"Now that warmer weather is here, the number of motorcyclists on the road has increased," said Lauren Fredrickson, M.D., Director of Salem Community Hospital's Emergency Department. "In Columbiana County alone, there are almost 5,000 motorcycles registered with the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles."
"In light of this large number of people choosing to ride motorcycles, it is important to stress the need for improved safety measures, since motorcyclists are more vulnerable to crashes than other drivers."
"Motorcyclists are one of the most at-risk users of our roadways," Dr. Fredrickson continued. "Because they don't have safety belts, riders can be thrown off their bike during a crash resulting in a serious injury or even death. Many crashes occur because motorcycles are hidden in another vehicle's blind spot. Due to a motorcycle's size, other drivers may not see them, so riders must use extra caution and be aware of driving conditions on the roadways. Cyclists should pay close attention to the signals and brake lights of other vehicles, especially trucks. In addition, they should never ride in between lanes, share a lane with another vehicle or drive aggressively."
Following are some of the most important safety tips to follow for those, who choose to ride a motorcycle.
Wear a helmet: "Even though safety helmets are optional for most riders in the state of Ohio, they are still highly recommended for preventing head injuries," Dr. Fredrickson added. "Ohio law only requires those under the age of eighteen or those who possess a learner's permit to wear a motorcycle helmet. However, evidence overwhelmingly suggests that wearing a motorcycle helmet significantly reduces the incidence of head injuries in an accident. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for every 100 motorcyclists killed in a crash while not wearing a helmet, 37 would have survived if they had been wearing a helmet. It should be noted that this number doesn't include the even larger amount of non-fatal injuries that were avoided by riders wearing helmets."
A helmet should meet the Department of Transportation's safety standards and should be available for both the motorcycle rider and passenger.
Protect your eyes: Eye protection is only mandatory in Ohio if a motorcycle is not equipped with some form of windshield. However, research has shown that 73 percent of the riders in motorcycle accidents were not wearing any kind of eye protection.
"Unprotected eyes have a tendency to water, which can affect the driver's vision," Dr. Fredrickson said. "Even the wind can cause a significant vision problem for a person on a motorcycle, not to mention the possibility that bugs and other debris could enter the rider's eyes. It is estimated that bikers have only two seconds to avoid an accident, and maintaining clear vision at all times is critical."
Get professional training: Motorcycle riders who are self-taught or taught by friends account for more than 90 percent of bikers involved in motorcycle accidents.
Don't drink and ride: About half of the accidents involving a single motorcycle are caused by speeding or alcohol use -usually these go hand in hand. Not only is it against the law to drink and ride a motorcycle, it's extremely dangerous. For example, in 2009, 29 percent of fatally injured motorcycle riders had a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit of .08 and an additional 7 percent had lower levels of alcohol (NHTSA).
Wear protective clothing: Protect yourself by wearing a jacket, full- fingered gloves, long pants, and boots. Your clothing should be made of abrasion-resistant material, such as leather, and fit closely to the body. Loose clothing can impair your vision. Choose bright colors so that other motorists can see you. Often times, motorcycle accidents occur on a curve or while making a turn, and protective clothing can protect the rider from road rash and burns.
Don't share lanes: Allow a motorcyclist a full lane width. Although it may seem that there is enough room in the traffic lane for a motor vehicle and a motorcycle, the motorcycle needs the room to maneuver safely. Motorists might make a quick lane change or drift to one side, with serious consequences to the motorcycle rider.
Give more space: Allow for an additional following distance of at least three or four seconds, when following a motorcycle so the motorcycle rider has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. In dry conditions, motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars.
Consider road conditions: Remember that road conditions that are minor annoyances to motorists can pose major hazards to motorcyclists. Motorcycle riders may change speed or adjust their position within a lane suddenly in reaction to road or traffic conditions such as potholes, gravel, wet or slippery surfaces, pavement seams, railroad crossings, and grooved pavement.
Lauren Fredrickson, M.D., is the medical director for Salem Community Hospital's Emergency Department.