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Editorial: Motorcycle mayhem

With one biker dead from a Sunday crash and at least two others seriously injured in a spate of motorcycle mishaps in recent days, Rowan County appears to be part of a grim nationwide trend: Motorcycle accidents and fatalities have surged in recent years.
Nationwide, deaths from motorcycle accidents increased for the 11th straight year in 2008, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, accounting for 14 percent of all traffic fatalities. A total of 5,290 riders were killed in 2008, compared to 5,174 in 2007. That increase occurred while fatalities involving cars and other vehicles declined 13 percent.
To some degree, the increase in motorcycle mishaps tracks a trend toward more two-wheelers on the roads. Whether it’s being fueled by rising gasoline costs, the popularity of blindingly quick “supersport” bikes among younger riders or aging baby boomers climbing aboard their Harley and Honda cruisers, the number of registered motorcycle users has almost doubled in the past decade. As of 2007, more than 7 million bikers were registered.
However, the rate of accidents is rising faster than the ridership. In Rowan County, several fatal or serious accidents preceded this weekend’s crashes. In June, a 31-year-old Rockwell man died when his motorcycle collided with a delivery truck. In April, another Rockwell man, aged 41, was killed near Asheville when he apparently lost control of his bike on I-40 and crashed into a truck. In March, a 26-year-old Landis man died when his motorcycle collided with a car on Kimball Road. Earlier that month, a Charlotte motorcyclist suffered fatal injuries when he turned into oncoming traffic in Cabarrus County.
Along with fatalities, we’ve had a rash of non-fatal wrecks and high-speed police pursuits involving fleeing cyclists, including one Friday that ended in a crash.
As with car accidents, it’s difficult to generalize, but the Motorcycle Safety Foundation notes that in crashes involving cycles and cars, the four-wheel drivers are more likely to be at fault. As several comments on the Post’s Web site have noted, many motorists don’t seem to see motorcyles; they turn in front of them or pull out of intersections into their paths.
That’s not to say that motorcyclists are never at fault. Excessive speed was cited in some local crashes involving sport bikes. Officers have clocked speeding motorcycles at 130-plus mph on Rowan roads. That isn’t just illegal; it’s insane.Reducing fatalities will require greater effort on everyone’s part. Motorists need to be vigilant for two-wheelers, especially when making turns or pulling into roadways. Because of their smaller size, motorcycles can easily be blocked from view or hidden in a car’s blind spots. Motorcyclists, meanwhile, need to follow the rules of the road, avoid excessive speed and wear approved helmets and other protective gear. Inexperienced riders should sign up for one of the safety courses periodically offered by Rowan-Cabarrus Community College or motorcycle dealerships. Whether you’re piloting two wheels or four, obey the law, drive responsibly and watch out for the other person.

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