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Motorcycle saves gas, may cost a life

For many people, motorcycles represent freedom. Riding the scenic roads of Pennsylvania, visiting the historic battlefield at Gettysburg, or just tooling along the rolling hills of Lancaster County on a warm weekend. But motorcycles come with a risk. They are the riskiest form of driving. Research has demonstrated that beyond the emotional appeal of riding a motorcycle, there is an economic component.

As gas prices increase, so does motorcycle ridership. This makes sense, as even the largest road bikes have much better mileage than the average car. What they do not have is all of the modern safety features that come on the car. No airbags and no crumple zones. They don't even have seat belts. As one safety expert said, "there's not much you can do to improve safety."

With motorcycles, helmets are virtually the only safety feature that will help in the event of a motorcycle accident. Sadly, helmet usage has declined in the last 40 years. This is reflected in the fact that while nationwide fatalities associated with automobiles have declined three fold, the decrease for motorcycles was only 14 percent.

Recently, as car accident deaths have fallen, with motorcycle accidents, the numbers actually increased. Between 2001 and 2013, fatalities from other vehicles fell by 27 percent, but deaths from motorcycles increased 43 percent.

While many motorcycle riders point to greater distraction by drivers of cars, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated that if all motorcycle riders wore helmets in 2011, 703 additional riders would be alive today.

Pennsylvania repealed its mandatory helmet law, but that does not mean you cannot voluntarily wear one. Other recommendations to make riding safer include better training for riders, slow down and avoid alcohol. Driving is a demanding activity and every driver needs to stay focused on that activity alone.

Source: Philly.com, "How gas prices relate to motorcycle fatalities," Paul Nussbaum, April 26, 2014

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