Motorcycle deaths rising in Pennsylvania, nation

Motorcycle deaths rose during the first nine months of 2012. (Courtesy of the Governors Highway Safety Association)

Deaths from motorcycle crashes are rising in Pennsylvania and across the country, according to a new report.

The report released today by the Governors Highway Safety Association says 184 people in Pennsylvania died in motorcycle crashes during the first nine months of 2012, a 7.6-percent increase from the 171 who died during the same time period in 2011.

Nationwide, 3,922 motorcyclists were killed in that period, up from 3,760 in 2011. In total, 34 states saw increases in motorcycle deaths, 16 states -- including New Jersey -- saw declines and Washington, D.C.'s tally remained the same.

The association says warm weather and the economy were factors in the uptick.

Pennsylvania noted "unseasonably warm weather in March in April" as a reason behind its increase, the report says.

The report also noted that the improving economy last year may have spurred more people spend disposable income on motorcycles. And persistently high gas prices may have led more people to use fuel-efficient vehicles like motorcycles.

Officials say they're concerned by the uptick.

"All of the trends with motorcyclist deaths are really going in the wrong direction," association chairman Kendell Poole said in a statement. "This report is an urgent reminder that we must do more to address a problem that will only get worse with increased ridership."

After last year's unseasonably warm spring, motorcycle fatalities rose especially sharply during the first six months of 2012. Deaths in Pennsylvania were up 38 percent from 2011 during that time; fatalities nationwide were up 11.3 percent.

In New Jersey, 65 motorcyclists died in the first nine months of 2012, down from 79 the previous year -- a 17.7-percent decline.

New Jersey law requires all motorcyclists to wear helments. Pennsylvania's statute only requires helmets for riders who are younger than 21 years old or have been licensed for less than two years, and have not completed an approved safety course.

Contact Emily Babay at 215-854-2153 or Follow @emilybabay on Twitter.

Contact the Breaking News Desk at 215-854-2443; Follow @phillynews on Twitter.

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