Motorcycle-related deaths continue to climb

While the number of people who died on the nation's roads fell last year, leading to the lowest highway fatality rate ever recorded and the largest drop in total deaths in 15 years, deaths relating to motorcycles rose for a ninth year.

In a recently released report, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says 42,642 people died in traffic crashes in 2006, a 2 percent decline compared to 2005. However while fatalities of occupants of passenger vehicles — cars, SUVs, vans and pickups — continued a steady decline to 30,521, the lowest annual total since 1993, motorcycle deaths bucked that trend by rising 5.1 percent from 2005 to 2006.

In fact, motorcycle rider fatalities now account for 11 percent of total fatalities, exceeding the number of pedestrian fatalities for the first time since NHTSA began collecting fatal motor vehicle crash data in 1975.

Responding to the NHTSA report, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters — herself a motorcyclist once involved in an injury crash — stresses the importance of being prepared for the ride.

"Proper training, clothing, gear and, above all, helmet use are essential to reversing this deadly trend," she says.