Kay Zetkin – April 22, 2005
Safety in riding motorcycles in order to prevent injuries is a very critical issue especially during the peak of motorcycle season. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons is very much concerned about this issue since there are almost always a lot of motorcycle accidents happening, at least one every few days. Most injuries noted from the people brought in the Level One Trauma Units range from serious musculoskeletal injuries, open fractures and head traumas from motorcycle accidents.
The increasing accidents are linked to the increased number of motorcycles on the road. Records show that since 1997, motorcycles sales increased by more than 90%. Last 2001, motorcycles represented only 2.2 percent of all registered vehicles in the United States and accounted for 0.34 percent of vehicle miles traveled. However, crashes involving motorcycles accounted for 7.6 percent of total traffic fatalities on America’s roadways. As recently reported by the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2002 there were 42,815 fatalities from motorcycle accidents. What’s alarming is this is the highest level of fatality report since 1990.
While some accidents cause injuries or lifetime paralysis, some result in fatalities. Thus, these incidents should be a constant reminder for motorcyclists to protect themselves.
According to Maureen Finnegan, MD, professor at the University of Texas and orthopedic surgeon at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, most motorcycle injuries involve the extremities and the spinal cord. Majority of fatalities are results of head injuries. Thus, she said that the most important tip for motorcycle safety is to wear a helmet. Wearing helmets are estimated to be 29 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries and 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries for motorcyclists. Another thing is the wearing of proper clothing in riding and of course, really learning how to ride a motorcycle and handle certain situations throughout the ride.
Here are other helpful tips in preventing motorcycle injuries:
- Get professionally trained in motorcycle riding. Research shows that more than 90 percent of all riders that were involved in crashes are just self-taught or taught by friends.
- Secure your license to drive. Nearly 27 percent or one out of four motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes in 2001 was not properly licensed.
- Do not drink and ride. Those most at risk in getting into accidents are inebriated motorcyclists.
- Use helmets that meet the DOT (Department of Transportation) standards.
- Wear protective clothing this includes goggles or sun shades for eye protection, jacket, full- fingered gloves, long pants and over-the-ankle boots.
- Make sure that your motorcycle clothing and gears are made of abrasion-resistant material, such as leather. Avoid loose, flailing clothing that could impair your vision.
- Wearing brightly colored garments may help other vehicles see/notice you.
- Proper maintenance and monitoring of your bike is of high importance. Observe proper lane positioning of your bike to further increase your visibility to drivers. Keeping a “space cushion” between your bike and other traffic should also be kept in mind.
- Avoid sharing a lane with a car since its driver may not expect you to be there or may not become aware of your presence. Most drivers look out for other bigger vehicles and they may fail to notice you instantly unless something has happened already.
Ride according to your skill level. Never overestimate yourself.