May 07, 2012 Amanda Seef Uncategorized
He spent nine months in the hospital after a driver ran a red light. From there, Jerry Letson was on crutches and in casts for the better part of three years. The Clay man remembers his 1986 motorcycle accident like it was yesterday.
“We made eye contact. He knew I was there,” Letson said. “I looked at him, he looked at me.”
The driver of a van ran a red light on Burnet Avenue. Letson’s motorcycle crashed into the side of the van, leaving the imprint of his bike and his head in the side as the driver sped off.
Letson was left in the intersection with dislocated arms and legs, and plenty of bruises and cuts.
Letson’s crash is just one of many where inattentive drivers are at fault. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates about 55 percent of accidents are caused by a vehicle pulling in front of a motorcycle.
“They don’t pay attention. They’re daydreaming. They’re in a car. They’re out of it. They don’t realize other lives are at stake,” said Letson. “When you’re on the road, you have to realize you’re sitting behind 3,000 pounds of metal.”
That’s why keeping an eye out for motorcyclists is so crucial, particularly as we enter the key riding season, said Ben Rabin, a personal injury attorney who specializes in motorcycle accidents.
“A vast majority of accidents are because an inattentive driver turns left or pulls out in front of a motorcyclist,” Rabin said. “The problem is motorists don’t give enough attention to notice motorcyclists.”
Local biker groups are working on numerous initiatives to bring attention to those on the road, using the adage “look twice, save a life,” a phrase seen on bumper stickers and signs across the county.
Motorcyclists are often missed behind mirrors or pillars between windows in a car, Rabin said. Looking twice, particularly during the key riding season, can save a life.
“Emotionally, how would you feel if you killed or maimed somebody because you didn’t pay attention?” Rabin said.
It’s more common
There are more motorcyclists on the road today than ten years ago — the number of registrations has been steadily increasing since the 1970s.
“In the old days, you’d be lucky to see a motorcycle,” said John Hayden, president of the Onondaga County chapter of ABATE, a national motorcycle group. “They’re very noticeable now. They’re everywhere.”
A lot of that is because of the economy, Hayden said.
The mileage in a motorcycle is considerably higher than in that of a passenger vehicle.
“For cheap transportation, motorcycles are on the front line,” he said.
While that helps those individuals’ budgets, oftentimes, the training behind the motorcycle license is lost, Hayden said.
“We have tons of motorcyclists on the road, and right now, they don’t have any clue on how to ride them,” he said.
Current laws don’t require road tests — a motorcycle permit and license is an endorsement on a traditional license. ABATE is pushing the state to change that, hoping that maybe, a change in legislation could help save more motorcyclists lives. They’ve also been working with dealerships to help further the educational efforts.
What bikers can do
It shouldn’t be that motorcyclists have to do something to be seen, Rabin said. However, there are a few techniques that can help motorcyclists let their presence be known.
The modulating headlight, for example, has increased in popularity in recent years. Previously, motorcyclists had the advantage of using a headlight during daytime hours. With the advent of daytime running lights on most passenger vehicles, the headlights weren’t helping motorists see bikers.
Enter the modulating headlight. It blinks from high to low beam.
“A lot of people get mad at me, putting their phones down because they think I’m the police, or flipping me off,” said Rabin. “People think I’m doing something obnoxious but all of that means one thing — they see me.”
Bikers United, a local not-for-profit charity to benefit and help injured bikers and their families, promotes the modulating headlight as a key way to help prevent accidents.
—Control the scene so that everyone stays as calm as possible.
—Make yourself visible to passing motorists. Making sure vehicles know there are stopped vehicles and injured people will help to secure the area.
—Have the most stable person call 911 to provide information to the dispatchers. As much information as possible will help EMTs get there as quickly as possible.
—Block the lane or road so that additional crashes do not occur, and the current patients remain the only patients.
—Put people to work helping to move debris, helping to block the road or finding things for a tourniquet.
— Remain as calm as possible.
—Courtesy of WAVES Ambulance medic Dan Taylor
A full list of tips, and examples on how to administer life-saving first aid at accident scenes will be available at WAVES at 7 p.m. on May 10 and May 30, or at 10 a.m. May 19 and 21. Find more information at wavesambulance.com.
It’s a biker’s worst nightmare — one goes down. With the majority of crashes happening on rural roadways, according to the NHTSA, help could be a ways off. With that scenario, local motorcycle groups asked WAVES, or Western Area Volunteer Emergency Services, an ambulance company based in Camillus, to create a class geared toward bikers.
“They wanted something to cover the time between a bad wreck and when traditional fire, police or EMS would respond,” said Dan Taylor, WAVES’ Public Relations Officer.
Taylor says the biker shouldn’t be moved from where he or she ends up after the accident, except for in extreme situations where the person may be in immediate danger of causing, or being involved in, another accident.
From there, he suggests all of those at the scene know to keep their helmets on until help arrives.
“EMTs and paramedics are trained to remove the helmet so that we don’t do any more damage,” said Taylor, who is also a WAVES medic. “The helmet is a good indication of how much damage has been done to the brain.”
About 60 percent of the biggest calls related to motorcycle crashes are related to severe bleeding, he said.
“Some will die regardless of their care, but 60 percent will be saved with one single intervention — stopping the bleeding,” he said.
Arterial bleeds can be helped by those on the scene by providing pressure. It takes about 120 pounds of constant pressure to efficiently stop the bleeding in a major cut, something that’s not possible by most individuals.
Carrying a tourniquet on the bike will be a life-saver, Taylor said. Makeshift tourniquets can take time to find materials to utilize. Condensed, rolled-up tourniquets are available to carry on the bike.
“If we can stop an arterial bleed as soon as possible after it occurs, we could save someone’s life,” he said.
If a tourniquet isn’t available, Taylor suggests stopping, or curbing, the bleeding with a knee. Providing pressure through a knee, as close as possible to the core of a person’s body, can also help until professional medics arrive.
Those classes will continue throughout the month of May at WAVES headquarters in Camillus.
Neil Fry has experienced a motorcycle accident. His friends have gone down, too. That’s why the North Syracuse man decided to start Bikers United, a not-for-profit, to assist after an accident. Whether it’s help through legal work, medical advice, psychology assistance or financials, Fry has it covered.
“Everyone has to have some place to go,” he said. “After an accident, it’s crazy. You don’t know what to do. This gives them a little bit of an anchor.”
His organization plans benefits for numerous bikers every year. He and a committee are in the midst of planning seven currently.