In spite of a decrease in the number of car accidents in Charlotte, North Carolina and the fewest number of wrecks in the last 10 years, the number of people dying in motorcycle accidents in North Carolina has increased by 20%.
In effort to keep riders safe, Charlotte area motorcycle dealers, as well as those across the state, provide driver-safety training classes. Notwithstanding the availability of these safety training opportunities, the State of North Carolina does not require motorcycle riders to participate in such training before hitting the road, and does not even require a road test! In fact, those wishing to drive a motorcycle need only to pass a vision test and a written test in order to obtain an 18 month permit, which can then be renewed indefinitely.
Why the increase in motorcycle deaths? According to AAA Carolinas, inexperience and lack of safety training has lead to the growth in motorcycle deaths. The poor economy is also to blame, with more drivers opting to drive motorcycles, scooters, or mopeds in effort to save gas. For those without a valid North Carolina drivers’ license, the State of North Carolina allows a moped to be driven without inspection, registration, or drivers license.
Lack of licensing and alcohol consumption are big factors in motorcycle fatalities. A 2008 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administraction (NHTSA) found that 25% of the motorcyclists killed lacked a valid license, and that bikers involved in deadly collisions were 1.4 times more likely to have had a prior license suspension or revocation than operators of passenger vehicles. Similarly, more bikers in fatal collisions were found to have been driving under the influence than drivers of passenger vehicles in fatal collisions. NHTSA reports that 29% of motorcyclists involved in fatal accidents had a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher, compared with 23% of passenger car operators. Motorcycle operators involved in fatal collisions were also more likely to have prior conviction for speeding and DWI than operators of passenger vehicles involved in fatal collisions.
Another reason for the increase in motorcycle deaths is the surge in popularity of high-performance motorcycles. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that the death rate for riders of supersport motorcycles is almost 4 times higher than the death rate for all other types of motorcycle. In 2005, the IIHS found the death rate of supersport operators to be 22.5 per 10,000 registered motorcycles, compared with a death rate of 5.7 deaths per 10,000 registered motorcycles for cruisers and standard motorcycles. High performance motorcycles account for less than 10 percent of all registered motorcycles, yet more than 25% of motorcycle deaths are for riders of these supersport motorcycles. As one would expect, speed and driver error were cited as the largest contributing factors in fatal accidents involving these high performance bikes.