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Spike in motorcycle deaths reveals common themes

As of Sept. 15, 28 people have died in a motorcycle-related crash, marking 2022 as the highest in the past five years.

MAINE, Maine — Twenty-eight people have died from a motorcycle crash this year, marking the highest number recorded for the past five years in Maine.

Just this morning, Sept. 15, one more rider was fatally injured in a crash in Gorham.

In 2021, the total number of motorcycle-related deaths was 22. 

John Kohler is the Motorcycle Safety Program coordinator for the state of Maine. Kohler told NEWS CENTER Maine there are four main causes of motorcycle deaths related to the increase in fatal crashes:

  • Lack of training. Only seven of the 27 people who have died this year took a motorcycle safety course.
  • Speed. More than 60 percent of the deaths this year involved high speed.
  • Use of alcohol.
  • Not wearing a helmet/ Head injuries are the most common cause, and 68 percent of the motorcyclists who died were not wearing a helmet this year so far.

Kohler said a helmet saved his own life when he was in a crash several years back.

"It doesn't matter who is at fault. It's what kind of gear you have on to protect yourself. Motorcyclists are very vulnerable. We don't have bumpers and fenders and roofs and windshields to protect us," he said. "You are out there, and the motorcycles always come out on the shorter end of the stick in these crashes."

He adds there is a basic mandatory rider course that everyone is required to take before they can legally ride a motorcycle in Maine, but he adds there are people riding illegally, which is causing many of the crashes.

"For those that got away from motorcycling, years later they get back into it, the motorcycling technology has changes, and there is a lack of training," he said. "We have an advanced rider course and an intermediate kind of rider course available in the state for the nine different schools and the 13 different locations. These courses are readily available for you to get back, hone your skills, and get some more practice."

"When I ride, I'm constantly playing the, 'What if?' game. 'What if this happens?' 'What if this car pulls out in front of me?' 'What if I am injured?' 'What if I am killed? What happens to my family?'" Kohler went on to say.

Kohler said one of the trends he is noticing is that people are getting more complacent.

"It's like, 'You know, I can go a little faster. I've been riding a little longer now.' And so you get a little bit more complacent with things. 'You know, it's OK to have one beer. I can have one beer or two beers. Nothing happened to me in the past, so I think I am ok,'" Kohler said. "So a level of complacency and peer pressure kicks in to lead you to the moment where you've had a little too much to drink, you are going a little too fast, and now something unexpected happens. And it's usually this interaction of factors coming at a point in time and place where the rubber meets the road, and you are past the point where there is no return and you are going to crash, and the only thing you have going on for you is what you have on."

Kohler says most of the people who have died this year were not wearing a helmet and/or were using their phones while riding.

He said a good idea is to wear a reflective vest while driving so that others can see you.

Kohler says to help combat the problem and find potential solutions to the rise in deaths, the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety has put up a new motorcycle safety task force to investigate the cause of the rise in motorcycle crashes in Maine and try to find solutions to avoid more deaths.

"People think it won't happen to me, and then when it happens it's too late," Kohler said.

   

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