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Riders gear up for the 13th Annual Motorcycle Safety Awareness Ride in 2011 in Muncie, Ind. / Kurt Hostetler, The Star Press via AP

For just the second time since 1997, motorcyclist deaths are believed to have decreased in 2013, according to a new analysis of preliminary state data by the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Motorcyclist fatalities dropped 7% for the first nine months of 2013 compared with the same period in 2012, according to the group's projection, which is based on preliminary data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Based on similar analyses he's done since 2009, James Hedlund, a former senior official with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, projects that the final motorcycle fatality total for 2013 will be 4,610, about 7% less than the 4,957 recorded in 2012. Biker deaths dropped in 35 states and the District of Columbia, rose in 13 states and remained the same in two.

Still, the report says, motorcyclist safety is not really improving. The projected total for 2013 is about the same as the 4,612 motorcyclist deaths reported in 2011. Currently, only 19 states and Washington, D.C., have universal helmet laws, which require a helmet for every motorcyclist. Federal transportation safety officials say that in 2012, there were 10 times as many deaths of bikers who were not wearing a helmet in states without universal helmet laws as there were in states with universal helmet laws.

According to Hedlund's analysis, weather was the main factor contributing to last year's drop. The first six months of 2012 were unusually warm and dry across the USA while the first half of 2013 was cooler and wetter.



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Safety group: Motorcycle deaths dropped in 2013

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