The number of fatalities stemming from motorcycle accidents dropped by more than 5% last year, due in part to a number of state safety programs, according to a new report.
The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) released new motorcycle fatality data this month, indicating that the total number of fatal crashes in 2017 dropped for the first time since 2014, with nearly 300 less deaths last year compared to 2016.
According to the new report, motorcycle accident deaths have steadily increased since 1997, accounting for more than 4,000 deaths annually over the last 10 years. Despite the most recent decline reported in 2017, motorcyclists remain significantly over-represented in traffic fatalities.
GHSA officials pulled data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) National Statistics and Analysis and found 4,990 people were killed on motorcycles in 2017, down from 5,286 motorcyclists killed on U.S. roadways in 2016.
Motorcycle riders are statistically more likely to be involved in fatal crashes than occupants in standard vehicles. According to the report, motorcyclist fatalities occurred 28 times more frequently than passenger vehicle fatalities when accounting for vehicle miles traveled.
Officials warned that the data is preliminary, and specific details such as alcohol impairment are not available at this time. In 2016, a 1.7 percent increase in alcohol-involved motorcycle fatalities was reported when compared to 2015. In 2016, 37 percent of motorcycle riders who were killed in si9ngle-vehicle crashes were alcohol impaired.
The GHSA reports that in 2017, motorcycle fatalities increased in 18 states, remained the same in two states, and decreased in 30 states and the District of Columbia. Seven of the states with increased crashes reported a more than 20 percent increase, with Rhode Island reporting a 175 percent increase from 2016. The largest decrease in reported fatalities was reported out of the District of Columbia with a 66.7 percent decrease.
While officials have not determined what programs or events have caused a decline in the amount of fatalities, the report indicated helmet use and weather may have played a large role.
States that experienced harsh winters in 2017, such as Idaho and Michigan, had fewer motorcycle fatalities, while Kansas, New York, and Vermont had much milder winter temperatures and consequently reported higher fatalities. The harsh 2017 hurricane season, which recorded 17 named storms, 10 hurricanes and six category three or stronger hurricanes, is believed to have shortened the riding season.
Officials reported that increased helmet use has also helped decrease fatalities. According to the National Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), nearly three percent more motorcyclist persistently wore helmets in 2017 when compared to the survey’s 2016 results.