Motorcycle Deaths Hold Steady

In SuperFreakonomics: The Illustrated Edition, we explored the bizarre, unintended consequence of repealing motorcycle helmet laws: an increase in human organs available for transplantation.

Between 1994 and 2007, six states repealed laws that required all motorcyclists to wear helmets. Here's a look at per-capita organ donations from male victims of motor-vehicle crashes in those states versus all other states.


A new report shows that motorcycle deaths are not dropping. From the Wall Street Journal

A report released today by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) finds that no progress was made in reducing motorcyclist deaths in 2011. Based upon preliminary data from 50 states and the District of Columbia, GHSA projects that motorcycle fatalities remained at about 4,500 in 2011, the same level as 2010. Meanwhile, earlier this month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration projected that overall motor vehicle fatalities declined 1.7 percent in 2011, reaching their lowest level since 1949. Motorcycle deaths remain one of the few areas in highway safety where progress is not being made.

Furthermore, states are continuing to repeal helmet laws:

Another disturbing trend is the decrease in states with universal helmet laws. Helmet laws are the only motorcycle safety strategy whose effectiveness is rated as five-star in NHTSA’s highly-regarded publication, “Countermeasures That Work.” Only 19 states currently require all riders to wear helmets, down from 26 in 1997. Earlier this year, Michigan repealed its universal helmet law, while similar legislation has been introduced in five other states. No state has enacted a universal helmet law since Louisiana reinstated its requirement in 2004.

Guess that’s good news for anyone who might need an organ transplant in Michigan?

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  1. AJC says:

    Whelp, the fact that states are repealing the helmet law is just dumb. If motorcyclists don’t have protection from injury, then they are obviously going to suffer greater injuries when **** happens. If we want to change the injury numbers, we either have to re-implement the helmet laws, along with further motorcycle safety laws, or ban motorcycles.

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  2. GIVCO says:

    You shouldn’t focus on helmet laws to the exclusion of other factors, such as lane-splitting. Lane-splitting has been steadily wiped out by states through legislation or by directing police to ticket for “unsafe lane changes”, etc. Only California remains friendly to lane-splitters (and Europe and Asia). Lo, California’s fatality rates for motorcycle-car collisions is far, far lower than comparable states and the nation as a whole according to analysis done by Steve Guderian.

    Motorcyclists have sued and won the right to use HOV lanes in every state over the past 10 years (because it’s tied to Federal transportation funds). ABS brakes are also far more common, traction control is emerging (motorcycle technology is always 10-15 years behind cars), and training courses and track-days are more popular.

    The gross number of motorcycle deaths in 2010 (4,376) has returned to 2005 levels (4,576) after breaking 5,000 for a couple of years. This despite an increase in motorcyclists.

    BTW, are we ready to start requiring automobile drivers to wear helmets? If it’s safe for NASCAR, it’s safe for the population at large.

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  3. Gabe says:

    Frankly, this is a pointless waste of bandwidth. The overall numbers are here, but not broken down in a useful fashion. What are the deaths per 100,000 riders? Per miles riden? It’s very possible that there are more people riding more miles now that in the previous 5-10 years due to increasing gas prices. *If* there are more riders riding more miles–and more inexperienced riders riding more miles–and the overall death rate remains the same, that’s a VERY different outcome than what is implied here.

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  4. chuck moon says:

    the more motorcycles on the road the mor the deaths will occur. we require safety belts in a common vehicle but we allow the most dangerous vvehicle to be on the road. lost brother to motorcycle accident 4-4-09 chuck m

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