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Concerned citizen — don’t touch that helmet!

November 5, 2009

Concerned citizen — don’t touch that helmet!

True or false: When a motorcycle rider is lying injured on the ground after being involved in an accident, concerned bystanders should remove his or her helmet to increase the injured rider’s comfort level.

If you answered “true,” you may be responsible for that rider’s untimely death.

The Hill Air Force Base Motorcycle Safety Program is actively spreading the message to all motorists that, although it may seem as if removing a riders’ tight-fitting helmet would reduce medical complications to the head and increase the injured rider’s psychological and physical comfort levels, the opposite is actually true.

To illustrate this point, two employees of the 523rd Electronic Maintenance Squadron shared personal accounts that happened within the past two months that had two different outcomes.

Avionics worker, Bobbi Bare, disclosed her nephew’s accident which happened last month on a highway in San Diego, Calif. Witnesses of the late-night accident sought to help the injured 19-year-old by removing his helmet before emergency crews arrived.

“They thought they were doing the right thing but probably separated his spinal cord while pulling (the helmet) off,” Bare recalled. “I was told that, because he was alive and semi-alert on scene until the helmet was removed, doctors determined that removing the helmet was most likely the cause of death … He may have survived if they had immobilized his head instead of pulling off the helmet.”

Then there is the incident that Aircraft Electrical Actuator Planner Stan Carl experienced while riding his motorcycle home from work. A collision with a merging car separated Carl from his motorcycle. He attempted to stand up after hitting the ground, but was prevented from moving by two female bystanders. While one woman immobilized Carl’s helmeted head on the ground, the other lifted his visor, removed his sunglasses and checked his eyes for signs of shock.

“That is when I realized they must have had some medical experience,” Carl said. “The women released my helmet when the medical personnel arrived and placed a collar on my neck … The helmet was only removed at the hospital and the collar was removed a short time later, after the doctor was sure there was no life-threatening injuries to my neck or back.”

Carl said the accident provided him a better understanding of what a bystander should and should not do for a motorcyclist in an accident. “I know most people want to make a fallen rider more comfortable, but removing the helmet, any safety equipment or clothing could be very dangerous. Also, the helmet is a lot more comfortable than having my head lying on the pavement.”

Jack Deschner, a Unit Motorcycle Safety coordinator for the 309th Maintenance Wing, provides additional tips for witnesses at an accident site:

“Remain calm and keep your head straight, someone needs to be in charge until emergency help arrives,” he advised.

Additionally, Deschner says to make a thorough scene assessment to see what details were involved and to ensure that no one is in a potentially unsafe position. Then, he warns never to move an accident victim, unless it is absolutely required to keep the victim alive, and never remove the victims’ personnel protective clothing, including the riders’ helmet.

“There are no perfect accidents,” he said. “Do what you can, the best that you can, with an intelligent approach.”

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has its own outline of key messages for drivers, with an eye toward protecting one particular vulnerable party — motorcyclists:

Look for motorcyclists — use your eyes and mirrors to see what’s around, and check the blind spots when you’re changing lanes or turning at intersections. Look, and look again.

Focus on driving — hang up the phone, put down the MP3 player, settle the passengers, and drive.

Use your turn signals — signal your intentions for everyone’s safety.

Give two-wheelers some room — Don’t tailgate or pass too closely.

Take your time — nothing is as important as the safety of your loved ones, yourself, and the others with whom you share the road.

All these principles can be boiled down to this paraphrase of the Golden Rule — drive near others as you would have others drive near you.

The 75th Air Base Wing Motorcycle Safety Program Manager, Allan Woods, reports that, despite the two incidents previously recalled, Hill AFB consistently has a low motorcycle accident rate with its riders.

Woods attributes this low record to four important factors. “The 75th Air Base Wing Safety Office offers quality Motorcycle Safety Foundation training to our base riders, which is provided by our staff of well-trained volunteer RiderCoaches, free of charge throughout the riding season each year.

“Secondly, we are fortunate to have the Hill Riders Association which serves as our mentorship program and offers an every-Saturday ride to help our riders continue polishing their safe riding skills. The Hill Riders have successfully completed 310,000 accident-free miles as a group, which is extremely impressive for group riding statistics.

“Thirdly, majorities of our riders have a lot of experience and appreciate riding as a way of life and have a high level of respect for the dangers and hazards of the road. Staying in tune with the dangers and hazards of the road and paying full attention while riding will help us to grow to be very old riders, which is one of my personal goals.

“Lastly, we have more than 40 Unit Motorcycle Safety Coordinators on base. This is similar to the Voluntary Protection Program for the base motorcycle community. All motorcycle safety information is sent to our UMSCs, who ensure all riders in their organizations have the opportunity to receive all of the information that I send out regularly throughout the riding season.”



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