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Motorcycle fatalities drop sharply

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(HealthDay News) -  Deaths among motorcycle riders in the United States dropped by at least 10 percent in 2009, the first decrease in 12 years, according to a new report by the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Using data from 50 states and the District of Columbia, the report projected 4,762 motorcyclist deaths in 2009, compared with 5,290 deaths in 2008. Previously, there had been 11 straight years of dramatic increases in motorcycle rider fatalities, according to the report, released April 22.

Possible reasons for the lower death toll included less motorcycle travel because of a shaky economy, poor motorcycling weather in some areas of the country, fewer beginner riders and increased state attention to motorcycle safety programs.

"Clearly the economy played a large role in motorcycle deaths declining in 2009," the association's chairman, Vernon Betkey, said in a news release from the group. "Less disposable income translates into fewer leisure riders, and we suspect that the trend of inexperienced baby boomers buying bikes may have subsided."

Betkey also noted that many states have boosted enforcement to ensure that motorcyclists obey helmet laws and are properly licensed and insured. In addition, state and federal authorities have stepped up efforts to combat drunken riding.

Though last year's decline is promising, the association says, it's only one year, and much more work is required to achieve a steady decrease in motorcyclist deaths.

"We will need to see three to five years of decline before we are ready to say that a positive trend has developed," Betkey said.

More information

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers motorcycle safety tips.

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