EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 19, 2009

NH sees drop in motorcycle deaths

Weather, economy credited

Jo-Anne MacKenzie

Motorcycle fatalities are down dramatically this year, some 70 percent lower than for the same period in 2008.

Ten people have died in motorcycle accidents on New Hampshire roads this year, compared to 24 for the same time period last year. Overall highway deaths are down, too, some 30 percent lower than last year.

Peter Thomson, coordinator of the New Hampshire Highway Safety Agency, has a couple of theories as to why motorcyclists and motorists are faring better on state highways.

He credits poor weather and an even worse economy for making traveling safer in 2009.

"There are two things," he said. "One is the economy. I think people tend not to make those long drives, they stick closer to home. The rain keeps people from doing a whole lot of traveling as well."

Thomson also would like to give some credit to his agency's efforts to spread the word about motorcycle — and highway — safety.

"I cannot take credit, but we do a lot with highway safety," he said. "We try to get the message out and, hopefully, it helps. I think it has; I think it catches."

He also pointed to an increase in the number of sobriety checkpoints statewide, noting a recent one in Hampton netted 28 DWI arrests.

"Law enforcement in the state is really doing a super job," Thomson said of the sobriety checkpoints. "The fact they're out there doing it is what's really helping as well."

He said Laconia's Motorcycle Week in June often sets the stage for the motorcycle season. Historically, the state has seen an average of eight to 10 motorcycle fatalities during bike week.

But that didn't happen this year, Thomson said. Two people died in motorcycle accidents during bike week and one of those resulted from a deer-motorcycle collision.

A rainy start to summer kept attendance down and has kept motorcyclists off the road for long stretches of the summer, Thomson said.

More and more Granite State motorcyclists have taken the state's Motorcycle Rider Training program, he said, either through the Department of Motor Vehicles or through private programs that follow DMV's rules and regulations.

And it's not just new riders who are signing up for the classes. A lot of older riders have taken the class to refresh rusty skills or to learn how to safely handle newer bikes, he said.

While helmets are required for students in the motorcycle classes, New Hampshire remains one of four states without a helmet law. Most of the people killed in motorcycle accidents were not wearing helmets. Six of the 10 people killed this year were not wearing helmets.

Thomson said he doesn't ride a motorcycle, but if he did, he would wear a helmet, gloves, boots and leathers.

"There are others, including good friends of mine, who have different positions on it," he said. "That's fine, but I would not get on a motorcycle without a helmet.


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N.H. Motorcycle Fatalities

YearDeathsVictims who were not wearing a helmet







*Plus one case were it's unknown

Source: New Hampshire Highway Safety Agency