Motorcycle fatalities in the United States fell by 16 percent last year, the first decrease in 11 years, and Pennsylvania had its lowest number of deaths since 2006. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) cautions that riding a motorcycle can still be dangerous, however, as riders are 35 times more likely than people in cars to die in a crash.
Motorcycle deaths nearly doubled from 1998 to 2008, rising from 2,294 to 5,290. In Pennsylvania, the number grew from 111 to 237 in the same time period, according to PennDOT. The Governors Highway Safety Association, which forecasted last year's decline in April, offered several explanations for the decrease, including: less travel because of the economy, fewer beginners on motorcycles, improved state safety programs, better motorist awareness, and weather that kept bikers off the roads.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) says that wearing a helmet lowers the overall risk of dying in a motorcycle accident by 37 percent. PennDOT's Live Free Ride Alive website claims that helmeted riders are three times more likely to survive head injuries. Organizations such as the Alliance of Bikers Aimed Toward Education (ABATE) disagree, opposing universal helmet laws and saying that helmets don't have a strong link to motorcycle safety.
Nationally, almost 30 percent of motorcycle fatalities in the last two years have involved a driver whose blood alcohol level was above the 0.08 legal limit. In addition, the president of Allegheny Count's ABATE chapter says that distracted drivers are the most recent threat to bikers.