Thursday, July 16, 2009

Deadly year for Kansas City motorcyclists

Nearly one-fourth of Kansas City’s traffic fatalities this year have involved motorcycles – 24 percent, to be exact. This statistic is especially troubling considering that there are 39 passenger cars or trucks for every one motorcycle registered in this state, according to the Missouri Department of Revenue. So why are motorcyclists making up such a disproportionate number of our traffic deaths? That’s a question I wish I had an answer to.

Our latest motorcycle fatality happened just after midnight Tuesday on Southwest Trafficway at Westport Road. A 32-year-old man was found dead in the median after his motorcycle had apparently hit a light pole. His is the ninth Kansas City motorcycle death this year, which puts us on track to have the most motorcycle deaths in a decade. The year 2003 had 10 deaths for the entire year and had been the highest one (see above graph).

Amazingly, all but one of these deceased motorcyclists this year was wearing a helmet. One, however, was wearing a small, skull-cap-type helmet that was not approved by the Department of Transportation. Even with helmets, however, motorcycles are inherently more dangerous than regular vehicles. Per mile traveled in 2006, a motorcyclist was 37 times more likely to die in a crash than persons riding in a passenger car, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And in Missouri, 80 percent of motorcycle crashes result in injury or death.

Our traffic investigators have determined the following factors in this year’s motorcycle fatalities so far:

Speed – a factor in five crashes
Car failed to yield to motorcyclist – a factor in two crashes
Motorcyclist’s inattention – a factor in one crash.

Some of these overlap, such as one in which a speeding motorcyclist ran into a car that failed to yield. Not all causes have yet been determined, and results of DUI tests are pending on some.

We urge motorcyclists to please be careful. Your life is at stake. And we urge all drivers to keep an eye out for these motorcycles. You outnumber them 39 to 1. Please go to this link for some great safety tips:
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