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Why did motorcycle fatalities jump by 10 percent in 2015?

Right now, people across the state of Rhode Island are eagerly anticipating the start of the long Memorial Day weekend. While many will use these three days of vacation to relax or catch up on some home improvement projects, still others will use it as an opportunity to take their favorite motorcycle out of storage and head out on the highway.

As exciting as this prospect may seem, riders may want to take a moment to re-familiarize themselves with the basics of safe riding before getting behind the handlebars. Indeed, they needn't look any further for motivation than a recently released study from the Governors Highway Safety Association.

What exactly did this report find?

Based on preliminary data from the highway safety offices of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, the report is predicting a 10 percent spike in motorcycle fatalities from a confirmed 4,548 deaths in 2014 to an estimated 5,010 in 2015.    

To put this in perspective, this would be the first time since 2008 that motorcycle fatalities have exceeded 5,000 -- and only the third time in U.S. history this has happened.

What did it say on a state-by-state basis?

The researchers found that the number of fatal motorcycle crashes increased in 31 states, decreased in 16 states and remained unchanged in three (plus D.C.). Closer to home, the data shows that Rhode Island was among the 16 states to see motorcycle deaths fall, with 10 fatalities in 2014 and 9 fatalities in 2015.

What's behind the overall increase in motorcycle deaths?

The GHSA's report theorizes that some of the factors behind the increase in motorcycle deaths include increased speed limits, impaired driving, more vehicles on the road and the repeal of helmet laws.

Here in Rhode Island, we have a partial helmet law, such that riders 20 and under must wear a helmet, while all novice riders, regardless of age, must wear a helmet for at least one year from the date their license is issued.

If you've been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a motorcycle accident caused by the negligence of another driver -- speeding, distracted driving, running a red light -- consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.

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