Motorcycle fatals up dramatically this year

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A record 30 motorcyclists have died on Nevada roads so far this year, and officials say they see little chance the carnage will stop.

The number of motorcycle fatalities has increased every year - in part because of the growing popularity of big bikes among guys in their 40s and the growing interest by women riders.

Nevada officials were concerned when cycle fatals reached 25 last year. But the total is now 30 following a series of wrecks in Washoe and Clark counties - and there is still a third of the calendar year remaining.

According to Mike Perondi of the Nevada Office of Traffic Safety, they are among 248 fatalities on Nevada roads thus far in 2004. That means 11.6 percent of all roadway fatalities in Nevada are motorcycle accidents, compared with just 8.3 percent nationally.

Those numbers may rise with the annual motorcycle rally, Street Vibrations, which will draw thousands of bikers to western Nevada Sept. 22-26.

Richard Tapia, owner of Carson City's Harley Davidson dealership, said there will be more accidents during Street Vibrations.

"We're going to have many, many motorcycles on the road," Tapia said. "And a lot of them are weekend warriors who, out of 67 days, maybe they'll ride two days."

The number of motorcycle fatalities has risen nationally five years straight as the popularity of bikes has increased. The total number of registered motorcycles has increased about 19 percent in the past decade.

Traffic Safety Administrator Chuck Abbott said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates a motorcyclist is 26 times more likely to die in a crash than someone in a car.

And he said the statistics also show an increasing percentage of those fatal crashes involve older riders. Deaths among those 45-54 years old are on the rise, while those involving riders 16-44 have decreased.

Tapia said the age of his customers has shifted toward more older buyers.

"There are a lot of people in our age group who rode cycles as kids, then started raising families," he said. "Now they're getting back into the sport."

He said they can become good and safe riders again, but they have to take it carefully because, at that age, they have more chance of getting into an accident while getting their riding skills back.

Of the fatal accidents this year, nine - or 30 percent - have occurred in Western Nevada, significantly more than the 20 percent of the state's population which lives in this area.

Douglas and Lyon counties have each reported two fatalities so far this year while Storey County and Carson City have had one motorcycle fatality a piece. Washoe County has had three - two in the past 45 days.

Of those, four were single-vehicle accidents and at least five riders were over age 40. Ages were not available in all cases. None was under 30.

Contact Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.


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