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2012 Wisconsin motorcycle fatality rate among the highest

State officials are analyzing data about this year's traffic deaths in Wisconsin. The number of fatal motorcycle accidents is of particular concern, because of a sharp spike in the 2012 death rate.

The state's highest number of deaths in motorcycle crashes since 1986 occurred in 2007 with 110 fatalities. There have already been 102 lives lost in motorcycle accidents in 2012. The possibility still exists that this could be the deadliest year for motorcycle deaths in more than two dozen years.

Wisconsin transportation officials know that more motorcyclists were on the road in 2012 previous years, partly because of extended periods of good-riding weather than in other years. Twenty-seven state motorcyclists died during the three months of spring. Twenty-one died in September.

State transportation officials noted that motorcycle fatality victims were older this year than in the past. Thirty was the average age of motorcycle victims killed in 1992. This year, the average age of motorcyclists who died was 48, some of whom may have returned to riding for pleasure or economic reasons after years of abandoning the practice.

More than one-third of the fatalities in 2012 involved speeding or the use of alcohol.

Around 70 percent of motorcyclists who died in accidents this year in Wisconsin weren't wearing helmets. While the fatality rate is high, it is an improvement over last year when more than nine of every 10 deaths involved riders without helmets.

Wisconsin had almost 304,000 registered motorcycles last year, over 128,000 more than were registered in 2000. The increase is still small compared to the overall vehicle registration count in the state, which exceeds 5 million.

Fatality statistics about motorcyclists are indicators, not all of which can be blamed on people who ride. Motorcyclists -- with less or more experience, with or without helmets and of every age -- are still at the mercy of car and truck drivers whose ignorance or carelessness cause unnecessary injuries and deaths.

Source: jsonline.com, "2012 a deadly year for Wisconsin motorcycle drivers," Rick Barrett, Oct. 8, 2012

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