SOUTH CAROLINA — A recent study released by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association lists the Palmetto state as one of the most dangerous in the nation when it comes to riding a motorcycle.
According to the report, S.C. was placed fifth in the list, coming in behind North Carolina, Texas and California respectively.
Florida was ranked number one — the deadliest state to ride a motorcycle.
Nationwide, the news was fairly alarming as well. A total of 31 states — including S.C. — saw an increase in motorcycle related deaths with contributing factors in fatal crashes ranging from everything from weather to road conditions, to traffic patterns and required helmet laws.
Coming in behind S.C. to round out the top 10 was Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Illinois and Michigan.
The report concludes the number of motorcycle fatalities is high relative to the mid-1990s when half as many motorcyclist deaths occurred on U.S. roads.
By contrast, the annual number of overall traffic fatalities declined by more than 20 percent over the same 20-year period, the study states.
“Motorcycling is a risky form of transportation, especially when combined with factors such as lack of helmet use, speeding, alcohol,and invalid licensure,” the report reads. “Motorcycles are less stable than four-wheeled vehicles, and — unlike passenger vehicles — provide no protection when riders are in crashes.”
Motorcyclists are susceptible to serious injury in collisions with larger motor vehicles, which are prone to violate motorcyclists’ right of way because of the smaller visual target they present, it reads.
Although the GHSA asserts that wearing a helmet on a motorcycle decreases the risk of dying in a crash by 37 percent, only 19 states require all riders to wear them.
And no, S.C. is not one of them.
Here in the Palmetto state, helmet laws only cover riders who are under 21-years-old, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute.
“In the past, many more states had universal helmet laws, thanks to pressure from the federal government,” stated an IIHS spokesperson. “In 1967, states were required to enact helmet use laws in order to qualify for certain federal safety programs and highway construction funds. The federal incentive worked. By the early 1970s, almost all the states had universal motorcycle helmet laws.”
But it wasn’t to last.
In 1976, states successfully lobbied Congress to stop the Department of Transportation from assessing financial penalties on states without helmet laws. As a result, state after state repealed or lessened their requirements.
In 2015, 4,693 people across the country lost their lives in a motorcycle crash. Applying the GHSA’s estimate of helmets saving 37 percent of crash victims — 1,736 of those people could have potentially lived to ride another day.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.