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When New Jersey gas prices rise, so do motorcycle fatalities

There are just so many things New Jersey motorcyclists can do to protect themselves from accident injuries. Many Bergen County riders already follow guidelines recommended by the U.S. Government Accountability Office including helmet use. Helmets are mandatory for all riders here and in 18 other states.

Most states have repealed or eased helmet laws. Some states require helmet use among new or young riders, while other states insist upon completion of motorcycle safety courses before riders go helmet-free. The reduced restrictions are accepted, despite government reports that show helmets can be lifesavers and motorcycle accidents are on the rise.

Motorcyclists also are encouraged to avoid dangerous activities like riding while intoxicated and speeding. A GAO report found speeding contributed to 35 percent of motorcycle fatalities and rider intoxication was present in 29 percent of all deadly 2010 crashes.

Fault for fatalities seems to point directly at motorcyclists. However, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration noted most motorcycle collisions with other vehicles were not caused by bike riders. Drivers who ignored motorcyclists' road rights were largely responsible for those accidents.

The National Safety Council ties the price of gasoline to fatal motorcycle crashes. When fuel costs rise, more gas-efficient motorcycles appear on the roads. The swell in riders, both experienced and inexperienced, creates more opportunities for accidents.

During the last four decades, overall motor vehicle fatality rates dropped dramatically in the U.S. Cars now include numerous standard safety features that were not available or required in the past. Motorcycle safety hasn't evolved at the manufacturing level at the same pace.

The proportion of motorcycle accidents to car accidents has risen. While total road fatalities fell from more than 44,000 to about 33,500 between 1975 and 2012, motorcycle deaths shot up from 3,189 to 4,957. This hasn't changed -- motorcyclists have the same legal rights as other victims of negligent drivers to request compensation for accident injuries.

Source: The Inquirer, "How gas prices relate to motorcycle fatalities" Paul Nussbaum, Apr. 26, 2014

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