One man’s accident can lead to safer drivingWritten by Mark Moses | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Just over one week ago, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback and Findlay native, Ben Roethlisberger, crashed his motorcycle. The crash has intensified a firestorm among safety advocates and motorcyclists.
The first thing many folks look for is for where to place the blame. Was it Ben for not wearing a helmet? How about the 62-year-old woman who turned in front of him? Fact of the matter is, if Ben had been wearing a helmet, he would still have been in the accident. Would his head and facial injuries have been less severe? Probably so, but if the accident did not happen in the first place, we would be talking about the weather.
On June 19, a press conference disclosed that Ben will receive two citations, the first because he did not have a motorcycle license and the second because he was not wearing a helmet. (A helmet is required in Pennsylvania during the first two years of owning a motorcycle license.) However, the car’s driver will receive a citation for failure to yield. It was determined Ben was not speeding at the time of the impact and was traveling 35 mph. Alcohol was not mentioned as a factor.
What causes motorcycle accidents, and how can they be avoided? First, consider motorcycling and accidents in general. According to the American Motorcyclist Association, here are a few facts:
• There are 5.7 million motorcycles nationwide. The average motorcyclist is 38 years old, married, college-educated and earns slightly more than $44,000 a year.
• Two out of three motorcycle-related multi-vehicle crashes are caused by the driver of another vehicle. The most common accident involves an automobile failing to yield the right of way to the motorcyclist.
• Nearly one out of seven motorcycle operators (15 percent) involved in fatal crashes in 2000 were operating with an invalid license.
• Almost 40 percent of all fatal motorcycle crashes involve alcohol.
Motorcyclists are getting safer. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, though the number of registered motorcycles in the U.S. has skyrocketed in the last 10 years, injuries per registration have seen a steady decline. There were 1,250 injuries per 100,000 motorcycles last year vs. 1,528 injuries per 100,000 motorcycles in 1994.
Still, motorcycles are dangerous. Motorcyclists are about 32 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a traffic crash. Consider this: In Ohio in 2004, there were 134 motorcycle fatalities. Ninety-eight percent were not wearing helmets. At the same time, 60 of the deaths involved blood alcohol content over .01. In fatal crashes in 2004, 4.3 percent of the riders had at least one previous conviction for driving while intoxicated.
Helmets and proper gear can save lives and curtail injury. Regardless of the protective gear, riding a motorcycle is a risk and the rider has the responsibility for that risk. More than 3.5 million riders have taken the time to participate in a motorcycle safety course. It is rider knowledge, reaction, skill, attitude and behavior that make the difference in preventing crashes and minimizing the acknowledged risk.
Ben’s high profile accident may be just what some people needed: an increased consciousness that many types of vehicles share the road.
Mark Moses, who has been an ASE master technician for more than 28 years, is the owner of Moses Automotive and North Coast Motorcycle, both in the Toledo area. If you have a car or motorcycle question, e-mail him at Mark@MosesAutomotive.com.