May is a particularly perilous month for motorcycle and bicycle riders given the Alaska Personal Injury Law Group's totally non-scientific sampling of individuals who contact our office throughout the year. After six months or more of winter, auto and truck drivers are simply not used to looking for motorcycles and bicycles. This fact shows in accident statistics, emergency room visits, and resulting claims for compensation for injuries, damaged property, and lost income. Both the number of registered motorcycles and the number of motorcycle fatalities have been increasing since 1997. In response to these statistics, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), along with state organizations such as A.B.A.T.E. of Alaska Inc., promote May as "motorcycle awareness month" with the goal of "sharing the road with motorcycles." Motorcycles obviously have a much smaller profile than a vehicle, which can make it more difficult to judge the speed and distance of an approaching motorcycle. The initiative's key safety messages include that: motorcycles have the same rights and privileges as any other motor vehicle, motorists should expect to see motorcycles at any time and search aggressively for them, and motorcycles are entitle to a full lane width to safely maneuver. Obviously when an accident occurs, the motorcycle and its rider are at a distinct disadvantage. NHTSA statistics report that in fatal motorcycle/automobile collisions, 98% of the fatalities were motorcycle riders and only 2% were passenger vehicle occupants. So share the road!
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 32,788 people died in traffic accidents in the United States in 2010, the lowest number of motor vehicle related deaths since 1949. This is a remarkable achievement given that the population of the United States more than doubled between 1949 (149 million) and 2011 (311 million). The largest regional decrease in deaths from motor vehicle collisions from 2009 to 2010 (- 12%) was in the Northwest Region which includes Alaska. NHTSA has not yet released individual state statistics for 2010. NHTSA attributes the continuing decline in the number of crash-related deaths and serious injuries to various factors including increased seat belt use, anti-drunk driving campaigns, stricter drunk driving laws, graduated driver's licenses, improved air bags, and safer road designs. See NHTSA Early Estimate of Motor Vehicle Traffic Fatalities in 2010,http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811451.pdf