May Injury Prevention: Motorcycle Safety

Motorcycle safety tips and statistics

Like flowers blooming in spring, so also is the prevalence of motorcycles and motorcyclists on our roads. The mistake many riders make is not taking the necessary time to reacquaint themselves with their motorcycles. Like most skills, motorcycle riding skills can get rusty when not in use.

The statistics are staggering. From 2006 - 2010, 401 motorcyclists were killed on Oklahoma state highways and streets. According to recent St. John statistics, the number of crashes involving motorcyclists coming to the St. John emergency department has tripled in the last three months.

While motorcycle deaths have ebbed and flowed over time, it is evident that there is still much work to be done to reduce further motorcycle-related injuries and deaths. Motorcyclists must drive defensively. Many times drivers of cars, SUVs and trucks don’t see motorcyclists. This is true for 75 percent of motorcycle collisions with another vehicle.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the causes of many motorcycle crashes can be attributed to the following:

• Lack of basic riding skills
• Failure to appreciate the inherent operating characteristics the motorcycle
• Failure to appreciate the limitations of the motorcycle
• Failure to use special precautions while riding
• Failure to use defensive driving techniques
• Lack of specific braking and cornering skills
• Failure to follow speed limit

Other motorcycle accident statistics:

• Almost half of fatal crashes involve alcohol. The majority of these crashes show considerable collision avoidance, including failure to brake, over braking, or lack of ability to counter steer.
• 70 percent of all fatalities occur on undivided highways. This could be a lack of proper training in cornering, inattention, or excessive speed.

Safety helmets

One of the key factors in safe motorcycle use is the use of a DOT-certified safety helmet. Statistics show that safety helmets are the most critical factor in preventing motorcyclist death in a crash. Furthermore, helmeted riders show less injury to the head, neck, and spine.

Oklahoma does not currently have a universal helmet law for motorcycle riders. The 20 states and the District of Columbia that have universal helmet use laws have proven that injuries are reduced, especially traumatic brain injuries, in motorcyclists.

The cry most often heard from those who oppose the law is that it is a freedom of choice issue. However, greater than 50 percent of riders without helmets have their medical costs covered by the public. If a devastating injury occurs, long-term rehabilitation, disability claims and on-going medical costs add to the burden.

While motorcycle riding offers an outlet for enjoyment, with this fun comes responsibility to protect yourself and your riders from injury. Helmets may not be glamorous, but they can be lifesaving. Please protect yourself and your riders and practice defensive motorcycle riding so that future seasons of riding can be enjoyed.

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