Motorcycles

More deaths, more accidents, more motorcycles. That deadly combination is becoming a story everywhere, and especially so on Long Island.

Just last week, a motorcyclist was killed in an accident in Yaphank, becoming yet another statistic in the rising toll of deaths and accidents blamed on motorcycling. High-powered bikes and poor skills are compounding the risks.

Recently, Suffolk deputies arrested a motorcyclist said to be speeding at 120 miles an hour on the LIE.

There are now 300,000 motorcycles in New York, with registrations rising by close to 90 percent in the last decade. Federal safety officials blame powerful street versions of racing bikes for much of the problem. They say "supersport" bikes are responsible for up to 25 percent of motorcycle fatalities.

Another deadly factor: men in their 40s and 50s are now returning to motorcycling in large numbers and with rusty driving skills.

The states latest figures--for 2007--show more than 5,000 motorcycle accidents, with nearly one in ten in Suffolk. At last count, the state recorded 19 motorcycle fatalities in Suffolk; ten in Nassau. In the first half of 2009, Suffolk has already recorded 11 motorcycle fatalities.

For many years, the state has encouraged riders to sharpen their skills through safety courses. Unfortunately, that program was poorly run, a recent audit revealing that the contract agency involved was wasting public funds and failing to meet its training goals. The state is now offering safety training through a new contractor.

Riders need such training. They also need to be better educated about the risks they're taking. Nancy and Russ Toell
Lindenhurst, NY

They already require motorcycle drivers to take classes to ride a bike. Most of the accidents do revolve around high-speed bikes, not Harley Davidsons. My husband rides a Harley for pleasure reasons, for charity events revolving around child abuse, for Toys for Tots. Most of the accidents are from drivers in automobiles not looking left or right, not seeing the bikes. They are on the cell phone talking or texting, not paying full attention. Bikers have even been hit at stoplights by drivers. Apparently, drivers need more education on preventing accidents. They need classes on proper driving etiquette. Stay far enough away from the bike and let them have enough space in case there is a need for them to stop, and so that you can see them. Realize that some highways such as the Southern State Parkway and Sunrise Highway have uneven foundations that cause unpreventable skids, and make it difficult for the biker's maneuvering and steering. To prevent casualties, everyone needs to make changes.