Passengers Face High Risk of Brain Injury in Motorcycle Crashes

The people who drive motorcycles in Alabama are not the only ones who suffer injuries in crashes. The people who ride as passengers can get seriously hurt in motorcycle accidents, too. In fact, recently published research indicates that motorcycle passengers actually face a higher risk of suffering head and brain injuries in crashes than drivers.

For a study reported online in November in the medical journal, JAMA Surgery, researchers from the Indiana University School of Medicine analyzed motorcycle accident data from 2007 to 2010. The researchers identified roughly 85,000 motorcycle crash trauma patients.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) proved to be the most common injury among the motorcycle accident victims who did not wear a helmet at the time of the crash. The researchers found that passengers had both a higher rate of brain injury than drivers as well as a lower rate of helmet use. As Reuters notes, even when passengers wore helmets, they still had a higher rate of TBI than drivers.

Why Is Brain Injury a Problem with Motorcycle Passengers?

The researchers discussed several reasons why motorcycle passengers suffer brain injuries at a high rate. Those reasons include:

  • Passengers are less likely to wear a helmet. According to the study, roughly 66 percent of the motorcycle drivers wore helmets. In contrast, only 57.5 percent of the passengers were helmeted. Why? For one, motorcycle drivers generally take rider education classes before they get their license. So they may simply pay more attention to safety, especially helmet use, than those who are just along for the ride.
  • Passengers often sit up higher than riders. Except on larger cruisers and highway bikes, most passengers are lucky to have any sort of seat or support when they ride a motorcycle. While some bikes feature a small cushion above the rear tire or a small back support , the passenger will still be higher than the driver. This position makes a passenger more likely to get ejected from the bike if it crashes.
  • Passengers have less to grip. Since passengers may ride on a small seat elevated higher than the rider, the only thing for the passenger to hold on to may be the rider or small metal hand pegs attached to the sides of the seat. This lack of grip and control can cause passengers to get thrown off the motorcycle head-first.
  • Passengers can’t see what is happening. Motorcycle drivers can see when a vehicle is about to hit the bike, or when the bike is about to collide with a stationary object. Passengers, on the other hand, typically do not see an accident coming. So, they lack the ability to brace for the impact.

Even though the study found TBI risk to be highest among motorcycle passengers, the study’s lead author told Reuters that the main takeaway should be that both drivers and passengers can enjoy “protective benefits” if they wear a helmet while on the road.

Indeed, this conclusion echoes a point that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) made in a 2015 report about helmet use among motorcyclists. According to the agency, helmet use could reduce drivers’ risk of death in a crash by 37 percent and passengers’ risk by 41 percent. The NHTSA estimated that helmet use could save 715 lives each year.

Does Alabama Require Motorcyclists to Wear Helmets?

For many years, the overwhelming majority of states had mandatory helmet laws for all motorcycle riders, regardless of their age. After Congress eliminated a federal helmet requirement in 1975, the number of states that require helmets sharply dropped.

Today, only 21 states have what is commonly called a “universal helmet law.” Fortunately, Alabama is among that group of states. (The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety provides a helpful map of helmet laws for those who wish to check other states’ laws before they travel.) Unfortunately, many accidents still occur every year in our state that involve drivers and passengers without a helmet.

What To Do After a Motorcycle Crash in Alabama

If another person’s negligence causes you to suffer injuries in a motorcycle wreck in Alabama as a driver or passenger, then regardless of whether you wore a helmet, you have every right to pursue full compensation. To protect your right to a financial recovery, you should take these steps:

Don’t admit fault. Leave the determination of fault to professional investigators and accident reconstruction experts. In fact, an insurance company may try to use a seemingly innocent statement such as “I’m sorry’ against you.

Get emergency medical attention. If you suffer any symptoms of a head injury, be sure to talk to your doctor right away. The doctor can screen you for TBI or other types of injuries. The doctor’s documentation of your injuries will play a key role in your case.

Call a lawyer. Getting the at-fault party to pay what you are due in a motorcycle accident claim is often not as simple and straightforward as it should be. Insurance companies don’t like to pay claims. So, they will do everything they can to deny or minimize the payout to an injured motorcycle passenger. This is why you need a hard-working, aggressive lawyer on your side from the beginning of your case.

Contact Serious Injury Law Group to Pursue Compensation

Throughout Birmingham and surrounding areas, you can count on the motorcycle accident lawyers at Serious Injury Law Group to fight for all compensation you deserve. We have a record of obtaining results for motorcycle accident victims and their families throughout Alabama. We can put that experience to work for you right away.

If you were recently injured or lost a loved one in a motorcycle accident, don’t wait to get the legal help you deserve. Contact us today to set up a free consultation about your case.