reported Department of Motor Vehicles records showed that total motorcycle registrations increased 7 percent, from 772,524 in 2007 to 824,244 in 2008. 

In 2008, the under age 20 age group had the largest increase in motorcycle fatalities, up 57 percent from 13 in 2007 to 30 in 2008, with the second highest increase seen in the over age 59 age group, which increased 44 percent from 32 in 2007 to 57 in 2008. Also in 2008, it was found that 37 percent of motorcycle operators killed were not properly licensed, a figure that represents a dramatic 36 percent increase from in 2007.

Of the 560 motorcyclists killed, at least 12 percent (68) were un-helmeted. Since helmets are about 39 percent effective in preventing fatalities, it is estimated that 26 of the 68 un-helmeted motorcyclists killed would have survived had they worn a helmet.

The report also noted that motorcycle fatalities were on the reckless side; in 2008, 70 percent of motorcycle operators killed were at fault and 58 percent of motorcycle operators injured were at fault. Also on the rise was the percent of motorcycle operators killed who had been drinking; those killed with a Blood Alcohol Level of .08 percent and above increased from 24 percent in 2007 to 26 percent in 2008.

Super sport motorcycles, defined as consumer versions of the motorcycles used by factory racing teams, account for 14 percent of the registered motorcycles in California, yet the 211 super sport drivers and passengers killed in 2008 accounted for 38 percent of the 560 motorcyclists killed in California.

According to the report, in 2008 Santa Paula’s 10 motorcycle-related injury accidents - there were no fatalities - ranked second among the 97 cities in its population group.

In 2008, California’s overall traffic fatalities decreased 14.1 percent (3,995 versus 3,434), reaching their lowest level since the federal government began recording traffic fatalities in 1975. The 14.1 percent decrease in fatalities represents the largest ever single-year drop in fatalities.

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