Every year, thousands of people across the US lose their lives in motorcycle crashes. This is not a dramatic exaggeration but is supported by data. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2019 alone 5,104 motorcyclists died in fatal crashes, while 84,000 were injured. As further studies and reports indicate (which we will discuss in more detail in this article), many of these deaths and severe injuries could have been avoided by wearing adequate motorcycle protective gear, especially motorcycle helmets and jackets.
As personal injury attorneys, we have handled many cases and witnessed countless tragedies for families who lost a loved one in a motorcycle crash because they had not used protective headgear. For this reason, we believe that it is time to draw attention to the importance of wearing adequate protective gear whenever you ride or are a passenger on a motorcycle.
Facts and Findings on the Importance of Wearing Personal Protection Gear
The NHTSA published a report that showcases the importance of helmets in preventing fatal head injury. According to this report, 1,872 lives were saved in 2015 by this basic level of protection – the helmet. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 29 lives were saved by motorcycle helmets.
A comprehensive study conducted by researchers at the George Institute for Global Health in Australia also found a direct connection between wearing protective gear and reduced risk of severe injuries or death. Thus, the researchers compared data collected from hospitals for motorcycle accident victims with regard of their wearing:
- head protection
- eye protection
- motorcycle jacket
- motorcycle gloves
- motorcycle pants
- motorcycle boots
- body armor.
The findings of the study indicate that motorcycle riders are “significantly less likely” to require hospital admission if they were wearing adequate jackets, pants and gloves. With additional protection – body armor – the risk of upper-body injury was even more reduced.
Moreover, the accident victims who needed medical care and had worn adequate motorcycle gear & accessories made a faster and fuller recovery than those who were not wearing adequate personal protection equipment. The excellent protection offered by high-quality gear reduced the likelihood of disabilities and reduced physical functions. Within six months after their accidents, motorcyclists who had worn head, leg, and spine protectors were able to return to work, being fully recovered.
How to Select Gear that Offers Maximum Protection
In several cases involving fatal injuries, the victims had worn a form of personal protection equipment. But their gear did not meet the minimum safety standards and, thus, failed to protect them. A seasoned motorcyclist knows what to look for when they are buying protective gear.
For beginners, all items may look similar. In some cases, gear that offers low impact resistance and protection may look more attractive than high-quality items. Since your life depends on what you wear when you are riding a motorcycle, here is a checklist of what to look for in motorcycle gear, as advised by safety experts:
1. Motorcycle Helmet
As we explained above, the helmet should be the number one on your list of priorities as a responsible motorcycle rider or passenger. However, not all helmets are created equal. A flimsy or ill-fitting helmet is the cause of many helmeted fatalities in a motorcycle accident.
First of all, the helmet must be approved by the US Department of Transportation. The proof of this certification is the DOT Certification label. It contains the following information:
- name of manufacturer/brand
- FMVSS no.218 CERTIFIED
In time, you will learn to discern between certified and non-certified helmets. Unsafe motorcycle helmets:
- have a lower weight
- have flimsy interior padding
- have thin straps, inadequately secured to the helmet.
When it comes to fitting, you should make sure that the helmet is neither too loose nor too tight on your head and that the straps can be secured under your chin in a snug fit, but without causing you discomfort. Helmets are available in several models, adapted to various head shapes.
Finally, there are several types of helmets on the market. Safety specialists recommend these three types:
- full-face helmets – they cover the entire head and neck and have a visor for eye protection
- modular helmets (flip-up helmets) – the chin strap and visor can be lifted, exposing the entire face
- three-quarter helmets – they cover the head and the face with a flip-up visor, but do not have a chin guard.
2. Motorcycle Jacket
Motorcycle jackets can be leather jackets or made of synthetic materials (ballistic nylon) to offer excellent protection against cold weather and road rash. The jacket should have inner padding to protect the rib cage and spine against impact and shocks.
Other features to look for in a motorcycle jacket are:
- close fitting collar
- reflective stripes to make you visible in traffic at night
- snug cuffs
- belted or close fitting waist.
3. Motorcycle Gloves
A motorcycle glove is different from your average winter glove. It must fit you snugly, allowing you complete freedom of movement in the fingers to control the motorcycle. These durable gloves must have adequate abrasion resistance to protect your hands from injuries (in most cases, the palms, not the knuckles suffer the most severe abrasions in case of an accident).
4. Motorcycle Pants
Also known as armored pants, this piece of clothing can be made of leather or synthetic materials. They must have some kind of padding to offer impact protection to the hips, pelvis, knees, and shins. Motorcycle pants must fit you well, not too tight and not too loose.
5. Motorcycle Boots
You do not have to look for boots specially designed for motorcycle riding. Sturdy hiking boots are just as good, as long as they offer ankle protection and fit you snugly. If you want a special pair of boots just for motorcycle riding, choose over the ankle armored boots with insulation.
If you are wondering why footwear is a part of the safety gear, a technical report commissioned by the US Department of Transportation in 1981 found that:
- any kind of boot reduces the risk of ankle injury by 53%
- any kind of boot reduces the risk of an open wound by 73%
- armored boots reduce the risk of an open wound by 90%.
6. Eye Protection
Motorcycle goggles are a must if you are wearing a half helmet (the type that only covers the head, has no visor and chin guard). Riding against the wind can cause blurred vision, which is extremely dangerous. The slightest moment of not paying attention to the road can cause an accident. At the same time, you can suffer irreversible damage to the eyes if a pebble or piece of debris from the road hits you in the unprotected face.
7. Elbow and Knee Guards
Body armor represents the basic form of protection against motorcycle injuries. If you want extra levels of protection, you should also add elbow armor and knee guards to your motorcycle gear. They are designed to offer you complete freedom of movement while protecting you from road rash, fractures, and other injuries.
Beyond Motorcycle Body Armor – Your Driving Style Matters!
Motorcycle riding suits can protect you from severe injuries. However, defensive riding protects you from being involved in a motorcycle accident. All motorcycle operators should be aware that they are not always visible on the road, especially when they are driving behind large vans and commercial vehicles.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration offers helpful riding tips for beginners and there are many other free online resources that help you stay safe on the roads, offered by the Department of Transportation and the local authorities of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Injured in a Motorcycle Accident? Know Your Rights!
Despite your best efforts, you may be involved in a motorcycle accident caused by another driver’s attention. In this situation, you have the right to receive financial compensation from the responsible party for your economic and non-economic damages.
However, filing an insurance claim successfully can be tricky and depends a lot on what you do from the first moments of the accident. Here is the best course of action, from our experience as personal injury attorneys:
1. Call 9-1-1
You should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Many internal organ injuries do not have symptoms during the first 24 hours. Also, having an emergency response team at the accident scene to prepare the initial medical report will help establish that your injuries were directly caused by the accident.
2. Collect Evidence at the Accident Scene
While you are waiting for the ambulance, take photos and notes of the accident scene. This includes:
- photographs of the position of the vehicles
- photographs of your injuries
- contact and insurance details from the other driver
- contact details of eyewitnesses.
3. Hire an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
Finally, retain legal representation as soon as possible. Do not attempt to negotiate your compensation on your own with the insurance adjuster representing the driver’s insurance company. The best policy is to refuse to say anything to the adjuster, as your words may be used against you.
At Michael Kelly, you will find an experienced and compassionate team of personal injury attorneys. We seek justice for you using knowledge of the law and the experience we have accumulated over the years.
We are available 24/7 to hear your case and advise you, so call us now: 1-800-LAW-GUYS!