09/22/10 — Motorcycle fatalities down so far in 2010

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Motorcycle fatalities down so far in 2010

By Laura Collins
Published in News on September 22, 2010 1:46 PM

A recent report released by the North Carolina Highway Patrol said motorcycle fatalities are up 20 percent across the state, but in Wayne County, the news is much better.

First Sgt. G.L. Burton said fatalities in the county this year are actually down when compared to this time last year. In 2009, there was one motorcycle fatality in the county through August. Through August of this year there have been none.

In addition to a decrease in fatalities, the number of motorcycle-related crashes are also down in the county. In 2009 there were 19 crashes in the first eight months of the year. This year there have only been 18 crashes through August, which is a decrease of 5.3 percent.

"There could be numerous reasons for that," he said. "It could be stepped-up enforcement in high-collision areas and when it comes to speeding or alcohol. Part of it could be the economy is down and not as many people are driving motorcycles since that's an expendable item."

Burton also suggested that the increased national education efforts and stricter helmet requirements could also contribute to the slight decrease.

Any driver or passenger on a motorcycle needs to be wearing a helmet regardless of the speed limit.

"By law, they are required to wear a helmet and it needs to be (Department of Transportation) approved," Burton said. "You just can't wear an egg shell type helmet. They have to be approved."

North Carolina's 2010 statistics run counter to a national trend that saw motorcycle deaths decline 16 percent in 2009, the first national decrease in motorcycle deaths in 11 years.

Across the state, motorcycle fatalities totaled 78 as of Sept. 9 this year, compared to 65 the same date a year ago, according to the N.C. State Highway Patrol Fatal Slip report. Motorcycle deaths totaled 82 for all of 2009. Those numbers also include mopeds and scooter.

"Motorcycles, scooters, mopeds - these are the most vulnerable motorized vehicles on the highways today and, in North Carolina, we have been unable to regulate licensing in a way that makes users operate safely," said David Parsons, CEO and president of AAA Carolinas.

AAA said motorcycle crashes, which include mopeds and scooters, are due to inexperienced drivers and the lack of required proper safety training.

Because of a loophole in North Carolina's law governing motorcycle licenses, a motorcycle, moped or motor scooter can be legally driven on public streets without the rider taking a Department of Motor Vehicle road test or a state-approved motorcycle training/education course.

The law allows a motorcyclist to receive an 18-month permit if they just pass a vision test, a highway sign test and a written motorcycle knowledge test. The permit can be renewed indefinitely, according to DMV officials.