According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, the number of motorcycle deaths nationwide last year dropped by 7 percent, to 4,610. All good, right? Not necessarily.
The primary reason behind the decline was cold, wet weather in 2013 that kept riders off the streets — a stark contrast to 2012, when the weather was warmer and drier. Leaving a matter of life and death to the precariousness of the weather is no different from leaving it to chance.
Long-term statistics on motorcycle fatalities are disappointing. Ridership has increased significantly since 1997, but the fatality rate has remained static, at roughly 5.5 per 10,000 registrations. By contrast, the fatality rate for passenger cars and trucks in the same time period fell by nearly 50 percent.
The single most important safety feature for a motorcyclist is a helmet. Yet too many riders resist wearing them and too many states — 31, including Ohio — don’t require them for all.
Ohio requires approved protective helmets with fastened chin straps only of riders who are under age 18 or have “novice” licenses, as well as their passengers. Lawmakers in Columbus would show uncharacteristic good sense by enacting a mandatory helmet law. Now that winter has finally thawed, that should be cause for celebration, not highway carnage.