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Common Characteristics of Motorcycle- and Bicycle-Related Head Injuries

May 24th, 2022

The spring and summer months are highly popular times for cyclists, whether they’re riding motorcycles or bicycles. One might naturally assume that riding a motorcycle is riskier than riding a bicycle simply because of the speed difference involved–but the statistics tell a different story, especially when it comes to head injuries (traumatic brain injuries, or TBI). It doesn’t always take a massive impact to trigger a brain injury. If you fall and your head hits the pavement, for example, the distance to the ground is about the same for a bicycle as it is for a motorcycle–and depending on how you hit your head, that distance may be all it takes to cause serious injury or death. Since May is both National Bike Month and Motorcycle Safety Month, let’s explore the commonalities between motorcycle- and bicycle-related brain injuries and what you can do to be safer on either vehicle.

The best way to jump in is by exploring some basic statistics about bicycles, motorcycles, and head injuries in general.

Head Injuries Are Almost as Likely to Occur on Bicycles as on Motorcycles.

According to studies, about 35 percent of reported motorcycle crashes involve brain injuries, compared to 30 percent of bicycle crashes. Considering that there are far more bicycles in use (52 million) than motorcycles (12 million), that means more people actually suffer from brain injuries caused by bicycle crashes than by motorcycle crashes.

You’re About Twice as Likely to Die from a Head Injury in a Bicycle Accident as a Motorcycle Accident.

While motorcycle fatalities are more common overall than bicycle fatalities (due to other types of injuries on a motorcycle), the fact remains that brain injuries account for 37 percent of motorcycle deaths, but a whopping 60 percent of bicycle deaths. (One possible explanation for the discrepancy may be that bicyclists are less likely to wear helmets than motorcyclists.

Head Injuries Occur Roughly the Same Way on Motorcycles and Bicycles

For both motorcyclists and bicyclists, the dynamics that cause head injuries are about the same. In the vast majority of cases, the injury occurs during a fall when the cyclist loses balance and strikes their head on the ground or possibly another foreign object on the way down. In fewer cases, the injury may occur from direct contact of the head with another vehicle.

Helmet Use Greatly Reduces the Risk of Head Injuries for Both Bicycles and Motorcycles

Wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle can reduce your risk of head injury by up to 80 percent, according to the CDC. For motorcycles, where impacts are understandably more forceful, the NHTSA says wearing a helmet reduces the risk of head injury fatality by 29 percent and reduces the risk of serious brain injury by up to 67 percent. In short, the best way to protect yourself from head injury is to wear a helmet—regardless of whether you’re on a motorcycle or a bicycle.

Despite all you can do to reduce your risk on a bicycle or motorcycle, the fact remains that sometimes accidents and injuries happen due to someone else’s negligence or carelessness. If this happens to you, we can help. Call our law office today to schedule a time to discuss your case.