According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, the number of motorcycle fatalities nationwide last year dropped by 7 percent, to 4,610. Figures from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation show a 14 percent drop, to 181.
All good, right? Not necessarily.
The reason behind the decline was cold, wet weather during 2013 that kept riders off the streets, a stark contrast to 2012, when the weather was warmer and dryer. Leaving a matter of life and death to the precariousness of the weather is no different than leaving it to chance.
Long-term statistics on motorcycle fatalities are disappointing. Ridership increased significantly since 1997, but the fatality rate has remained static, at roughly 5.5 per 10,000 registrations. By contrast, the fatality rate for passenger cars and trucks in the same period fell by nearly 50 percent.
The single most important safety feature for a motorcyclist is a helmet, yet too many riders resist wearing them and too many states — 31, including Pennsylvania — don’t require them for all. Pennsylvania, which had a helmet law, stupidly repealed it in 2003 and now only those under 21 or within the first two years of having a license are required to wear them.
It’s time for lawmakers in Harrisburg to impose good sense on Pennsylvania’s motorcyclists by reinstating a mandatory helmet law.
The winter has finally thawed. That should be cause for celebration, not highway carnage.