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Helmet-less crashes

Andy Ouriel • Jun 7, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Sandusky resident Kristina McGraw, 48, died Monday on Ohio 101 when her Harley-Davidson slammed into an SUV that pulled in front of her. 

She wasn’t wearing a helmet.

Avon resident Daniel Gierlach, 55, sustained life-threatening injuries Wednesday in Margaretta Township when he lost control of his Honda Shadow 1100 and slammed into a garbage bin.

He wasn’t wearing a helmet.

Illinois resident Robert Rummel, 40, suffered multiple bone fractures Thursday morning in downtown Sandusky when a woman drove a pickup over him and fled the scene.He also wasn’t wearing a helmet. 

Notice a pattern here?

Helmet yeah

Some may contend the 2013 edition of Ohio Bike Week — a 10-day festival considered the region’s most popular motorcycle extravaganza — has been somewhat marred so far by a few wicked crashes.

This same contingent would argue the injuries two of the riders sustained could have been lessened if they simply wore a helmet. It’s simply unknown if Monday’s crash could have resulted in injury, not death, had the rider been wearing a helmet. 

About 70 percent of the 104 motorcycle-related crashes in this area from 2009 through 2011 involved riders who were not wearing helmets, according to a Register analysis of Erie Regional Planning traffic data. Three of the four fatal motorcycle crashes during this period involved riders without helmets.

“There is consistent and compelling research showing that wearing a motorcycle helmet protects riders from death and serious or disabling brain injuries,” said Cathy Chase, a spokeswoman representing Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

The national organization strives to make roads safer, including enforcing motorcycle helmets in each state.

A 2012 Government Accountability Office report indicated the only way to reduce motorcycle fatalities is to mandate helmets for all motorcyclists and their passengers in every state, including Ohio

The Buckeye State represents one of about 30 U.S. states and territories where certain riders must wear a helmet, including:

• Any licensed driver 17 or younger.

• Any licensed driver who has operated a motorcycle for less than one year.

• All passengers if the operator is required to wear a helmet.

The helmet can be a full-face or half-shell helmet, as long as the Ohio Department of Transportation approves of the model. 

Helmet no

Despite the figures, both in percentages and body count, many motorcyclists still choose to forgo strapping on a helmet when riding.

“I don’t want to feel restricted,” said Rick Adkins, a Sullivan, Ohio, resident participating in this week’s Ohio Bike Week events. “I don’t want to feel I’m enclosed.”

Adkins joined more than 200 other motorcyclists and passengers during a Bike Week-sponsored run Thursday morning, departing from Mad River Harley-Davidson on Milan Road near Ohio 2. Of the 200 riders, fewer than 50 wore a helmet.

“It’s a personal preference,” Adkins said. “I like to have a choice.”

Ohio chapters affiliated with national movements against motorcyclists being forced to wear helmets continue to fight legislation limiting their freedom. These groups also say pro-helmet groups, such as Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, twist the facts.

“We have proven that helmet and protective clothing will not solve the facility problem, only education and awareness,” according to a statement from Ohio-based American Bikers Aimed Toward Education. “The statistics clearly show that states who have safety education training for both riders and drivers have the lowest number of fatalities and serious injury (cases) caused during motorcycle accidents.”Other national campaigns — such as Look Twice Save a Life Motorcycles are Everywhere — aim to educate drivers on paying more attention to two-wheel riders. Drivers of cars, trucks and buses are often the culprits in bike crashes resulting in injury or death.Stay safe

Stay safe 

Since 1978, Dr. Tim Amidon has enjoyed riding motorcycles. The Firelands Regional Medical Center emergency physician is often seen rumbling along the region’s roads on his Harley-Davidson.

But he always dreads Ohio Bike Week, which often coincides with an alarming number of motorcycle-related injuries or deaths. Those patients often end up in the Firelands emergency room.

“During this time of year, we always gear up and prepare for it,” Amidon said.

Amidon wears a helmet at all times. In the colder months, he dons a full-face helmet, switching to a half-helmet during the summer.

He recommends bikers wear a helmet at all times.

“The helmet reduces the likelihood of death or a serious head injury,” he said. “We take an active approach of people coming in here for minor motorcycle accidents. If they’re not wearing a helmet, we tell them to wear it. The excuses that it messes up your hair or that it’s uncomfortable is true, but the alternative of death is worse.”

And certainly, a helmet never guarantees immunity from harm.

“You can be a safe motorcyclist, but it’s the other person you still have to worry about,” he said.

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