According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcycle fatalities have risen 127% since 1997 and now account for 11% of all motor vehicle deaths annually. In 2006 alone about 88,000 riders were injured.
Speculation about the increase in motorcycle injuries in Illinois and the rest of the county points to increased motorcycle sales, more powerful engines, and more older riders picking motorcycling up as a new hobby. Currently motorcycles account for about 2.4% of all registered vehicles. As a solution, the NHTSA is proposing tougher standards for helmets and more pretesting on motorcycle brakes.
Even though wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of dying in a motorcycle crash by 37%, the majority of riders are either wearing non-compliant helmets or no helmet at all. This is in part because over half of the states do not require motorcycle drivers to wear helmets. But even in the states where FMVSS 218-compliant helmets are required there are problems with counterfeit DOT decals that motorcyclists are placing on non-compliant helmets to fool law enforcement officers.
The new amendment NHTSA is proposing regarding helmets would make it harder to counterfeit the DOT decals in efforts to increase compliance in states where helmet laws are already in place. NHTSA is also proposing enforcing the current test standards for helmets by implementing new tests that would further explore the effect of a crash on the helmets. By increasing the degree of the tests the hope is to weed out those helmets that would perhaps have passed less strenuous tests.
NHTSA is applying the same philosophy to their proposed changes regarding motorcycle brakes. The new proposal calls for an added dry brake test that would essentially test each brake individually when the motorcycle is at its full load capacity, as well as a new test to assess the brakes’ performance at high speeds. And as with many new agency measures passed under the Bush administration there is a preemption clause included in the regulation.
It is anticipated that the motorcycle industry will be open to adopting some of the proposals, but will challenge others. It remains to be seen whether the proposals eventually adopted will effectively reduce the frequency of motorcycle crash fatalities.
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