From the www.CoventryCourier.Com

09/23/2006

A helmet doesn't guarantee you'll walk away

 

The fatal motorcycle accident on Harkney Hill Road this week, while the first in Coventry for some time, is the third such statewide fatality in recent months.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), between 2001 and 2005 the number of motorcycle fatalities in Rhode Island increased each year with a total of 14 deaths last year. Nationally in 2005 there were 4,553 fatal motorcycle accidents on U.S. roadways.

Some people argue that such tragedies could be avoided, or at least lessened, if the state required all riders to wear motorcycle helmets. The argument goes that if all automobile drivers and passengers are required to wear their seatbelts, why aren't all motorcyclists required to wear helmets. Well, consider this: the NHTSA also reports that eight of those 14 motorcyclists killed last year in
Rhode Island were wearing helmets. Six of them weren't.

By nature of the vehicle, a motorcyclist who crashes has a greater likelihood of being injured than someone involved in an automobile accident. In a car, aside from airbags, there other assorted barriers keeping you from hitting the road. On a motorcycle, there are your clothes and that's about it. If you're going down on the pavements, it's going to hurt. If you go down wearing a helmet it might hurt less but there's no guarantee you're going to walk away unscathed.

The law in
Rhode Island requires all motorcycle passengers to wear helmets but for the operator, helmets are optional. Many riders choose to wear safety helmets anyway but many don't. Some riders argue that wearing helmets decreases their peripheral vision and, in addition, their ability to hear what's going on around them - a couple of factors that could arguably contribute to an accident on a motorcycle.

However, state law mandates individuals take a motorcycle safety course before they can legally obtain a motorcycle license in Rhode Island, something required in order to operate a motorcycle in this state.

Such safety courses are a good idea and should be required but forcing all operators strap on helmets isn't going to decrease the number of statewide or national motorcycle accidents or fatalities. Everyone on the road, whether you're behind the wheel or the handlebars, needs to be conscious of their surroundings and the traffic laws of the roads you're traveling.