County is tops in state for motorcycle deaths

More motorcyclists died in El Paso County than anywhere else in the state.

Fifteen people died in motorcycle crashes in the county last year, while overall the state’s fatalities reached a record high of 98 during 2008, up from 90 during 2007.

Statewide, motorcycle deaths represented 18 percent of the 548 traffic deaths in 2008, despite representing only 3 percent of registered vehicles.

The largest factor in motorcycle crashes is lack of training, transportation officials said. Drivers were found to be at fault in 80 percent of fatal crashes, and 39 percent of the riders killed did not have a motorcycle endorsement on their license – or had no license at all.

“To be a legal motorcycle rider in Colorado, you must have the proper endorsement on your driver’s license,” said Col. James Wolfinbarger, chief of the Colorado State Patrol. “But even with an endorsement, make sure you take a training class to build your riding skills, no matter what your age, or how long you’ve been riding.”

Nearly 7 out of 10 riders killed in Colorado were not wearing a helmet, or were wearing it incorrectly.

Drinking and driving is another factor in fatal crashes – and is a bigger problem in the Springs than in other parts of the state.

“In Colorado Springs, 40 percent of the motorcycle fatalities involved an impaired rider,” said Chief Richard Myers of the Colorado Springs police department.

Those statistics mirror the national problem, according to information from the federal Department of Transportation.

“Motorcycle rider fatalities continued their nine-year increase and exceeding the number of pedestrian fatalities for the first time since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began collecting fatal motor vehicle crash data in 1975.

Most people involved in fatal motorcycle crashes were white, male and drunk, the figures show. On the weekends, 62 percent of all fatal motorcycle crashes had blood alcohol content levels of .08 or higher. Nationally, 45 percent did not wear helmets.