The Wednesday deaths of two Maine men pushed the total number of motorcycle fatalities for the state so this year past the tally for all of 2016.
Twenty people have died on motorcycles in Maine so far this year — including nine in September. Eighteen people died in the entirety of 2016, according to the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety.
Edward Lingley, 33, of Hallowell, who was wearing a helmet, was killed instantly at around 8 a.m. Wednesday as he exited Interstate 95 in Augusta while traveling too fast, striking the back end of a tractor trailer at exit 109, investigators determined.
Later in the day, at about 3 p.m., Michael Bennett, 72, of Winterport was traveling east on Route 3 without a helmet when he crashed while trying to avoid colliding with a car that crossed into his path, police said.
Two bikers died earlier this month while riding in the annual United Bikers of Maine Toy Run.
The youngest person to die on a motorcycle this year was age 25 and the oldest was an 81-year-old moped rider. Two of the deaths were female passengers.
The deadliest year for motorcycle deaths in Maine was 1991, when 34 people died in crashes. But 2015, with 32 deaths, came close. That year, at least 17 were not wearing helmets, half were related to drivers running off the road, seven were head-ons and three involved a deer or moose.
According to state data, about half of motorcyclists who died on the road over the last five years were not wearing helmets.
After 2015, the state instituted a new law requiring those who want to drive motorcycles to take the Basic RiderCourse, a 15-hour course that combines classroom instruction with hands-on training.
“Our department stresses the need to ride sober, safe, aware and at a speed that is within your abilities. Many crashes occur because a rider is going too fast to control his or her motorcycle at that speed,” Kristen Muszynski, director of communications for the Department of the Secretary of State, said Thursday. “We also strongly encourage riders to wear a helmet and protective clothing when riding. Other motorists must also look out for motorcycles and stay alert.”
Meanwhile, the number of motorcycle registrations has increased over the last half decade, jumping from 56,050 in 2011 to a high of 59,116 in 2015, according to data from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. The 2016 figure shows 40 fewer registrations than the previous year.
The overall highway death toll for this year is 123, much higher than the 105 tally for the same time last year, according to Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety.