2015 was a disturbing year for traffic casualties, with the number of traffic deaths shooting up more than they ever have in the past 50 years nationwide. Oregon got hit the hardest, seeing a brutal 27% increase in overall traffic deaths since 2014. Of all fifty states, Oregon’s was the largest percent increase, and was over three times the national average. Several sources attribute this to a stronger economy and cheap gas, which put even more drivers on the road. It was such a shock to an otherwise downward trend that we did an in-depth analysis covering the topic. But what is often left out of the discussion is how motorcyclists are affected.

Despite a few states enjoying a more successful year, the country as a whole experienced more traffic deaths than ever in a long time. It was only natural then that along with a surge in traffic fatalities motorcycle fatalities would be included in those grizzly statistics. And, in fact, 2015 was the deadliest year for motorcyclists in decades as well.

Consider this: In 2014 there were 44 motorcycle crash fatalities in all of Oregon, but in 2015 the number jumped to 60. This is an astonishing 36% increase in just twelve months. What’s more? 2016 kept pace with 2015’s fateful path. Just seven months into 2016, there were 31 motorcycle fatalities, on par with the same period the year before.

Why are more motorcyclists dying?

Despite the increased awareness of the dangers of riding a motorcycle in Oregon, particularly on downtown roads, the number of motorcycle fatalities in and around Portland are not easing up. This flies in the face of everything the city is doing to protect everyone who uses roads, whether drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, or motorcyclists.

Although the city is doing more to prevent traffic deaths through improved road design and construction, and public education that are part of the Vision Zero initiative, motorcycle fatalities continue to climb despite the fact that fatality rates for other types of transportation have decreased nationally. This is likely due to a few key factors.

Few Safety Features: While technology is always advancing, there are limits on what can be done to a motorcycle to keep the driver safe. Safety gear like helmets, cycling boots, jackets, and gloves go a long way toward preventing or minimizing scrapes, cuts and broken bones, but they are no match for the safety of a car or truck’s cabin. You also won’t find a seatbelt or airbags anywhere on a motorcycle, which are top preventive devices in cars and trucks.

More Cycles on the Road: Did you know that nearly half of all motorcycle accidents don’t involve any other vehicles? That means that a sizeable chunk of these accidents occur between a motorcycle and a fixed object, or are the result of driver error or a defective vehicle. Today, there are simply a lot more motorcycles on the roads; an estimated 8.4 million as of 2014 compared to 6.2 million back in 2005.

Aging Baby Boomers: Fewer young people are buying motorcycles these days, but fewer baby boomers are giving them up! Older riders make up a growing portion of cyclists killed throughout the state. In 2004, 18% of riders killed were 55 and older, but in 2014 39% of riders are 55+. Patrick Hahn of the Team Oregon motorcycle training program at Oregon State University claims that is a noteworthy demographic shift.

“As these riders are getting older, their eyesight is different. Their physical condition is different. Their endurance is different.” These physical changes due to aging don’t allow riders to continue to ride in the same conditions as when they were young; yet many continue to ride well into their golden years or pick up the hobby after the kids have left the nest.

Shifting Blame: Finally, Hahn states that most motorcycle riders truly believe “in their hearts” that other drivers cause motorcycle fatalities and not the actions of cyclists themselves. Yet, for the past 20 years, the trend has shown that approximately 75% of fatalities are caused by the actions a motorcyclist takes while riding.

Due to the risky nature of riding a motorcycle, injuries from a motorcycle accident are often severe and life-threatening. If you or someone you know has been hurt while riding a motorcycle, you could benefit from the legal counsel of a Portland motorcycle accident attorney. RizkLaw fights for every cent deserved, and does not require any payment until a settlement is reached. Call (503) 245-5677 for a free legal consultation for your personal injury case.