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Summer months cause hazards for motorcycles

As more motorcyclists ride into the summer months, many wish to remind others of potential hazards for riders.

Jared Sartin, former Wood Heights police chief, said he began riding motorcycles at the age of 12. He became a certified motorcycle police officer eight years ago. He said many hazards exist for motorcycles other many have not considered. Some of the hazards he encounters impact the stability of the road under him. Gravel remains a hazard year round. In the winter and spring months, he said salt and sand from the cold weather road treatments could pose a problem for riders. In the summer months, however, grass clippings in the road could cause an unstable situation for a motorcyclist, especially around curves.

“In the strait-a-way, it’s not an issue (for experienced riders),” he said. “It’s when you’re in the corners, when you’re starting to shift weight and balance. When there’s a bunch of slick grass in the road, it could get pretty treacherous.”

He said when a rider begins to make a turn, they’ll lean the same direction as the turn. As riders lean, they will simultaneously turn their handlebars in the opposite direction. This maneuver, called counter steering, helps the rider make a tighter turn. However, Sartin said, counter steering causes their center of balance to move off the tires. Any instability under their tires could cause an accident.

He said depending on the hazard, and how the rider reacts, the back wheel may slide out from under them, or they could fly over the handlebars.

MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENTS

Dr. Brad Hoffman, director of emergency department with Excelsior Springs Hospital, said motorcycle accidents could cause injuries a passenger involved in an automobile accident may not face.

“As with any vehicular trauma, injuries are a function of acceleration, mass, and the unique forces of physics,” he said. “Motorcycle injuries are often particularly troublesome as ejection is often inevitable with no protection from a seatbelt in an enclosed passenger compartment, which subjects the driver/rider to these forces as they become somewhat of a projectile.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcycle accidents were 28 times more frequent to result in a fatality in 2016 than automobile accidents.

More hazards exist for motorcycle riders than just road debris, Sartin said. Although most bikers look out for each other, he said, distracted driving in larger vehicles poses a problem. The profile of motorcycles, as seen by other drivers, only encompasses about 2 feet, as opposed to approximately 6 feet for passenger vehicles. Because of this, he said, drivers distracted by texting, the radio or simply their passenger pose a risk.

Also, many drivers coming out of driveways or turning onto roads don’t see the motorcycle due to their smaller profile, he said. Because of this, riders must try and avoid accidents themselves.

STAYING SAFE

Sartin said he recommends all riders take safety courses. These courses, he said, teach riders how to avoid accidents. One thing riders must do, he said, involves proper braking techniques.

A motorcycle comes equipped with a front and rear brake. The front brake comes with about 90 percent of the motorcycle stopping force. The back, he said, only comes with about 10 percent. Many drivers, he said, automatically use their back brake.

Part of the safety course shows how using the front brake can stop a motorcycle in approximately 65 feet. Using both brakes simultaneously can lower the distance to about 50 feet. Sartin said using the back brake only can cause a rider to not be able to stop in over 100 feet. If vehicle 100 feet away pulls out in front of you, he said, the motorcyclist could be seriously hurt.

He said he also recommends proper riding attire. A full-face helmet provides the most protection. Riders should also wear jeans or leather chaps, he said. He said riders should wear shatter-proof eye protection, leather gloves and leather boots. A rider should never wear tennis shoes, he said.

Hoffman said while attire will help in the event of an accident, potential injuries may occur.

“Helmets are helpful but the brain is still exposed to acceleration changes and impact with the interior of the skull,” he said. “Common injuries include skin injuries known as “road rash,” long bone fractures, spine injuries, and brain injuries as well as solid and hollow organ trauma due to impact and/or penetration.”

 

By Kimberely Blackburn • kimberely@leaderpress.com

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