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Accidents and injuries - part 1

Sunday, August 23, 2015 @ 10:08

Accidents and injuries – the salt of riding

Part 1

More and more of our friends turn to riding bikes, no wonder that motorcycling is a continually growing means of transport worldwide. Already back in 2008, there were almost 8 million motorcycles registered in the United States alone. Among the increasing total number of bikes on the road, the highest rise is in the ranks of supersport and other powerful (>100 kW) motorbikes.

Unfortunately, due to the fragile nature of bikes, we, the riders, are automatically at a higher risk of accidents and fatalities compared to motorists in other types of vehicles. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) cautions motorcyclists to be extra alert and observant on the road. Especially those of us, who fly on supersport motorcycles – where higher speeds and power-to-weight ratios result in even greater risks in traffic. However all dangers, scary as they might be, do not mean that we shall sell our bikes and drive boring SUVs... As I see it, it is vital to understand and remind oneself why accidents occur, how we can reduce the risk and what could happen, should something happen.

Besides advanced skill and concentration requirements, motorbike crash and fatality rates are also related to several high-risk behaviors. It has been shown that compared to a passenger car driver in a fatal crash, for example, a motorcycle rider is shown to be statistically more likely to have been speeding right before the accident, riding with an inadequate license or have a high blood alcohol concentration. Riding motorcycles can be tricky even when possessing the skill and experience to do so and without exposing oneself to “concentration breakers” such as excessive speed or psychoactive substances. Let's ride smart and show the world that motorcycling can be safe!

Sharing the road – the issue of visibility

Are the above issues all that is in the way of crash-free riding? Definitely not. Even though bikes are considered to be equal members of the overall public transport sector, I am sure that most of you have experienced the problem of not being seen on the streets..

All motorists are reminded to safely "share the road" with motorcycles and to be extra alert to help keep motorcyclists, scooter riders and cyclists safe. We, the two-wheeled ones, on the other hand, are advised to make ourselves visible to other motorists. The picture on the right illustrates that it does not matter whether you are a driver or a rider, there are situations when bikes are simply really hard to spot.

The best tip I have ever received regarding this issue was to remain constantly aware of my surroundings and try to drive defensively - protect myself from cars and trucks around me. Oh, and not to forget to watch out for pedestrians and random objects such as potholes or rubbish on the roads – I often hear stories about riders who ended up being the victims of someone’s ignorance or poor road maintenance. Collision with protective barriers or other permanent roadside objects (posts, fences, signs, etc.) may prove to be impossible to avoid once sliding/flying/rolling off your motorbike in the middle of a curve.

Despite being actively aware of your surroundings and wearing protective gear, we are still not completely safe. Say you are cruising along the most stunning view in the Alps – the sun is shining, your backside is not yet sore from riding for countless hours - life is good. When all of a sudden, something happens - you might doze off for a second and fail to notice a rock on the road or a car driver does not notice you and appears right in front of you, or a bird flies into your face, for that matter… Such incidents do happen, life is full of surprises. It is up to us whether we are ready for them. But let's assume you are not Neo - normal rules of gravity, energy conservation and causality apply, what happens then? How can we deal with such incidents? The article continues with overviewing common injuries among motorcyclists and providing treatment suggestions.

Road rash

Not like car drivers, motorcyclists lack the extra protection of a hard metal shell when on the road. For now! Anyway, accidents inevitably lead to making contact with the surface of the road. Not wearing sufficient protective clothing leaves the skin vulnerable to abrasive injuries, also known as road rash. Road rash, being the most common injury among motorcyclists, describes skin damage that ranges from mild to severe. First degree road rashes leave the skin surface red. Second degree road rash is classified as an injury where the surface of the skin is scratched but the inner layers of skin are still intact. Whereas third degree road rashes occur when the impact with the road removes the skin completely, leaving the underlying layers of tissue, fat and in some extreme cases, bone, exposed.

How to treat?

Third degree road rashes require prompt medical attention as the wounds need to be properly cleaned and closed. Damage to the bone may lead to tetanus infection, thus it is normal procedure to issue preventive vaccine shots when the bone has been out in open.

First and second degree road rashes, on the other hand, can be treated privately – important steps here are: cleaning the wound thoroughly, adding open wound disinfectant and cleaning aid, closing the wound and changing the bandages periodically until the cuts heal completely. Then, all that's left is to cash in those extra macho points provided by your new scars!

The second part of the series “Accidents and injuries – the salt of riding” will follow shortly here, on Tourstart. We shall discuss head injuries, bone fractures and motorcycling protective gear as a means of injury prevention. Mahatma Gandhi once said that “There is more to life than increasing its speed”, it should apply for our steadfast fight for safety, too. See you on the road, fellows!

Lukas J.


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