Traffic deaths on Nebraska roads at this point in 2021 are down compared with previous years, especially among motorcyclists.
“We hope this trend continues and we keep going in the right direction,” said Bill Kovarik, administrator for the Nebraska Department of Transportation’s Highway Safety Office. “We know that more motorcyclists were taking training classes and getting the motorcycle endorsements on their driver’s license.”
Nebraska had recorded 126 traffic fatalities as of Friday compared with 154 at the same time last year. So far, eight motorcyclists had died on Nebraska roads compared with 23 such deaths at the same time last year. The average number of such fatalities at this point during the years 2016-20 was 20.
Overall, the state recorded 233 traffic fatalities last year, including 34 motorcycle fatalities. The year-end average number of motorcycle fatalities during 2016-2020 was 26.
The Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles offers classes that help motorcyclists learn to drive defensively. Kovarik said they have been popular.
“We definitely know there was an increase in the numbers (of attendees),” he said. “I can tell you that I have talked with many of the instructors, and they’re telling me that many of their classes have been at capacity.”
The American Bikers Aimed Toward Education chapter of Nebraska offers a comprehensive course of motorcycle safety, said Randy Geer, an instructor with the organization. ABATE, founded in 1971, advocates for motorcycle rights and brings attention to issues affecting riders.
“We encourage every new rider to take a motorcycle safety course,” Geer said. “We feel it’s more important to prevent a crash than to work on making the crashes safer. We have our share of crashes (in Nebraska), and a lot of it is because of riders who don’t even have a motorcycle license and have never taken a safety course.”
ABATE and the Nebraska Department of Transportation have stepped up the “Share the Road“ campaign, which promotes driver awareness and increases understanding of how motorcycles behave in traffic, said Todd C. Miller, state coordinator of ABATE of Nebraska. Miller said that message —on road signs and on the internet — may be helping.
Miller said he doesn’t think anyone knows for sure why one year is worse or better than another for fatalities, noting that weather, road conditions and now the COVID-19 pandemic factor into the equation. “I will say in the first part of this year’s riding season, we saw a huge decrease in the number of folks on the road due to working from home and COVID relief.”
Miller also noted that motorcycle-riding season isn’t over, and in the last month he has noticed “a huge uptick in the number of vehicles on the road. ... I’m afraid this number will not be the final one.”
Geer encouraged anyone who wants to learn about motorcycle safety to check out the organization’s website and sign up for a course.
“We have a lot of good instructors,” he said. “There are a lot of schools and other places that we’d like to get into to talk about safety.”