Motorcycle deaths remain steady as overall vehicle deaths drop

Posted May 22, 2012, at 8:46 p.m.

WASHINGTON — No progress was made last year in reducing motorcyclist deaths, even though overall motor vehicle fatalities dropped to their lowest level since 1949, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

One reason, the group said, may be that high gas prices are driving more people to ride motorcycles. But the group also sought to use the data to make the case for mandatory helmet laws, which are under attack in five states.

The group projects about 4,500 motorcycle fatalities for 2011, about the same as the year before.

Motorcycle deaths increased in 26 states for the first nine months of last year, rising 26 percent in South Carolina and 16 percent in Texas. They declined in 23 states — dropping 37 percent in Connecticut — while remaining unchanged in one state, Louisiana.

“States with fewer motorcyclist fatalities attributed the decrease to poor cycling weather, reduced motorcycle registrations and motorcycle travel, increased law enforcement, rider training, and motorcycle safety education,” according to a report released by the group Tuesday. “States with more fatalities cited good cycling weather, increased motorcycle registrations and travel, and a return to normal levels after an abnormally low fatality count in 2010.”

The report comes as seven states have repealed mandatory helmet laws since 1997, most recently Michigan, and legislation has been introduced in five other states to repeal their laws, according to the highway safety association.

British auction of blood vial said to be Reagan’s angers his foundation

VENTURA, Calif. — A British online auction house is offering a glass vial that it says held blood samples taken from President Ronald Reagan after his attempted assassination in 1981.

PFCAuctions.com says the tube, with its residue of what appears to be dried blood, is being sold by an owner whose mother worked for a laboratory connected with George Washington University Hospital at the time Reagan was shot by John W. Hinckley Jr.

Reagan was seriously wounded in the attempt. He died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease in 2004.

In Simi Valley, Calif., the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation issued a statement denouncing the sale and threatening legal action against the auction house.

The auction is supposed to close Thursday. Bidding is up to more than $11,000, according to the auction house’s website.

UN nuclear chief reports tentative deal with Iran

AMMAN, Jordan — The chief of the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency said Tuesday he expects to sign a deal with Iran opening the way for fuller investigation of Tehran’s disputed nuclear program, in a potential sign of hope for world powers’ efforts to curb the Iranian efforts.

Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told reporters in Vienna after returning from Iran that he expected an agreement to be signed “quite soon,” and that he considered the deal to be “an important development.”

Amano, a veteran Japanese diplomat, has pushed hard on Iran to provide better access to its sites and personnel, and recently has been demanding that the Iranians open access to military facility at Parchin. IAEA officials are concerned that the Iranians might be testing detonating devices suitable for use in nuclear weapons.

Amano’s statement comes one day before Iranian officials are to meet in Baghdad with six world powers to continue talks aimed at persuading Iran to place curbs on its nuclear program. Some diplomats say they have seen some signs that Iran, under crushing pressure from international economic sanctions, may be open to negotiating at least a preliminary deal.

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