Motorcycle accidents are some of the most serious types of accidents that our attorneys see on a daily basis, primarily because of the nature of the act of riding a motorcycle. Because motorcyclists are not physically protected in the same way that drivers of passenger vehicles are, riders are especially vulnerable and susceptible to being seriously injured or killed in a collision.
It’s pretty simple when you think about it; since motorcycles don’t provide an enclosed physical environment like passenger vehicles do – complete with airbags, anti-lock brakes, and seatbelts – motorcycle riders and their passengers are at serious risk in the event of a crash. That risk is compounded when you consider the fact that it doesn’t take much of an impact to cause a motorcyclist to lose control of his or her bike.
But which body parts are specifically at risk of being seriously injured? How can motorcyclists prioritize which safety gear is especially important to wear while they’re on the road? Thankfully, scientific studies on this topic can help shed some light on the trends of injuries to motorcyclists.
Injury Rates Among Motorcyclists
The CDC studied the injury rates and other related data regarding more than a million people who were treated in emergency rooms throughout the United States between 2001 and 2008 for nonfatal motorcycle accidents. The injuries were tracked based on their location on the body and the severity of the injuries themselves. Among the interesting results:
- Approximately 30 percent of all non-fatal motorcycle accident injuries occurred in riders’ lower extremities, mostly including the legs and feet.
- Nearly 22 percent of injuries occurred to the head and neck region, making these the second-most common type of motorcycle injuries.
- Motorcycle accident victims who were wearing a helmet at the time of a collision had a higher number of minor injuries and a lower number of severe injuries.
Because of the nature of motorcycle accidents, it’s a bit surprising to see the statistical prevalence of lower extremity injuries in these types of crashes. However, it also does make sense that they would be so common given that riders typically focus on using protective gear for their heads and upper body, which leaves the lower extremities more exposed to injury. While the good news is that lower extremity injuries are much less likely to be fatal, they can also have long-term implications and require a significant amount of future medical treatment and care.
Neck and Head Injuries
Trauma to the head and neck region, unsurprisingly, is more likely to cause life-threatening injuries – such as an open head wound, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and others – or result in a fatality. According to the NHTSA, the best way to minimize the severity of head and neck injuries is to wear a quality, full-face helmet that is less than five years old. The reason for this is that the glue commonly used to keep parts of motorcycle helmets together can deteriorate beyond five years.
Upper Torso Injuries
Motorcycle jackets are specifically designed with special padding and other forms of support in an effort to prevent or reduce the harm done by trauma to the upper body. There are also additional forms of support that can be attached to most motorcycle jackets to increase the level of padding.
Arm, Hand & Finger Injuries
Unfortunately, it’s a common reflex for motorcyclists to extend their arms and hands when bracing for a fall after a collision. This rarely ends well for a motorcyclist, as the likelihood that this action will actually prevent any damage is very small. Common arm injuries include broken radius or ulna bones (the long bones in the forearm), and there are also dozens of small bones in the hand that can be easily broken in a collision.
Today, there are a number of advanced types of hand and arm protection that can make a big difference in the extent of injuries from a motorcycle accident. Palm sliders, for one, prevent the motorcyclist from “gripping” the road during a fall. This alleviates the amount of pressure on the arms by allowing the body to slide against the pavement, reducing the chances of serious injury. Heavy duty gloves can also improve the protection around the hands and fingers, reducing the likelihood of a serious injury.
Why Insurance Matters
The reality is that riding a motorcycle is an inherently dangerous activity and there is only so much that can be done to totally prevent a rider from being injured in the event of an accident. The lack of physical protection and vulnerability to collisions are just a couple of reasons that motorcyclists are 30 times more likely to be killed in a crash than drivers of regular passenger vehicles.
That being said, wearing adequate safety gear and a newer full-face helmet can greatly improve a motorcyclist’s chances of surviving a serious crash. Proper protection can also drastically reduce the severity of a rider’s injuries from a collision.
Ultimately, however, the statistics show that collisions do happen and that riders have a high likelihood of suffering significant injuries when they do. Sadly, many drivers in the United States purchase minimum required liability insurance policies, which is usually around $25,000. And since insurance is not legally required for motorcyclists, an injured victim could be left with hardly any coverage to pay for their injuries. That’s why it is often extremely beneficial – and typically not very expensive – for motorcyclists to purchase Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) coverage on their own insurance policies.