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April 1, 2013

N.H. has more motorcycles, more fatal crashes

More motorcycles than ever on state roads

There are more motorcycles on New Hampshire roads — and more motorcycle fatalities.

There were 76,431 motorcycles registered here in fiscal year 2011. That number jumped to 79,419 — nearly 4 percent — last year, according to Jim Van Dongen, public information officer for the New Hampshire Department of Motor Vehicles.

People offered a variety of reasons for the spike: lower fuel costs, motorcycles becoming more mainstream and some older riders returning after years off two wheels.

“It’s definitely becoming more mainstream,” said Matt Jones, general manager of Derry Cycle. “The attitudes have kind of changed, it’s not the bad appeal that it once was.”

In 2012, there were 28 fatalities statewide, double the number in 2011. The state had its first fatality this year in Manchester last weekend.

“The motorcycle season is only six months long,” N.H. State Police Sgt. Matt Shapiro said. “But it accounts for more than a quarter of our motor vehicle fatalities.”

Shapiro said the increase in deaths last year could partially be attributed to the weather. Unlike this year, March 2012 was unusually warm and bikers were out in force.

“That’s at a time when riders may be rusty from not riding all winter,” he said. “We also still have sand and debris in the roadways, and it’s not safe to drive.”

The numbers concern Peter Thomson, coordinator of the New Hampshire Highway Safety Agency.

“It’s very troubling,” he said. “A lot of these motorcycles are going speeds faster than 100 mph.”

The state isn’t likely to ever post speed limits at anything approaching that level, but the N.H. House did approve a 5 mph increase in the speed limit on a stretch of Interstate 93 between Concord and the Vermont border.

That bill still has to go through the Senate and, if approved there, across the desk of Gov. Maggie Hassan. In an editorial board meeting last week, Hassan did not appear inclined to OK the measure.

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