The link between helmet laws and motorcyclists fatalities may seem intuitive and obvious, but now because of a study published in the American Journal of Surgery we have scientific proof that helmets save lives. The study focuses around Michigan, which repealed its mandatory helmet law (thanks to help from the AMA) in April 2012, and has since had three riding seasons with a greatly reduce helmet-wearing requirement. Postulating that legislatures made a mistake in that repeal, the basic conclusions from the study are that the state has seen an increase in injury severity for motorcycles, a higher in-patient mortality for motorcyclists, and worse neurological damage for motorcyclists. While those are all painful logical results, the numbers paint an even more grim picture.
The University of California Berkeley has finished its study of lane-splitting in California, and the results are encouraging for lane-splitting proponents.Researchers, led by Dr. Thomas Rice of the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center (SafeTREC), reviewed nearly 6,000 motorcycle-involved traffic collisions between June 2012 and August 2013, including 997 in which the riders were splitting lanes at the time of the crash. The big takeaway from this research is that when done reasonably, lane-splitting is just as safe as riding a motorcycle. As such, one of the more important insights found by Rice and his team was that motorcyclists can travel up to 15 mph faster than the flow of traffic with no statistical increase in crashing.
In a comprehensive report of various automobile safety systems, AAA released intriguing findings about blindspot monitoring systems, with some thoughts as how they pertain to motorcycles. While the driver aid systems are exactly that, systems designed to aid a driver in operating a passenger vehicle safely, AAA found that not only were drivers relying on them to heavily, in lieu of safe driving practices, but also that in certain situations the systems operated sub-optimally. The study found that most blindspot monitor systems have a hard time detecting fast-moving vehicles, and often served warnings too late to drivers.
The topic of lane-splitting is heating up in California, after the California Highway Patrol (CHP) posted guidelines for the legal practice to its website, and then was forced to remove them after a formal complaint that the posted recommendations constituted the CHP making legal regulations. Now finishing a year-long study regarding the safety of motorcycles splitting lanes in The Golden State, the CHP has found that lane-splitting is no more dangerous than riding a motorcycle in general, provided a rider doesn’t exceed the flow of traffic by more than 10 mph.
The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America has published a study titled “Aeroacoustic Sources of Motorcycle Helmet Noise” in which the various frequencies and decibel levels of helmet-generated noise were measured and tested, I became very interested in the study’s findings. Conducted by the University of Bath and Bath Spa University in England, the researchers performed a very intuitive test where they placed a mannequin’s head in a wind tunnel, turned on the wind, and recorded the sound volume and frequency at various points in and around the helmet. The conclusion was that at even normal legal riding speeds, deafening levels of sound were reaching the eardrum, primarily due to the chin bar on the helmet.