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How understanding MI motorcycle accident fatalities is the key to prevention

March 26, 2015 by Steven M. Gursten

Safety advocate Dan Petterson of SMARTER on making our roads more safe for motorcyclists

michigan motorcycle accident fatalities1

Last week, I featured a guest blog post from Dan Petterson, president of motorcycle safety group SMARTER. Dan is a safety advocate and a leading voice in this state on issues of motorcycle safety.

The latest has to do with how measuring motorcycle safety can lead to less accidents. Dan believes it starts with tracking motorcycle injuries and deaths, stating that to really measure the results of our motorcyclist safety interventions, we need to begin with the per year raw data regarding the number of motorcyclists killed and injured in crashes.

Today I’d like to share more from Dan, starting with Michigan motorcycle accident statistics:

“In Michigan, the decade of 1975 to 1985 was tragic with 150 to 160 riders being killed each year. Beginning in the late 1980s, the number of deaths began to fall, dipping under 100, then 90, then 80, 70, 60 and finally in 1998, only 55 riders die on Michigan roads.

It certainly appeared that our No. 1 intervention, rider training, was really working – and working well. Motorcyclist safety professionals celebrated. The data seemed to indicate training riders in basic physical riding skills, encouraging them to use a strategy to see and be seen and manage the risks of riding, was working to reduce the number of deaths.

However, over the next six years, the number of riders who died on Michigan roads gradually began to increase and in 2005, a staggering 124 riders were killed.
“But wait!” the motorcyclist safety professionals yelled. “That really doesn’t mean rider training and motorist awareness are not working. Motorcycle registrations are up, we are training more riders every year and it was great weather so riders put on lots of miles.”

In most states, there was a huge surge in motorcyclist fatalities from 1999 to 2008, but there was also a significant increase in registrations, so the often used fatalities per 100,000 registrations, didn’t change much.

Motorcyclist safety professionals waited for fatally rates to go down, but they didn’t. They stayed the same or went up. And instead of doing something different, we justified our continuing to fund rider training and support motorist awareness by saying more people are riding, or it is just a blip, or we need another year to see for sure, or we had great riding weather and besides look at how many more riders we trained this year and how many brochures we distributed.”

Next week, we’ll continue this series with more statistics on motorcycle accident fatality rates and measurements.

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