A Proposal to Reduce Mortality and Morbidity
In Pennsylvania Motorcyclists
Currently in the United States there are two groups in the arena of motorcycle safety equipment. One group regards safety equipment as one’s individual rights and freedoms. That group has lobbied state governments since 1976 when congress struck down the national helmet requirement. Many members of that group hold to the “biker” image and fight mandatory safety standards. The other group is comprised mainly of healthcare professionals and researchers that have seen the results brought on by a lack of safety equipment.
That there is still any debate about the safety of helmets can be attributed to the federal government’s lack of focus and funding for motorcycle safety. It has been 25 years since the federal government made the last large study of motorcycle safety with the “Hurt Report” of 1981 1. Since then motorcycle usage has grown exponentially and so have fatalities. Funding for a new study is included in the 2006 Transportation Bill passed by congress.
Any program that seeks to lower the societal costs of motorcycle accidents must identify the causes of accidents and the injuries that occur. Some selected findings from the Hurt Report of 3600 motorcycle accidents occurring in the Los Angeles area 5:
1.Approximately ¾ of motorcycle accidents involved collision with another vehicle. 2.Vehicle failure accounted for less than 3% of the studied motorcycle accidents. 3.In single vehicle accidents, rider error was the precipitating factor in 2/3 of the cases. 4.Weather is not a factor in 98% of motorcycle accidents.
5.Most motorcycle accidents involve a short trip with the accident occurring very close to the trip origin. 6.The median pre-crash speed was 29.8 mph and the median incident speed was 21.5 mph. The one-in-a-thousand speed was 86 mph. 7.Riders with previous accidents and citations were overrepresented in the study. 8.92% of the riders in accidents were self-taught or learned from friends and family. 9.Almost half of the fatalities showed alcohol involvement.
10.Large displacement motorcycles are underrepresented in accidents, but are associated with higher severity of injury. 11.Riders in accidents were significantly without motorcycle license, without any license, or with suspended license. 12.96% of single vehicle accidents resulted in injury, 45% more than minor. 13.Voluntary helmet usage was lowest for untrained, uneducated, and young untrained riders. 14.60% of the motorcyclists were not wearing a helmet at the time of accident, 53% of those had no expectation of accident.
One has to look abroad to find reliable secondary data regarding motorcycle injuries and severity. One problem with non-US data is most foreign motorcycle licensing and registration laws are much different. Wladis et al examined 8927 Swedish motorcyclists admitted to the hospital for injuries resulting from motorcycle crashes between 1987 and 199415.
In Sweden helmets are mandatory (95% compliance), as are graduated licenses that limit the displacement of the motorcycle that a new rider can legally use on public roads. Wladis provides the best picture available for the injuries and their severity. 1.The median age of patients was 22
2.Fractures were the most common injuries with fractures of the leg (42.1%) showing the highest incidence. 3.Vertebral fractures (12.4%) were frequent with fractures of the lumbar and thoracic being the most common. 41.2% of vertebral fractures involved injuries to the spinal cord. 4.The most common cerebral injury was concussions (24%) followed by severe brain injuries (19.9%). 5.The mean hospital stay was 7.4 days and the median was 2 days 6.The median age of those who died was 30 years.
With the information in those two studies, we can compile a general profile of a motorcycle accident victim and the injuries most likely. Our rider/patient...
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