Motorcycle Deaths Down For First Time In 11 Years

Sign of the times

After 11 consecutive years of dramatically increasing motorcycle fatalities, U.S. biker deaths dropped by more than 10 percent in 2009. While it probably seems like some of the best motorcycle safety news in more than a decade, the surprising drop may not be all that much about safety.

According to the Governors’ Highway Safety Association, a couple likely reasons for the welcome decline include less motorcycles due to the economy and weather, and fewer new riders than we’ve seen in a long time buying motorcycles to join the pack. The association’s chairman says the group would like to see three to five years of declining deaths before claiming any kind of trend happening. The GHSA says more training and enforcement could do the trick, since more than half of motorcycle crashes don’t involve another vehicle.

This kind of improvement has happened before on a grand scale, it just didn’t last. From 1980 to 1997 motorcycle deaths dropped about 60 percent, but the consistently huge fatality increases after that more than wiped out those gains.

A GHSA report highlights a few things that could make this latest swing a positive trend. They include: increasing helmet use, reducing alcohol impairment, reducing speeding, increasing training for more riders.

Web Safety: Should We Fear Craigslist?

Craigslist safety boils down to common sense

The headlines are downright scary. “Craigslist Home Invasion Robbery Ends in Murder.” “Craigslist Laptop Seller Held at Gunpoint.” “Medical Student Charged as Craigslist Killer.” Somewhat less frightening but equally disturbing are the abundance of scams attributed to the classified site. One might think it is a depository of depravity, but of the nearly 50 million people who use Craigslist every month, the vast majority are trustworthy and legitimate. Unfortunately, the (very) bad eggs, as everywhere, taint the experience for everyone else, generating the scary headlines and bringing into question the safety of Craigslist. Likely the Little Nickel Want Ads attracted similar criminal activity back in its heyday.

Craigslist was originally founded in 1995 to provide online local classifieds for the city of San Francisco. It now serves over 450 cities worldwide with its focus on providing classifieds and forums for local communities — job hunting, housing, goods, services, and personal ads — all for free. It is the “go to” site for those who seek to buy or sell these goods and services. And as in all things public, exercising prudence is the best way to avoid the possibility of financial or physical harm. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The elderly are prime targets for Craigslist and other online scams

Craigslist Safety Tips for Buyers and Sellers:

Below are some common sense tips to aid you in preventing an unsafe transaction.

  • Avoid selling high-end items.
  • Never publish your address.
  • Don’t just confer over email; ask for a phone number. Set up an appointment personally.
  • Never allow anybody into your home; meet out in the front yard.
  • If you are selling a car and posting a photo, blur or cover the license plate number.
  • Meet in public; banks are best as security is heavy.
  • Tell a friend or family member where you are going; better yet, bring someone along with you.
  • Take your cell phone along.
  • It’s OK to say, “I would rather not go down to the basement with you.”
  • Listen to your gut. No great bargain is worth your safety.

Tips for Avoiding Craigslist Scams:

The best protection for avoiding Craigslist scammers is to recognize the warning signs. Keep it local. Most scams involve any of the following.

  • Inquiry from somebody in another country.
  • Transactions that require Western Union, cashier’s check, money order, shipping, or escrow service.
  • Refusal or too distant to meet face-to-face before making the transaction (again, keep it local).

Chances are excellent that using Craigslist will result in a very satisfactory experience, but taking precautions to protect your safety, identity, and financial security is plain old common sense. Pass along this information to your elderly loved ones, as they can often be the target of unscrupulous behavior. Don’t give those bad eggs any opportunity.

Why Do People Ignore Safety Warnings?

Motorcyclists grumble about wearing a helmet. Residents resist evacuating under an imminent threat of a hurricane. Employers circumvent safety regulations. Workers grouse about hard hats, safety meetings, and fire drills. Why in the world do people behave this way?

Safety requires planning, training, and effort

Human nature, mostly. Bombarded with “Breaking News” alerts, people tend to become desensitized to threats to safety and security — the “cry wolf” scenario. Employers focus on production and rebuff distractions that hinder it. Most commonly, there is a prevailing attitude that “It won’t happen to me.” Despite all those breaking news accounts of seemingly constant catastrophe, chances are it really won’t happen to you. Risk-takers generally survive. Dams typically don’t break. And earthquakes happen elsewhere. The assumption that this will always be the case is rewarded time and time again when nothing bad happens. Preparing to prevent injury or avoid calamity feels like a waste of time, money, and effort in the minutia of life when the probability of disaster seems vague or inconceivable.

Until it does happen.

That is when the issue of prevention becomes the rallying cry; in the heat of human emotion in the wake of a terrible event. “How could we/they have allowed this to happen?” “What can we/they do to make sure it never happens again?”

Even a near miss can mean a wakeup call. Talking on a cell phone while driving and suddenly veering into oncoming traffic will often get the blood pumping and the sweat flowing enough to make one hang up once and for all. A motorcycle crash on hard pavement will have the disgruntled helmet-wearer rethink his opposition to wearing one.

Humans expect a predictable, orderly world in which safety is a given. But safety doesn’t occur by simply expecting it to be there; it requires forethought, preparation, training, guidelines, and conscientious parents and employers. It also requires time, money, and effort.

Fighting human nature is a risk worth taking to keep our humanity safe. Because bad things really do happen.

Look Out! It’s Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

True vulnerability

Motorcycle awareness is critical this time of year, when the warming weather draws riders out onto roads they haven’t been seen on in months. That’s why May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness month.

Motorcycle organizations all over the U.S. are joining with local, state and federal agencies to remind motorists they need to be vigilant for the smallest automobiles on the road, which are harder to see and more vulnerable than a four-wheeled ride. The effort includes ads with lines like: “Bikers: Tough on the outside. Soft and squishy on the inside.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers several tips to keep motorcyclists safe.

  • Give motorcycles the full lane —never try to share
  • Check mirrors and blind spots at intersections and before changing lanes
  • Signal your intentions before changing lanes or merging
  • Don’t rely on mo­torcycle turn signals. Most don’t self-cancel and riders can forget
  • Give a motorcycle three or four sec­onds of following distance so it has room to maneuver in an emer­gency
  • Don’t tailgate. They can stop quicker than you
  • Don’t drive distracted

Unlike ever-improving car safety stats, motorcycle deaths have been on the upswing for several years now. Riding enthusiasts and government safety agencies are hoping riders and drivers will help reverse that trend.

Volcanic Ash Cloud Hazard Poses Delays, Cancellations

A British Airways flight lost power to four engines and made a narrow escape from disaster after flying into a volcanic ash cloud in 1982 over Indonesia.

Many airlines with flights bound in and out of European cities were faced with the threat of delays and even cancellations over the weekend due to a volcanic eruption in Iceland and the potential hazard posed to air traffic by the volcanic ash cloud, according to a post from  As much havoc as volcanic ash can potentially cause for air traffic, the potential dangers of volcanic ash for air traffic did not come to light in large part until 1982 when a British Airways flight encountered significant troubles after flying into an ash cloud.

British Airways Flight 9—bound for Perth, Australia from Kuala Lumpur—encountered difficulties resulting from the hazard when the Boeing 747 lost power to all four engines upon entering a volcanic ash cloud (unbeknownst to the crew at the time) from a volcanic eruption in Indonesia to the South-East of Jakarta.  Although there was no indication on any of the aircraft’s instruments on the flight deck of a fire, passengers and crew reported smoke in the cabin, flames emanating from the aircraft’s engines, and a light phenomenon known as St. Elmo’s Fire on the windows, wings, and over the entire body of the aircraft.  The aircraft suffered the loss of power to all four engines before gliding to an altitude below the ash cloud—at which the engines were successfully restarted in time for a successful emergency landing in Jakarta.

As a result of the incident, the airspace surrounding the volcano was permanently closed in the month following, and the risk of flying into a volcanic ash cloud is now regarded with far greater caution and awareness as a potential flight safety hazard.  Though it may be cause for great inconvenience in a case such as the recent Icelandic eruption, the dangers—now illustrated by damaged parts from British Airways Flight 9 on display at the Auckland Museum—are nothing to be ignored.