SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Motorcycle fatalities in California declined during the first six months of this year, reversing an 11-year trend, the state said Wednesday.
From January through June, 198 people were killed in motorcycle-related crashes, compared to 264 for the same period in 2008, according to preliminary figures supplied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
After seeing increases averaging 10 percent per year since the low point of 204 fatalities in 1998, this signals a decline of 25 percent, the state reported.
"We are very heartened by these numbers," said Christopher J. Murphy, director of the California Office of Traffic Safety, in a prepared statment. "If they continue, it means more motorcycle riders are getting home alive, which is what we have been working for."
While every other category of traffic fatality has seen declines since 2005, motorcycle deaths have continued to rise. Overall traffic fatalities dropped nearly 21 percent in the last three years in California. During that same period, motorcycle fatalities increased more than 19 percent.
Officials point to actions begun several years ago when the upward trend was noticed. Motorcycle safety has had a priority with state traffic and transportation agencies, as well as in the state's Strategic Highway Safety Plan. Programs encouraging the driving public to be more aware of motorcyclists on roadways and urging motorcycle operators to ride more safely have been given added emphasis in recent years, the state said.
"We have really been working at encouraging riders to get training through the California Motorcyclist Safety Training Program, no matter what their age or experience," California Highway Patrol Commissioner Joe Farrow said in a news release. "Our efforts are paying off as 2008 saw the most students trained in any year since the beginning of the CMSP. While I'm encouraged by the good news, I can't stress enough the importance of proper training, proper licensing, and alert driving to keep riders and motorists alive on our roadways."
Research undertaken to help stem the previously increasing rise in fatalities showed that 37 percent of riders killed were not properly licensed for motorcycles. Additionally, 70 percent of fatal crashes involving motorcycles were found to be the fault of the motorcycle operator.
This article originally appeared on KCRA.com.