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Sober bike week stats: Most accidents occur in the afternoon

New Hampshire Union Leader

June 10. 2013 2:20PM

CONCORD – State Police Col. Robert L. Quinn on Friday received an analysis of a decade of motorcycle crashes occurring during Laconia Motorcycle Week, the results of which startled him so much he hastily called a meeting of Lakes Region police chiefs and other officials to discuss it at state police headquarters.

None of the law enforcement officials was surprised Monday that the analysis, done by the Technology Transfer Center at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, showed the number of motorcycle crashes in New Hampshire increased each year during Bike Week. What was the eye-opener, however, was that most of the accidents happened between 2 and 5 p.m.

And the leading cause of the crashes – 50.6 percent — was operator error, not alcohol or drug impairment, which was 2.6 percent. Distracted driving accounted for another 11.3 percent of the accidents and 5 percent of them were because of speed.

"It is no longer enough to say don't drink and drive," Quinn said. "With this data, we know when people are crashing, in what areas, what times and why."

And, it gives law enforcement a real opportunity to try and prevent those crashes and keep people from dying on the state's roads.

Accordingly, state officials want motorists – including motorcyclists and those operating cars and trucks — to know that the most dangerous roads to travel during Bike Week are Routes 3, 25, 11, 104, 106 , Scenic Drive and Roller Coaster Road, both in Laconia, and Winona Road in Ashland and New Hampton.

Those particular roads are the ones motorcyclists take when they leave the state highways heading into Laconia and when they are heading back home.

Taking part in yesterday's meeting were law enforcement from state police troops D and E, and police chiefs from Tilton, Belmont, Loudon, Gilford, Laconia, Concord and Alton, along with Patrick Santoso and David Salzer, project managers of the UNH Technology Transfer Center, and Roberta L. Bourque, state police business systems analyst.

As part of a campaign to keep everyone safe, motorists will see highway message signs informing them to be alert to motorcycles; police pulling over speeders, and, in general, more state and local police patrolling highways and roads, not unlike Memorial or Labor Day weekend.

The number of officers in the Lakes Region balloons during Bike Week, when partying bikers converge on the area. In recent years, however, the number of arrests has dropped significantly with a more subdued crowd.

Laconia Police Chief Christopher Adams said 10 to 15 years ago police would make close to 200 arrests for alcohol or drug offenses on a Saturday night during Bike Week. Last year, officers made less than 100 the entire week, and a lot of them were unrelated to Bike Week, he said.

What continues to be a problem, however, are the motorcycle crashes, not surprising when up to 350,000 motorcyclists are expected to roar into the area this week.

Over the past three years, there were an average of 34 crashes on Wednesday, 26 on Thursday, 41 on Friday and 54 on Saturday during bike week. Quinn expects that pattern to continue this year.

From 2002 through 2011, there were 899 motorcycle crashes, 859 injuries and 28 fatalities during bike week, according to the UNH data analysis. Ten years ago, there were nearly 200 crashes in the month of June, but over the past three years that's dropped to about 160, according to the analysis.

During the month of June, Laconia has the highest number of motorcycle crashes in the state, based on three-year totals.

Quinn pointed out that the cost for all vehicle crashes in New Hampshire each year is close to $1 billion. Last year, there were 4,588 accidents in the state costing a total of $849,531,600 because of 106 deaths, 12,430 disabling injuries and property damage from 4,588 crashes, according to the National Safety Council.

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