Motorcycle Deaths Are 13% of All Oklahoma Traffic Fatalities

SERIES: WHY IS OKLA’S TRAFFIC FATALITY RATE SO HIGH? (PART 4)

Motorcycle deaths have a large impact on the total number of traffic fatalities occurring in Oklahoma each year. According to federal data, motorcycle fatalities consistently represent 12% to 15% of all traffic deaths on Oklahoma roads and highways.

Here are the stats, drawn from reports of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

Motorcycle Traffic Fatalities: Oklahoma and U.S.

Oklahoma

U.S.

Motorcyclist fatalities

Total traffic fatalities

Pct.: Motorcycle / Total fatalities

Motorcyclist  fatalities

Total traffic fatalities

Pct.: Motorcycle / Total fatalities

2008

89

750

12%

5312

37,423

14%

2009

108

737

15%

4469

33,883

13%

2010

78

668

12%

4518

32,999

14%

2011

98

696

14%

4612

32,470

14%

2012

84

708

12%

4957

33,561

15%

Sources:
• All OK data and U.S. total fatality data: http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/departments/nrd-30/ncsa/STSI/40_OK/2012/40_OK_2012.htm
• U.S. motorcyclist fatality data, 2008-2011: http://www-fars.nhtsa.dot.gov/Main/index.aspx
• U.S. motorcyclist fatality data, 2012: http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811856.pdf

The above statistics should convince Oklahomans to take motorcycle safety seriously. Around 90 to 100 of our citizens lose their lives on motorcycles each year. One out of every 7 to 8 traffic fatalities in the Sooner State involves a motorcycle.

Here’s another, perhaps more startling way to put it in perspective: A motorcyclist is six times more likely to die on the road than an automobile owner. In 2010, we had 213 automobile fatalities, with more than 1.5 million registered automobiles. The same year  we had 78 motorcycle fatalities, even though we have a small fraction of registered motorcycles.

Oklahoma Traffic Fatalities: Automobiles vs. Motorcycles

(2010 data)

Automobiles in Oklahoma

Motorcycles in Oklahoma

Automobile

fatalities

Automobile

registrations

Pct.: Fatalities /Registrations

Motorcyclist fatalities

Motorcycle registrations

Pct.: Fatalities /Registrations

213

1.6 million

0.01%

(1 out of every 10,000 drivers)

78

125,520

.0.06%

(1 out of every 1,666 motorcyclists)

Sources:
• Auto registrations: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics/2010/mv1.cfm
• All other data: http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/departments/nrd-30/ncsa/STSI/40_OK/2012/40_OK_2012

Does Not Explain Oklahoma’s Big Discrepancy

The above numbers show the inherent danger of motorcycles, but they also reveal that Oklahoma’s rate of motorcycle fatalities is no higher than the national rate. As a matter of fact, Oklahoma’s motorcycle deaths as a portion of total road deaths runs about 1% less than the national ratio.

In previous installments of this blog series, I have shown that in Oklahoma, the percentages of traffic fatalities caused by drunk driving and by speeding also closely track the national rates. That means none of these factors shed much light on why Oklahoma traffic fatalities per person are almost twice the national rate. (See Part 1 of this series: “Oklahoma Traffic Fatality Rate Twice the National Rate”)

Nevertheless, it is sobering to know that there are 90 to 100 deaths in Oklahoma each year due to motorcycling, causing grief, disrupting lives and bringing economic hardship to thousands of affected citizens each year.

Let’s put it in perspective. Violent deaths due to firearms always draw lots of media coverage and government scrutiny. According to the CDC’s National Violent Death Reporting System, 592 Oklahomans lost their lives to firearms in 2011, and that includes accidents, suicides and legal interventions as well as homicides. Homicides alone accounted for 159 of those 592 firearm deaths in a year.

I’m not taking a stand against motorcycles — or firearms. I am simply pointing out that motorcycles are inherently dangerous, so much so that 90 to 100 lives are lost each year, which is in the same broad ballpark as the number of lives lost in homicides.

Oklahoma’s Helmet Law

What can be done to minimize the number of motorcycle fatalities on Oklahoma roads and highways?

The most obvious solution is to increase the use of helmets. The numbers speak for themselves. From 72% to 85% of motorcycle fatalities in recent years have been motorcyclists who were not wearing helmets.

Oklahoma Motorcycle Fatalities and Helmet Use

Unhelmeted motorcyclist fatalities

Total motorcyclist fatalities

Pct.: Unhelmeted motorcycle fatalities

Motorcycle fatalities: Persons 19 and below

2008

65

89

73%

6

2009

78

108

72%

3

2010

66

78

85%

5

2011

79

98

81%

4

2012

63

84

75%

4

In Oklahoma, only motorcyclists 17 or below are required to wear helmets. However, only a small fraction of the fatalities involve under-aged motorcycle riders (see the right column above).

According to Consumer Reports, 19 states requires all motorcycle riders to wear helmets. Do the tougher laws make a difference? “In 2010, 98% of motorcyclists riding in states with helmet laws were wearing them. In states without the laws, helmet use was just 48%.”

An announcement from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests that adoption of a universal (all riders) helmet law can cause a reduction in motorcycle fatalities of 25% to 40% a year. In Oklahoma, that would be 25 to 40 lives saved each year.

Opponents of helmet laws say helmet use should be voluntary. If so, it’s time for motorcyclists to volunteer to strap on protective gear. No motorcyclist who has a spouse, child, living parent or sibling, or employees can accurately say that their choice affects no one but oneself.

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Have you or a loved one experienced injury, loss of income or loss of life due to a motorcycle accident? Did the accident involve drunk driving, driving while impaired by drugs or speeding? If so, you need legal representation. Contact Hasbrook & Hasbrook immediately for a free consultation.

For more information, see our webpage: “DUI, drunk driving and speeding accidents.”