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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Safety concerns come with a motorcycle experience

    (U-WIRE) LUBBOCK, Texas ð- They may be fun, fast and chic, but motorcycles also can be dangerous.

    According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,181 Americans died in motorcycle crashes in 2001, and nearly 60,000 more were injured on highways during the same year.

    According to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Web site, in 2003, there were 261,553 motorcycles registered in Texas and 264 fatalities from motorcycle accidents on highways.

    Dr. Juan Fitz, an emergency medicine specialist at Covenant Hospital who has ridden a motorcycle before, said motorcycles are much more dangerous than cars.

    Also, he said he has seen quite a few victims of motorcycle accidents come into the emergency room.

    “”You have no seatbelt, you have no other protection, and you hit, you’re going to fly,”” Fitz said. “”You’re going to fly, and you’re going to hit the ground. You’re going to have multiple broken bones, broken necks, head injuries. It’s a significant kind of injury.””

    The single most important thing to do when riding a motorcycle, Fitz said, is to wear a helmet to protect your head. He also advised wearing thick denim or leather to help protect your body tissue.

    “”You’ll get a nice big accident – that’s it – with a head injury and not survive it,”” he said. “”You can have internal injuries and broken bones and have a good chance of surviving it that way, but if you injure your head, and it’s a severe injury, you can die or be left in a vegetative state.””

    According to the 2001 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study, motorcycle helmets are 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries during a crash. Helmeted riders have a 29 percent higher chance of surviving an accident, according to the study, and are 40 percent less likely to suffer a head injury.

    “”One day I drove on the Autobahn on a motorcycle at a high speed with no helmet, no nothing,”” Fitz said. “”When I got there I said, ‘What the hell did I do?’ “” I drove back very slowly, and I took the side roads. I’ve seen too much damage.””

    Current Texas law does not require motorcyclists to wear a helmet if they are at least 21 years old and have completed a motorcycle training course, or are at least 21 years old and have at least $10,000 in medical insurance.

    John Young, program supervisor for the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Motorcycle Safety Unit and a certified motorcycle-training instructor, said it is a good idea for new riders to take an accredited motorcycle-training course for their own safety and for that of others.

    “”Motorcycles are different than driving an automobile because, basically, you have a stability difference,”” he said. “”You need to look at your exit point so you can gauge your lean and speed. In cars, you just have to keep it between the lines.””

    One of the most common mistakes made by novice riders, Young said, is their overconfidence with their ability to handle the motorcycle.

    “”If you’re a new rider, you need to take it slow and get familiar with your area and with your motorcycle riding,”” he said. “”The more you practice, the better you get, and that comes through experience and time.””

    Graduates of the training programs, even those who had never been on a motorcycle before, leave with a new appreciation for motorcycling, Young said.

    Gordon Hoffman, deputy chief of the Texas Tech Police Department and an ex-motorcycle owner, said there have not been many noteworthy accidents or incidents on campus involving motorcyclists.

    Hoffman said he worked with motorcyclist police officers during his time with the Lubbock Police Department.

    “”They have to go through a very, very difficult course,”” he said. “”If you can get by that course, then you should be very proud. They have enough control of that motorcycle that they can get themselves out of a bind, if they get into one.””

    Eric Crouch, managing director of Tech’s University Parking Services, said the university has issued 199 student motorcycle parking permits and 81 faculty and staff motorcycle permits this semester.

    “”We have seen quite an increase in the number of faculty and staff who want motorcycle permits, though,”” he said. “”I’d say roughly a 50 percent increase over the past five to seven years. Students, I would say, have experienced less than a 10 percent increase in that same time frame.””

    Motorcycle ownership, Crouch said, has always appealed to him because it is more fuel efficient and fun, but it would not be practical because he has a family with young children.

    Crouch said University Parking Services is always interested in receiving feedback from motorcycle owners about any comments or complaints they might have.

    He said it is working to put together a focus group to address any parking issues for motorcycling students.

    “”Our goal is to have that group formed sometime this fall so we can begin having discussions,”” he said. “”If there are things we need to improve, then we’ve got next summer to get out there and work on some of those improvements and see what we can do to make it happen.””

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