Motorcycle fatalities continue to rise

July 3, 2009 7:50:26 PM PDT
Good news for you this holiday as you get in your car. Traffic fatalities are at their lowest level in nearly 50 years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports the number of highway deaths fell 9.7 percent last year. There were just over 37,000 deaths nationwide.

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The bad news out of this report is the jump in motorcycle and bicycle fatalities. Motorcycle riders are dying at ever increasing numbers.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says motorcycle deaths continue to rise. Fatalies increased by 2.2 percent in 2008 compared to the previous year.

Scott Dunlavey owns a motorcycle dealership. He believes more people are now riding rather than driving to work -- hence, more accidents.

"There was such a huge increase in scooter sales last year and small motorcycles because those figures went through the roof because of the $5 cost of gas," said Dunlavey.

The CHP says darting in and around traffic called splitting lanes causes many of the accidents.

"Though it's legal, it's perhaps not always the best practice because drivers may not see you," said CHP spokesperson Officer Sam Morgan.

Deaths from bicycle accidents also rose at just a little over two percent. But the number of injuries skyrocketed 21 percent.

Jonas Jackel runs Mike's Bikes in Berkeley. His bicycle hit an oncoming car.

"Tagged his front bumper and hit his car, took the mirror off his car with my face, hit the pavement," said Jackel.

Jackel says his helmet saved his life and that may be a reason why more cyclists are surviving accidents -- more riders are wearing helmets.

Cyclist David Mermin got into an accident when the driver of a car suddenly opened his door.

"I ran into the door, fell off the bike and landed in the street. I was wearing my helmet. My helmet hit the pavement," said Mermin.

Mermin practices defensive riding and he also teaches it to his children.

"I always look where I'm going and I wear a helmet," said 10-year-old bicyclist Molly Mermin.

"I look where I'm going and I wear a helmet," said 7-year-old bicyclist Kate Mermin.

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