Maine’s motorcycling community did not have a good year in 2015.
Thirty-two people died in motorcycle crashes last year, the most in a single year since 1991. Just 11 people died in motorcycle crashes through all of 2014. From 2005 through 2012, annual deaths ranged from 15 to 24 per year.
There is some disagreement about why the number of fatalities has spiked. Some safety officials say that there’s no one thing that is behind the sharp increase, but Steve McCausland of the Maine Department of Public Safety believes that the unseasonably good weather, which led to a longer riding season, is to blame. Of the 32 deaths, 10 were between September and December.
But John Kohler, the Motorcycle Safety Coordinator for the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles, says that the biggest factors in motorcycle deaths include alcohol impairment, a lack of training, excessive speed, and victims not wearing helmets. In many cases, McCausland said, a combination of those factors; he told the Portland Press Herald in a Jan. 1 story that 75 percent of the fatalities in 2015 involved excessive speed and that 75 percent of the victims were not wearing helmets.
All told, there were 155 highway deaths in Maine, according to preliminary figures. That’s an increase from 131 in 2014, the safest year on Maine roads since World War II, McCausland said.
It isn’t just the long season, though. Through Labor Day 2015, 21 people had died in motorcycle crashes, and through the summer officials had been concerned about the high number of fatalities.
According to the Press Herald, 20 of the 32 fatalities in 2015 were between the ages of 40 and 71 and one was a teenager.