Day after day, year after year we hear of motorcycle accidents be it through the local television news, by newspaper, or just on a local website. Most of them speak of a death of someone involved in a motorcycle accident. Typically it is the motorcycle rider. Most of the time the information given on the accident is very general. No real facts, mostly just speculation. Unfortunately most of the responses to these reports or articles are the same. “Motorcycle riders are idiots.”, “He was probably speeding.”, “Probably some drunk Harley rider.” and lastly my favorite “Probably some punk on one of those crotch-rockets.”. Being a rider myself, I hear this stuff almost daily during the summer. The kicker of it all is I hear a good portion of it from other motorcycle riders. Now I am not taking the i’m a motorcycle rider stance, that we are all innocent. No I am taking a third approach. I am not looking at the accidents from the motorcycle rider stand point, nor the typical anti-motorcycle ideal-isms. No I am taking an analytic point of view of it all. I am not going to look at who’s fault it was, I am going to take a preventative look at things.
Lets start with helmets. (Please keep in mind that the information supplied will be a couple years old due to the length of time it takes to collect all the data.) *NHTSA estimates that helmets saved the lives of 1,550 motorcyclists in 2010. *They also state that if all the motorcyclists had worn a helmet, another 706 lives would have been saved. *Helmets are 37% effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders, and 41% for motorcycle passengers. Now lets think about all of these motorcycle accidents that keep popping up on the TV news, or on the front page of the news paper. I would love to keep track of just the local motorcycle accident deaths and see how many of them were wearing helmets. I think you will be quite surprised with the results. Keep in mind, just wearing a motorcycle helmet alone is 37% more effective, and 41% for the passengers. Now I am not so naive as to say that Helmets always work. I know they don’t always work. If you wreck and get run over by a dump truck, or some large cargo vehicle, chances are you will die. But there are so many minor accidents involving motorcyclists where the rider’s head hit the pavement or hit the hood or windshield of a car, and it killed them. If they just would have been wearing a helmet, they could be still alive today. *In 2010, in the state of Ohio there were 157 total motorcycle riders kill. 74% of them, were not wearing a helmet. That is just shy of three quarters. For those of you who don’t feel like doing the math, that is 116 of 157 that were not wearing a helmet.
That was a small bit about facts, how about a real life example. My father, who is near his mid 50’s, has been riding motorcycles since his teenage years. He has built, fixed and/or ridden just about every brand out there. For the longest time my father rode a Harley. Not only can I still see in my head, but we have pictures of him in his riding boots, jeans, t-shirt, and shades, ready to hit the open road. I never thought twice about it then. As a child, he is my father. Just like any child, there father is invincible. So for years he road this way, and you are correct. He hardly ever wore a helmet. In fact the only time he typically had a helmet on was when he was in a state the had helmet laws requiring every motorcyclist to wear one. Thankfully, he managed to make it through all those motorcycling days unscathed. Now for a while, my father(and my mother, who rides also) took a hiatus from motorcycles. They sold their bikes and bought a camper, and a boat. They decided traveled to camp sites, went to Canada once or twice. They took some time and enjoyed other things in life. Eventually, the itch came back. It was not an itch for one more than the other. They both love to ride. So they decided to buy motorcycles again. My mother, stayed traditional for the most part and picked up a Triumph cruiser style of bike, my father on the other hand, he decided to go a different route. He went a little more exotic and picked up a Ducati Multistrada. I can still remember when they first bought them, mainly because I had to drive the car back following the two of them on their brand new motorcycles. It was kind of nice seeing them back on two wheels together again. But that excitement was somewhat short lived. Just about a month after purchasing his bike, my father was on his way home from work when the driver of a pick-up truck decided to try and make it across an intersection before my father got there. The driver of the truck came to the stop sign of the side road, and was in so much of a hurry to get across he decided to pull across in front of my father. Using all his knowledge he had learned over the years of riding, my father did everything he could to slow down. The problem was he could not drift into the other lane because this was at the top of a hill. So if he attempted to go around the truck in the other lane and a car came over that hill. Well, we don’t want to think about those results. So try as he may, my father was not able to slow down in time, and he and the bike hit the rear bumper of the truck. Sending the bike crashing to the ground, but my father over the bed of the truck, and straight down on his face and shoulder. He slid across the pavement 5 to 10 yards. I know this because I saw the marks on the pavement from his head. Well better yet, they were the marks from his helmet. When purchasing their new bikes my parents decided to invest in riding gear. Whether is was due to the fact they were getting older and more brittle or just becoming more wise in their ways. Whatever the reason, I am thankful. Without that helmet, most likely my father would not be here today. If he had managed to survive the accident without a helmet? Half of his face would be missing. Even the ambulance and fire crew were impressed by what the helmet(and jacket) had done in protecting my father. Impressed so much they wanted to keep the helmet and jacket for show and tell when speaking of what riding gear can due at seminars. It was at that moment that made up my mind when it comes to wearing a helmet. I have been able to see what a helmet can do for me, but most importantly I have seen what a helmet has allowed me to still have. My Father.
*Info collected from the U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “Traffic Safety Facts: 2010 Data”
~released July 2012 by the NHTSA’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis