A heavy toll for motorcyclists
The motorcycle season is coming to a close here in Wisconsin, where possible snow is in the forecast, but a new federal report has bikers in the news. The Government Accountability Office issued a report that says direct costs from deaths and injuries in motorcycle crashes totaled $16 billion in 2010—but added that full costs likely are much higher. Long-term medical costs weren’t included because they’re hard to measure.
The report also says motorcyclists are involved in fatal crashes at higher rates than drivers of other types of vehicles. That’s not surprising, given that a motorcycle offers little protection when a crash occurs. In fact, the report says motorcyclists are 30 times more likely to die in a traffic crash than the average motorist.
Here’s a statement some riders might take issue with. The report says laws requiring motorcyclists to wear helmets are the only strategy proven to reduce fatalities. Only 19 states have such laws, and Wisconsin is not among them.
Kurt Stuvengen of Orfordville disagreed with the idea that helmets are the only proven way to reduce fatalities, and he said so in a letter The Gazette printed Saturday.
“State and national organizations such as ABATE and the American Motorcycle Association spend time and money promoting rider education and driver education to make motorists aware that we are also on the road,” Stuvengen wrote.
“A helmet will not save me if a car pulls out in front of me or plows into me at a traffic light and I have massive internal injuries, but if the driver is aware that motorcyclists are on the road and puts his cellphone down, I might survive to ride another day.”
Stuvengen noted that he pays an extra license fee that helps fund rider education in Wisconsin. Also, ABATE offers training lectures for driver’s education classes.
“For the record,” Stuvengen concluded, “I choose to wear a helmet when I ride due to observing that other drivers on the road seem to be doing everything but driving. While I might not survive an accident, I may be stacking the deck in my favor. Either way, ‘let those who ride decide.’”
I’m betting most motorcyclists will agree with Stuvengen.