Tips for safer motorcycle riding
The correct use of motorcycles on the nation's roadways is prescribed in Jamaica's Road Traffic Act.
Under the act, every person shall, at all times while driving, or riding on a motor cycle, wear a protective helmet of the prescribed shape, quality, construction or standard.
At minimum, motorcycles are required to be outfitted with "current registration plates, a white headlamp and red tail lamp to signal the approach and position of the motorcycle, an audible horn to warn of the motorcycle's approach, and functional braking mechanisms".
Under the Act, in order to receive a certificate of fitness, vehicles must be inspected by the Island Traffic Authority "to ensure their worthiness for use".
Failure to comply will mean a court appearance and a possible fine or imprisonment, upon apprehension. According to the National Road Safety Council (NRSC), motorcyclists are virtually "unprotected" in the event of an accident.
Greater risk of collision
However, because motorcycles are smaller and easier to manoeuvre, it allows riders to weave their way between other motor vehicles in traffic and so, these riders are at greater risk of collision, as motorcycles are less visible to automobile drivers.
"Compared with cars, motorcycles, being two-wheelers, are unstable and provide little protection for their riders in accidents. Accident statistics support this view," the NRSC noted in an article published on its website titled 'Protection for Motorcyclists'.
The document said the most frequently injured parts of the motorcyclists' bodies, are "the head and the extremities, particularly the legs, as the leg is often squeezed between the rider's own vehicle and the striking vehicle or the ground".
The NRSC said the leading causes of death among motorcyclists are injuries to the head and chest, and that other soft-tissue injuries seen in riders of motorcycles are caused by protruding objects on a motorcycle, on the other vehicle or on the ground.
The NRSC also noted that the most serious accidents are those that cause a significant change in the trajectory of the rider. "This movement of rider due to force, happens when the motorcycle collides with another vehicle or a stationary object large enough to change the path of travel of the rider.
If the object is low enough for the rider to pass over it, the trajectory will not change significantly but the rider will usually continue in the original direction until he hits the ground, or some other object at some distance from the site of the collision.
This distance is determined mainly by his original speed. While airborne, the rider may tumble and, therefore, it is not possible to predict his position at impact on the ground," the NRSC said.
The council said that since head injuries are the most common among cyclists, crash helmets are crucial.
The agency recommends the full-face integral helmet, which it says "extends the protection to cover more of the head and face of the wearer", has an improved shock-absorbing capacity, and prevents laceration of the scalp and reduces the incidences of skull fractures and brain damage.
It also recommends wearing of leather clothing, which it says reduces the risk of extensive superficial soft tissue injury, by reducing "the tendency of the body to tumble and gives it a smoother motion when it slides over the road surface in an accident".