A warm and dry autumn may be one factor in the numerous motorcycle accidents being reported around the state. However, a number of other factors may be at play in what seems to be a growing cause of serious injuries and traffic fatalities.
The good riding weather we have experienced this spring, summer, and fall has led to more motorcyclists being on the road, which naturally leads to a greater opportunity for accidents. However, other factors, such as the 2003 repeal of Pennsylvania's mandatory helmet law, may also be at play. A 2012 University of Pittsburgh study showed a more than 63% increase in traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) in the eight years after the helmet law was repealed.
One place that has seen a dramatic increase in motorcycle accidents this year is UPMC in Pittsburgh. According to authorities, the medical center treated 71 motorcycle accident victims in 2013 and has already treated 76 individuals for cycle injuries so far this year. Allegheny County has also had four fatalities this year and is on pace for more motorcycle-related deaths than they have experienced in any year in more than a decade.
According to one of UPMC's top trauma surgeon, the most common injuries he sees are broken ankles and legs, broken arms, and road rash; however, he claims that there are also many spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries. Many of these types of injuries occur when a cyclist is thrown forward over the motorcycle, which explains why many motorcycle accidents involve head and facial injuries.
Another surgeon who is the trauma outreach and injury prevention coordinator at UPMC recommends a few things motorcycle riders can do to help prevent injuries. First, it's important to make sure you wear proper equipment to prevent injuries. Wearing a jacket and jeans provide better protection against abrasions than shorts and lightweight shirts. In addition, wearing boots that cover the ankle are also preferable to tennis shoes because they provide more stability and may prevent some ankle injuries.
Finally, it's important that riders also seek out additional safety training. There is a free course called the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program available to any state resident who has a license to operate a motorcycle. Even experienced riders can benefit from learning tips on defensive driving and recognizing and reacting to dangerous situations.