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Motorcyclists are 28 times more likely to be in fatal accidents

Perhaps because of the weather, May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. As motorcyclists prepare to ride for the season, we should all be aware of the risks and the strategies being used to reduce the risk of fatal motorcycle crashes.

The good news is that motorcyclist deaths appear to have declined by an estimated 5.6 percent last year. Based on preliminary numbers submitted by all 50 states and the District of Columbia, there were approximately 4,990 people killed on motorcycles in 2017 -- 296 fewer than in 2016.

While that's good news, it unfortunately not the whole story. Due to their lack of visibility and comparative lack of protection during collisions, motorcyclists are substantially overrepresented in U.S. traffic deaths. Per miles traveled, motorcyclists are 28 times more likely to die in a traffic wreck than the occupants of passenger vehicles.

Overall, the motorcycling fatality rate has fluctuated over the past decade. Researchers are cautiously optimistic that last year's reduction is part of a trend. At the same time, however, 2017 had an unusually active hurricane season, which may have reduced ridership in affected states. That could have driven down the fatality rate in a way that won't translate from year to year.

We don't want to rely on bad weather discouraging motorcycling to cut down on the fatality rate.

What can motorcyclists do to reduce the risk?

In a huge number of motorcycle crashes, the other driver is at fault. Other than encouraging people to keep and active watch for motorcycles and to avoid driving behavior that puts them at risk, there may be little we can do to change that.

State responses to a Governors Highway Safety Association analysis, however, indicate some areas where motorcyclists could do better:

No drunk riding. In 2016, fully 25 percent of riders involved in fatal collisions had a blood alcohol content above the legal limit. The data indicate this trend continued through 2017.

Don't ride while high. Marijuana has been shown to increase crash risk. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that vehicle collision claims were 3 percent higher in states where marijuana is legal.

Avoid distraction. It's true that distracted drivers are prone to crash with motorcycles, but motorcyclists can become distracted, too. Distracted riding appears to be on the rise, with Virginia recording over twice the number of distracted riding fatalities in 2017 compared to 2016.

Other than those common-sense recommendations, wear a helmet, do what you can to be visible and ride in a way that is predictable to drivers.

If you or a loved one has been in a motorcycle crash, a personal injury lawyer can help ensure that you receive full, fair compensation for your injuries and losses.

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