Although riding motorcycles carefully can reduce the risk of accidents, it does not completely prevent them. You may be riding your motorcycle carefully but end up crossing paths with a DUI driver or a distracted one, which can lead to serious accidents.
There are over 950,000 motorcycles, more than 17.7 million cars, and 322,000 trucks registered in California. With massive volumes of vehicles speeding down interstate highways or cruising on urban roads, the chance of getting into an accident is significantly high. Although there are more cars registered in the state than motorcycles, the number of motorcycle fatalities is considerably higher.
Motorcycles are lightweight vehicles and much smaller than cars, which affects their visibility. Whenever a driver gets into an accident with a motorcyclist, they allege that they did not “see” the motorcyclist. Whether you’re extremely careful while riding your motorcycle or practicing defensive riding, motorcyclists face a dangerous threat from motorists, truckers, and even government agencies because of poor, unmaintained roads.
To prevent any injuries during a motorcycle crash, a protective gear is of crucial importance. Ehline Law and our motorcycle accident attorneys understand how safety gear can make a difference between life and death. We will outline the importance of wearing a helmet and how it can improve your survival chances.
California Motorcycle Helmet Law
In the United States, around 18 states and the District of Columbia have a universal helmet law that makes it illegal to ride a motorcycle. The 18 states also include California.
The Vehicle Code section 27803 states that it is illegal to ride a motorcycle or a motorized bike if the driver or passenger is not wearing a safety helmet. The California motorcycle helmet law is quite broad and requires not only the motorcycle rider to wear a helmet but also the passenger.
What Is a Safety Helmet?
When you read the helmet laws in the Vehicle Code, there is more emphasis made on certain words, and in this case, the words “safety helmet” stand out. What kind of helmet satisfies the state’s helmet laws?
According to Vehicle Code section 27802, all helmets sold or offered for sale for use by drivers and passengers must comply with state safety requirements and specifications. In simple words, to ride a motorcycle legally, you must wear a Department of Transportation-compliant helmet.
Here is the minimum requirement for motorcycle safety helmets:
1. The helmet weight should be approximately 3 pounds.
2. Helmets must have sturdy chin straps to secure the helmet in place.
3. The inner helmet foam lining should be one inch thick and made from polystyrene foam.
4. Any features that protrude two-tenths of an inch outside the helmet are strictly prohibited.
5. Motorcyclists should apply a DOT sticker on any federal-approved helmet to help law enforcement officers identify appropriate helmets.
What Does It Mean to Wear a Helmet?
Simply wearing a helmet on top of your head will not satisfy the safety requirements to legally ride a motorcycle in California. To properly wear a safety helmet, the straps must be securely fastened, the helmet must fit securely over the person’s head, and there must be no helmet movement when it is properly fastened.
If you’re riding a motorcycle with a helmet that does not have a sturdy chin strap or a helmet that fits loosely on top of your head, you’re in violation of California law. This is because a loosely fitted helmet is dangerous and does not serve the safety purpose that helmets serve.
There are also helmets that offer full-face coverage, unlike a half-helmet or half-face coverage helmet. These types of helmets provide further safety by shielding the face region and helping prevent brain or facial injuries.
How Effective Are Motorcycle Helmets?
Over the years, substantial research findings suggest the importance of motorcycle helmets in reducing or preventing injuries during an accident, thus saving lives. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcycle helmets saved around 1,859 lives in 2016. If all motorcyclists were wearing a helmet at the time of an accident in 2016, it would’ve saved 802 more lives suggesting that motorcycle helmets save lives.
The National Safety Council estimates that motorcycle helmets are 37% effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle riders and about 41% effective for motorcycle passengers. Over the years, law enforcement organizations have successfully created awareness about safety helmets and how they can save lives. Since 2002, the use of motorcycle helmets has increased by 23%, and as of 2019, 70.8% of riders and passengers are wearing DOT-compliant helmets.
Why Are There Still Riders Not Wearing Helmets?
Some riders believe that a helmet reduces peripheral vision and hearing or that it increases the risk of neck injuries in the event of an accident. However, there is no evidence to date that supports this argument.
Then there are riders that do not wear a helmet either because they don’t feel comfortable wearing one or it’s just not “cool.” A rider who truly understands the importance of wearing a helmet can substantially decrease the chances of a fatal accident.
Why Should Motorcyclists Wear Helmets?
Let’s explore the major benefits of wearing a motorcycle helmet.
Prevent Traumatic Brain Injuries
When a rider’s head strikes the ground, a safety helmet absorbs the force on the head to reduce the risk of any serious injuries, such as traumatic brain injury. It’s easier to treat bruises and abrasions to the arms, legs, or other parts of the body than brain injuries, as brain injuries cause long-term physical, emotional, and cognitive impairments that can drastically affect a motorcycle rider’s quality of life.
Wearing a helmet provides a safety measure, cushioning the brain from any impact from an accident. The design requirements of a helmet reduce or even prevent any permanent disability involving the brain that may follow a severe blow or trauma to the head.
Protection from Elements
The attraction of taking a motorcycle for a ride is the wind rustling in your hair or the sunshine that beams in your face. It just feels natural. However, there are certain challenges that only affect motorcycle riders, such as wind, glare, debris, insects, and more. Wearing a helmet prevents any injuries to the face, eyes, and teeth from these challenges and also helps avoid any rainwater or sun glare that might cause distractions on the road.
Due to their small size, motorcycles are difficult to see, especially when the rider enters a vehicle’s blind spot. Having a brightly colored helmet can improve visibility by expanding and brightening the rider’s visual profile, helping reduce the risk of motorcycle accidents.
Common Motorcycle Accident Injuries
Brain or Head Injury
70% of fatal motorcycle accidents result in the victim dying of head or brain injuries. A head injury occurs when there is a serious impact or blow to the head, and any blow to the head that shakes the brain can result in a brain injury. Although the majority of motorcycle riders do wear helmets in California to reduce the risk of injuries in the event of an accident, there are risks that even helmeted motorcycle riders face.
Because riders believe that helmets protect the head, sometimes motorcycle riders make the mistake of thinking that the helmet will also protect their brain from any injuries. That is not the case.
A motorcycle helmet may protect the motorcyclist from a head injury but not from internal injuries to the brain. The impact of the accident may not cause obvious lacerations to the head due to wearing a helmet, but the force can cause the brain to twist or even shift, resulting in damage to the brain tissues, nerves, and blood vessels.
Even the best helmets can not cushion the brain from the impact of a devastating motorcycle wreck. When wearing a helmet, one can only hope to limit the severity of the injury and increase their chances of survival or avoid any trauma that results in life-long impairments.
Spinal Cord Injuries
Depending on the severity of spinal cord injuries, an accident victim can face partial or complete paralysis. The spinal cord is responsible for emitting brain signals to body parts to ensure the proper functioning and receiving signals from nerves.
Any damage to the spinal cord could affect sexual function, bladder and bowel function, muscle movement, reflexes, and more. A rider ejected from their motorcycle onto the road faces a serious risk of spinal cord injury.
Although a helmet provides indirect protection to the upper spine and base of the skull, it does not shield the rest of the spine from any injuries. These injuries frequently result in paralysis, which affects the rider’s quality of life. On top of that, medical experts estimate that spinal cord treatments can cost millions of dollars over a patient’s lifetime.
Road Rash Injuries
Road rash injuries are relatively common among injured motorcyclists who do not have sufficient protective clothing. These injuries occur when a motorcyclist ejects from their bike and slide or rolls across the road. The friction is enough to penetrate the skin and cause road abrasions.
Severe road rash injuries can penetrate deep into the skin, damaging the tissue underneath and causing agonizing pain and extreme discomfort. Exposed muscles and tissues can contract deadly infections, requiring immediate medical treatment and taking a few months to heal. The healing process leaves behind disfiguring scars, a reminder to always wear protective clothing.
Wearing a helmet protects the face from any road rash injuries as it prevents contact between the face and a rough surface. Shielding the face with a helmet can make an important difference in the rider’s safety.
47% of motorcyclists in an accident suffer from injuries to their lower extremities, including their legs, feet, knees, and calves. When a rider falls with the motorcycle on top of them during an accident, the weight and impact can cause broken bones or fractures. Typically, laceration injuries from contact with the bike or a rough surface also occur simultaneously.
Fourteen bones, including lacrimal, mandible, and more, form the human facial skeleton, and a full-coverage helmet provides sufficient protection to prevent any facial injuries.
Falling on the road chest first can lead to thorax injuries, and statistics suggest that these types of injuries occur in one in every seven motorcycle injuries. An impact on the chest can cause the ribs to puncture the lungs and other internal organs, which can lead to infections and severe health complications.
After reading about the common motorcycle accident injuries, you may start to understand that although a helmet can reduce the severity of some types of injuries, it doesn’t protect other parts of the body from damage. However, by following some tips, you can prevent collisions with other vehicles or objects and increase your chances of surviving a motorcycle accident.
Tips to Prevent Injuries During an Accident
Practicing defensive riding is the best way to avoid an accident, but sometimes it may not be possible. In such situations, it is great when a motorcycle operator knows how to reduce their chances of severe injuries.
Here are some tips to help prevent injuries during an accident:
• Sign up for a rider course to brush up on your motorcycle riding skills and stay up-to-date on motorcycle safety.
• Before starting your motorcycle journey, know what type of road surface you’ll be riding on. If it’s a wet road, you may want to leave for your destination early rather than speed on a wet road to reach it on time and so on.
• You should know what your motorcycle is capable of, including its braking force. Knowing the ins and outs of your motorcycle can help evade uncertain situations prior to them happening.
• Always wear a helmet and ensure sufficient protective clothing such as a leather jacket, long pants, and gloves to prevent or minimize road rash injuries.
Educating yourself on how your motorcycle rides and learning more about crash avoidance techniques can help prevent any fatal injuries in the event of an accident.
What Are the Odds of Surviving a Motorcycle Accident?
According to the NHTSA, in 2018, around 4,985 motorcyclists lost their lives in motorcycle crashes in the United States. The startling figure indicates that riders are 28 times more likely to die from their injuries in an accident than passengers traveling in a car.
Lacking a seat belt, an airbag, and other safety features that are common in cars, increases the chances of dying in motorcycle accidents. As of 2019, the chance of dying in a motorcycle accident is one in 899, but you can improve your odds of survival by wearing a helmet and avoiding speed. The faster your vehicle is during the time of impact, the more severe the injuries motorcycle accident victims can sustain.
You may be fortunate enough to walk away from the accident, but your injuries can cause you a world of pain and financial burden from paying the medical bills. A motorcycle accident lawyer can help protect you financially and obtain the compensation you deserve for your loss.
Call a California Personal Injury Attorney Today
Unlike car accidents, motorcycle accidents are far more dangerous, and even with the right safety gear, motorcyclists are susceptible to bodily and brain injuries. If you received injuries in an accident that was not your fault, you have the right to pursue damages from the negligent party.
If you suffered any injuries in a California motorcycle accident, contact one of us for a free consultation with a personal injury attorney. Together, we will explore your case, discuss your legal options, and pursue the compensation you deserve.