Motorcycle accidents are well-known as one of the leading causes of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the United States today. Together with auto accidents, they are the single largest cause of brain injury in the United States. One out of every five motorcycle accidents results in head or neck injuries, which account for most motorcycle fatalities.
And partly because drivers often don't see motorcyclists or yield them the right-of-way, motorcyclists are at higher risk of an accident than drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that, per mile traveled in 2003, a motorcyclist was 32 times more likely to die in an accident than a passenger in a car.
Motorcyclists, even those who wear helmets, are most likely to sustain non-penetrative injuries to the front of the head, damaging parts of the brain responsible for speech and higher functions. Those without helmets may also be susceptible to a penetrating brain injury, in which an object enters the head and skull, damaging the soft tissue of the brain itself.
Helmets Essential to Prevent Traumatic Brain Injury
Study after study shows that the best way to prevent a traumatic brain injury is to wear a helmet approved by the federal Department of Transportation. (Some also carry approval from the Snell Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to testing the effectiveness of commercial helmets.)
In January of 2006, only four states in the U.S. — Colorado, Illinois, New Hampshire and Iowa — had no law at all requiring motorcyclists to use helmets. Twenty-six others had limited helmet laws, usually ones that require helmets for riders who are under 18 or 21.But even in states without strict helmet laws, riders are still strongly advised that their chances of death or serious head injury are seriously reduced by wearing a helmet.
A rider's failure to equip passengers, particularly passengers who are under 21, with helmets may be considered negligent. And if the helmet is below state and federal standards, poorly fitted, old or has been through a previous accident, that helmet is not safe, may not be legal and will not prevent death, brain damage or another traumatic injury.
Other Brain Injury Risks for Motorcyclists
Even though proper equipment significantly cuts down a motorcyclist's chance of suffering a traumatic brain injury, it is not foolproof. Riders must stay aware of other factors that could lead to a motorcycle accident involving a traumatic brain injury. Motorcyclists are advised to check their bikes and equipment for problems before each ride; adjust the suspension and tire pressure of the motorcycle when carrying a passenger; wear boots, gloves and other protective gear; and adjust for changing road conditions.
The cost of an accident that causes traumatic brain injury can be severe. A traumatic brain injury causes brain damage that can range from a mild concussion to severe, life-changing disabilities such as trouble communicating, personality changes, schizophrenia or even a coma.
Because the brain cannot heal itself the way other organs do, these are often lifelong problems that cost tens of thousands of dollars to treat. They also place a severe emotional and financial burden on the injured person's family members. If you or someone you know is the victim of a motorcycle accident causing traumatic brain injury, it is essential to seek out an expert in accidents and TBI who can help reconstruct the accident and secure compensation.