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Motorcycle Safety, Fatalities and Trends in New Jersey

New Jersey is in a distinct minority of states that require both motorcycle drivers and their passengers to wear helmets.

The comparative stringency seems to be paying off, with far fewer fatal motorcycle crashes occurring in the state last year than in 2008. Last year, 68 people died in motorcycle accidents, compared to 82 the year before. In 2007, the number was 87, and in 2006 it was 103.

New Jersey State Police officials are ecstatic over those numbers, and note that the drop in deaths is occurring even as state roads are becoming increasingly clogged with more riders.

Despite the positive statistics, though, state safety officials want even further exactions. Although they laud the helmet law, they note that it does not require helmets to be federally approved - that is, with a hard outer shell, an impact-absorbing liner and special features that protect the brain. Many riders buy so-called "novelty" helmets that fall far short of federal requirements.

Still, there is a push in the state for increased testing and safety course requirements as a prerequisite for getting a motorcycle license, and the state's Motor Vehicle Commission, which operates the motorcycle safety program, does require riders who engage in official courses and testing to wear federally approved helmets. Thus, and especially if a recent bill imposing new and tougher standards on riders passes, all riders seeking licensure and certification will be wearing the protective helmets.

A few additionally relevant statistics from the National Transportation Safety Board and the New Jersey State Police: Helmets saved the lives of nearly 2,000 riders nationwide in 2008. In New Jersey, there are approximately 2,500 motorcycle crashes each year. Excessive speeding was a major factor in about one third of the motorcycle fatalities that occurred in the state last year, and drivers in about one quarter of all fatal accidents had blood alcohol levels above the legal limit.

Related Resource: "Report: N.J. motorcycle deaths drop" November 22, 2010

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