Report: Motorcyclist fatalities more common in Connecticut

Each year when motorcycles come out of hibernation, the calls can be heard on police scanners: motorcyclist down, road closed, Life Star en route.

This year has been no exception: from May 4 to May 12 alone, three motorcyclists died in crashes across the state, including one man from Norwich.

Police said 24-year-old Rayshawn Cooper was driving north on state Route 169 in Lisbon when he failed to negotiate a left-hand curve May 4. Thrown from his motorcycle, Cooper was pronounced dead on scene.

Locally, crashes on Interstate 95 and state Routes 12 and 156 also have sent people to the hospital this month.

On Saturday afternoon a Glastonbury motorcyclist was flown by Life Star helicopter to Hartford Hospital after a head-on crash with an SUV on Route 156 in Old Lyme.

A new report, released this month by the Governors Highway Safety Association, found the country saw almost 300 fewer motorcyclist fatalities in 2017 than 2016 — a 5.6 percent drop. Motorcyclists last year made up about 14 percent of all traffic deaths.

But in Connecticut, the report states, motorcyclists made up 17.7 percent of all traffic deaths. And the drop in motorcyclist fatalities from 2016 to 2017 was just 2 percent.

“Motorcycle fatalities are a significant issue here in Connecticut, even more so than in most other states,” said Amy Parmenter, spokeswoman for AAA in Greater Hartford.

In a news release, Parmenter highlighted issues that contribute to the relatively high rate of motorcyclist fatalities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for example, estimates about 25 percent of motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes are alcohol-impaired. And in states that don’t require helmets for all riders — Connecticut is among them — just 48 percent of motorcyclists use one.

Parmenter pointed out that, per mile driven, motorcyclists have a fatality rate 28 times higher than those in passenger vehicles.

“There is no law in Connecticut requiring adult riders to wear a helmet, but that statistic alone should be enough to encourage them to do so,” she said.

Interestingly, there were more motorcycle-related fatalities in 2016 than in 1994, even as there were fewer overall traffic fatalities. Research suggests warmer weather and a steady economy have led more motorcyclists to hit the road, while better air bags and increased seat belt use have made passenger vehicle crashes less fatal.

Other trends:

  • Age: Until recently, younger motorcyclists were more likely than other age groups to die in crashes. Now riders over the age of 40 have that distinction.
  • Sex: In 2014, 14 percent of motorcycle owners were women. That’s compared to 6 percent in 1990. Accordingly, the number of women involved in fatal crashes has increased of late.
  • Crash type: Compared to other types of vehicles, motorcycles are more likely to be involved in collisions with fixed objects. They’re also more likely to be involved in single-vehicle wrecks.
  • Speed: In 2016, 33 percent of motorcyclists involved in fatal wrecks were speeding, while 19 percent of passenger vehicle drivers were doing the same.

l.boyle@theday.com

By the numbers

By the numbers: Fatal crashes in Connecticut


  • 2013: 265 fatal crashes, 54 involving motorcycles

  • 2014: 244 fatal crashes, 48 involving motorcycles

  • 2015: 263 fatal crashes, 51 involving motorcycles

  • 2016: 310 fatal crashes, 48 involving motorcycles

  • 2017: 280 fatal crashes, 54 involving motorcycles

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