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State

Illinois motorcycle fatalities climb 13 percent

SPRINGFIELD – Fatal motorcycle accidents are up 13 percent in Illinois, according to data from the Illinois Department of Transportation.

The State Journal-Register reported there were 131 motorcycle fatalities in 2010, a figure that rose to 148 in 2012.

Illinois State Police Lt. Col. Scott Abbott told the newspaper that it is hard to find a single reason for the increase, especially since overall motorcycle collisions appear to be declining.

But experts said the increase in fatalities comes as more people – some of whom many not have had proper training – are riding vehicles. In the past decade, there’s been a 57 percent increase in the number of registered motorcyclists in Illinois.

“Because of the increase in popularity, we believe there are more inexperienced riders than before,” Abbott said. “But as we look at the crash stats, there isn’t one main contributing cause that has changed over the years.”

Illinois is one of three states without a mandatory helmet law. State officials said that 110 of the 145 people who died in 2011 weren’t wearing helmets.

But some motorcycle advocates say helmets can make cyclists less aware of their surroundings and have worked to defeat mandatory helmet laws.

“Our position has always been freedom of choice,” said Bruce Liebe, president of the Lincoln Land chapter of A.B.A.T.E., a motorcycle rights group. “We don’t discourage any rider from wearing a helmet.”

The Governors Highway Safety Association says seven other states outpaced Illinois in fatalities during the first nine months of 2012.

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