As the winter driving season approaches, 2023 is shaping up to be the most dangerous year on New Hampshire's roads in at least a decade, with motorcyclists facing a record level of traffic deaths.
New Hampshire State Police report that 118 people have died in crashes on state roads through last Monday. That is one more than at the same point in 2022 and puts this year on track to be worse than the all-time high count of 134 in 2018. That year saw the highest number of road deaths on record stretching back to 2011.
The situation is particularly bad for motorcyclists. A total of 41 people have died in motorcycle crashes so far this year, which is far more than any total year on record. Last year, for example, saw the highest death count for bikers since at least 2011 but just 31 people died then.
Motorcycle riding declines sharply when winter arrives so it's possible that the rest of the year will be relatively safe for bikers. Even if so, 2023 will have at least 30% more motorcycle deaths than any recent year.
According to state police, more than three-quarters of this year's motorcycle deaths 32 of the 41 involved people who were not wearing a helmet.
It's possible that the fatalities partly reflect an increase in ridership, including by less experienced riders. Sales of motorcycles throughout the U.S. have risen sharply since the pandemic hit.
For non-motorcycle accidents, about one-quarter of the drivers and passengers who died were not wearing seat belts, according to police.
Another fact that stands out from police data is that older drivers are doing much worse than younger drivers. Through Oct. 30, 14 drivers over the age of 70 have died this year, compared to three drivers under age 21.
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