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The physical and economic costs of motorcycle crashes

The federal government has issued a new report that details the popularity of motorcycles in the U.S. and the economic price tag for traffic accidents involving them. Motorcycle accident data from 2010 and vehicle sales figures for 2010 and 2011 were examined in the Government Accountability Office study.

Kansas consumers and other buyers around the country have purchased hundreds of thousands of motorcycles in the last few years. More than 439,000 new motorcycles were sold in 2010 and about 1,200 more the following year. News of a sales uptick was accompanied by growing numbers of motorcycle accidents causing broken bones, head trauma and deaths.

The GAO report recorded 82,000 injuries in 2010 U.S. motorcycle crashes and more than 4,500 fatalities. The government figured the wide-ranging, economic impact of each motorcycle accident injury was between $2,500 and $1.4 million. The analysis was not extensive enough to include costs for some long-term or permanent injuries. Fatality expenses connected to motorcycle accidents that year averaged $1.2 million. A total of $16 billion was spent in 2010 on victims of motorcycle accidents.

Motorcycles have a separate status because victims' injury and death rates are higher for accidents involving motorcycles than other vehicles. The government estimates that the death rate is 30 times greater among motorcycle riders than for people in passenger cars.

Helmet use has been proven to save lives. The fatality rate for motorcyclists with helmets is 39 percent lower than for riders who don't wear them. In Kansas, only motorcyclists under age 18 are required to wear helmets.

Advocates for motorcyclists feel that riders can improve skills to avoid serious accidents. At the same time, supporters also believe motorists in other vehicles have the responsibility to accept and acknowledge motorcycles as equal road partners.

Motorcycle accidents victims are often seriously injured in crashes they did not cause. Economic recovery is available through civil lawsuits when another person's negligence causes a motorcycle crash, injury or a death.

Source:, "Motorcycle Deaths, Injuries Cost $16 Billion, Says Government Report," Nov. 28, 2012

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