Recent headlines tell the story of increased levels of motorcycle crash deaths in Maine this year — exceeding last year’s total deaths through the end of September, with 20 so far. Automobile crash deaths over the past two years have increased as well, after years of falling death levels across the country. These trends deserve our attention.
According to data compiled by the Maine Department of Public Safety and the Maine Department of Transportation, the motorcycle crash data is consistent with previous records; 83 percent of this year’s deaths are male with an average age of 51; 75 percent of motorcycle crashes involve another vehicle, and most (69 percent) occur during the day. Impairment of the driver, failure to maintain control, left-turning vehicles and speed all are factors in the motorcycle deaths.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data report that 54 percent of motorcycle crashes involve a secondary motor vehicle that is at fault, failing to observe the motorcyclist’s right-of-way.
In Hancock County, August, July and February are the months with the most crashes, suggesting that our summer visitors are not that much of a factor with overall crash incidents. Rush hour, going home, is the worst time of day for crashes. Failure to maintain control — going off the road — is the single largest incident of car crashes, followed by rear-enders and sideswipe crashes, and running into deer.
The MDOT data also reveal that of all Hancock County crashes so far this year (1,143 crashes), 71 percent have occurred with dry road conditions, while 66 percent of all crashes occurred during daylight operating hours.
The majority of all crashes involve human action or inaction.
Despite emerging technology and increased safety systems in our cars, fewer miles driven and infrastructure improvements, motor vehicle crash levels are starting to rise again after years of decline.
Maine State Police spokesman Steve McCausland sums up what he has seen in a year’s worth of crashes: “All drivers need to look out for each other and pay more attention.”