NBC News with Brian Williams
By Kevin Tibbles Correspondent
NBC News
updated 5/10/2005 7:15:39 PM ET 2005-05-10T23:15:39

For thrill seekers, motorcycles have always been an adrenaline rush. But today's fastest-growing craze — ultra-powerful, super-fast sport bikes — have made motorcycling more thrilling and more dangerous.

"It's like riding a roller coaster," says one rider.

"The speeds are unbelievable," says a law enforcement officer.

They push 200 miles per hour.

Dean Campa turned Los Angeles streets into a speedway on his sport bike. He was caught and jailed for two years.

"It's an addiction, that you got to learn to turn on and turn off," says Campa.

Others aren't so lucky. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says fatalities have accelerated 71 percent from 2,294 in 1998 to 3,927 in 2004.

But it's not just the young and fearless who are dying. More and more older riders are buying these heavy, powerful cruising machines and hitting the highway — even though many are inexperienced riders. In just 10 years the age of the average motorcyclist has risen from 27 to 41. And of the increasing number of fatalities, 60 percent are over the age of 40.

Margit Showalter's son, Michael, was 41 when he was killed on his bike.

"Just because he can have a Harley and doesn't get the proper safety instructions, he needs to realize that he's endangering himself and his family," says Showalter.

Chicago's "Number One Stunna's" club is more than 200 strong and has not lost a single member. The club says safety comes first.

"It's real easy to get caught up in the speed thing and trying to get a name for yourself out here in the street and wanting to test your limits," says president Reese Golladay. "But you can easily end up in what they call a 'panic mode.'"

But for many on two wheels, that cocktail of speed, power and youth still proves too attractive — despite the risk.

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