Motorcycle Deaths Down 10 Percent in 2009

The number of people killed in U.S. motorcycle crashes dropped 10 percent in 2009 after 11 years of steady increases, a study released Thursday said.

Dr. James Hedlund of Highway Safety North, who prepared the report for the Governors Highway Safety Association, said a number of factors contributed to the drop, including the recession and increased enforcement of helmet laws and other motorcycle regulations.

"Clearly the economy played a large role in motorcycle deaths declining in 2009," said GHSA Chairman Vernon Petkey. "Less disposable income translates into fewer leisure riders, and we suspect that the trend of inexperienced baby boomers buying bikes may have subsided."

Hedlund said some states only had data for the first nine months of 2009. But he said projections suggest motorcycle fatalities will be down in at least three quarters of the states and at least 10 percent overall.

In some states, the decline has been dramatic. Based on data through September, deaths will be down at least 29 percent in California.

Betkey cautioned motorcycle deaths have dropped in the past, only to increase. He urged states to enforce laws on helmet use, driving while impaired and speeding and to provide motorcycle training.

GHSA projected motorcycle fatalities declined from 5,290 in 2008 to 4,762 or less in 2009, based on data from the 50 states and the District of Columbia.