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AAA: N.C. motorcycle death rate eighth highest in U.S.

Posted July 11, 2008

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— North Carolina's motorcycle death rate is the eighth highest in the nation, and it's likely to go up with the increase in motorcycle purchases, according to an analysis by AAA Carolinas.

Motorcycles represent 2 percent of registered vehicles but are involved in 12 percent of fatal traffic deaths. The death toll rose from 97 in 2003 to 190 in 2007.

The state's most populous counties, including Wake, Cumberland, Guilford and Mecklenburg, saw more than one of every three fatalities in 2007, AAA Carolinas said.

Read motorcycle safety tips for riders and other drivers around them. Safety courses are offered through the state and a national foundation.

AAA says that with an increase in sales this year because of rising fuel prices, the number of fatalities will "undoubtedly rise."

Motorcycle sales are up about 10 percent at dealerships owned by Ray Price, partly due to rising gas prices, he said.

"Having a bike that has plenty of power that can ... stay up with traffic ... and also save a lot of gas is probably an important thing," Price said.

With each bike he sells, though, Price said he tried to send a message: "We've always stressed a lot of safety."

Statistics confirm several crash studies that found higher crash and fatality rates among untrained motorcyclists, said John Stokes, state traffic records coordinator with the North Carolina Governors Safety Highway Program.

Nationally, nearly half all motorcyclists killed are riders aged 40 or older, who have to compensate for decreasing coordination skills and reflexes, AAA says.

“In North Carolina over the last three years, improper riding skills were a factor in 51 percent of the crash fatalities involving motorcycles,” Stokes said.

Part of the problem, AAA says, is that state law does not require a road test or safety course to obtain a learners' permit to drive a motorcycle. A motorcyclist can indefinitely renew the 18-month learners' permit by passing vision, highway sign and motorcycle knowledge tests.

Peter Kaufman, 71, said he became convinced of the importance of safety training after he was hurt in motorcycle wreck. "I ran over some anti-freeze in the road and didn't realize it until the bike was laid down," he said.

Kaufman said he's taken up teaching a safety class and makes sure to always wear protective gear.

"I still love riding. ... There's nothing you can do without risk. The best thing you can do is manage the risk in everything you're doing," Kaufman said.

Those seeking a motorcycle endorsement on their drivers' license must pass an on-road skills test. Motorcyclists are encouraged but not required to take a safety course.

A bill filed in the N.C. General Assembly would shorten the length of learner's permits to six months and allow them to be renewed for only one additional six-month period. Senate Bill 375 would also let motorcyclists obtain an endorsement by completing a state safety course or passing a riding skills test.

The bill was passed by the Senate in May 2007, but after one successful reading in the House, the bill was sent to the House Committee on Transportation, where it remains.

Sixteen states currently mandate motorcycle training programs, according to AAA.

A quarter of motorcyclists involved in a fatal crash nationally did not have a valid license, according to a 2007 study by the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Operators of other vehicles contributed to 40 percent of all fatal motorcycle crashes, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council.


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  • stanggt Jul 14, 2008

    I will be hosting a motorcycle awareness ride. no cost, nothing required other than ride with us...here is a link to the flyer....


    Please come out and help make everyone aware of the number of 2 wheeled vehicles on the road! Ride safe!!!!

  • scooperhsd Jul 11, 2008

    OK - Me - been riding legally on the road for 30 years (started at 18 in Kansas). No rider training until after college (about 6-7 years AFTER I started riding. Yes I had my first accident within 6 weeks of starting to ride - then I learned and got more experiance. I've rode up and down the east coast - Didn't care for Boston (too dangerous), rode in DC for 7 years (usually to work) and most of my riding now is commuting. The best way to improve your car driving is to get on a bike - it makes you MUCH MORE aware of your surroundings. I advocate the rider training for ANYONE even thinking about getting a bike.

  • futbalfantic Jul 11, 2008

    "Helmet = safer. It's that simple."

    Right on. Anyone that thinks otherwise is simply trying to justify not wearing one.

    Please show me the study to back your comments

  • WRALSUCKS Jul 11, 2008

    A meaningless statistic UNLESS:

    You normalize the number of miles travelled
    Alcohol abuse
    Average rider age
    etc etc etc.

    BUT, it does sell headlines, and that's what the news medias wants!

  • appfan2 Jul 11, 2008

    "And just how many unlicensed "cage" drivers are out there, also just as "untrained?" "

    This is a complete non sequitur. Is your assertion that there are a lot of untrained cage drivers out there supposed to somehow cancel out the fact that there are lots of untrained bikers??? Your post has no relevance.

  • appfan2 Jul 11, 2008

    "Helmet = safer. It's that simple."

    Right on. Anyone that thinks otherwise is simply trying to justify not wearing one.

  • anonemoose Jul 11, 2008

    Want less m/c fatalities? Close the cheap bars. That way fewer riders will die on their way home. And the HD shops will stay busier with more engines to rebuild every 30k miles.

  • dont-be-a-hater Jul 11, 2008

    Was very glad to see this article and it getting the word out of the importance of people who drive motorcycles to take the safety class first! I got my husband his first bike from Ray Price for Christmas this year...months prior he had went through the safety course that Mr. Peter Kaufman taught at the local college. He said it was the best thing that he'd done and was so glad he had before getting out on the road on the bike. He has many stories of car drivers and how they ignore motorcycles causing for more dangers. We as car drivers need to watch out more closely for motorcycles and bikes! There are those out there who are riding motorcylces who have taken all precautions to keep themselves safe as well as those in cars.

  • boingc Jul 11, 2008

    Helmet = safer. It's that simple.

  • mtr Jul 11, 2008

    No boingc You have that wrong. There have been studies it is just they fool you into seeing different points.
    Last link time to go home.