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Paramedic’s Corner: Important methods to prevent motorcycle crashes
Paramedic’s Corner: Important methods to prevent motorcycle crashes

Ambulance Director Gary Carmack
The first motorcycle crash I worked was when I was a young paramedic in the 1970s. While riding on Highway 28, the motorcyclist hit the back of a car, flew over the top and landed in front of the car. Sadly, though he was wearing a helmet, the trauma was more than he could survive and he was killed instantly.

Since that day long ago, I have worked several more motorcycle fatalities as a paramedic, as the county coroner, and most recently as deputy coroner.

While motorcycle fatalities are nowhere near as frequent as fatalities involving other vehicles, they remain tragic and it seems we had more than usual this year. Looking back at the period from 2006 to 2008 in Missouri, the statistics show that in 2006 there were 93 motorcycle fatalities, in 2007 there were 84, then 107 in 2008. The 2009 state statistics won’t be out for awhile, but there was a state-wide increase from 2007 to 2008. One astonishing fact is that 80 percent of motorcycle crashes result in death.

As the readers know, a lot of my column is to try to use education for prevention strategies to prevent injury and death. So how can motorcycle fatalities be prevented? The first answer I have is the same as I advise constantly regarding all vehicles, including my ambulance, police, and fire friends: Slow down!

Secondly, educate family and friends to ride unimpaired by alcohol or other drugs. In 2007, 31 percent of all motorcycle fatalities were at .08 or above blood alcohol cent ration (BAC). Blood alcohol cent ration is the concentration of alcohol in the person’s blood. Thirty-eight percent were at .01-plus BAC. There just isn’t room for error when riding down the road at high speed.

The important factor, because most studies show that most accidents are caused because other motorists did not see the motorcycle, is to develop a system for increased visibility. Many riders resist this because of wanting to wear dark leathers for appearance. However studies show that wearing highly visible clothing or reflective clothing decreases the death risk by as much as 37 percent. Wearing a white helmet alone, opposed to black or another dark color, could lower the risk by 24 percent. Reflective riding gloves with something like 3M Scotchlite reflective material are helpful. Running the headlights in daytime is said to reduce the risk by 27 percent.

Another strategy is taking a good motorcycle riding class. Studies have shown that half of all the single-vehicle fatalities involve problems negotiating a curve prior to a crash.

To summarize: 1) decrease rider impairment and speeding, 2) use headlights during daytime hours, and 3) though it might be unpopular, switch to a white helmet and reflective-high visibility clothing.

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