View Full Version : What you can learn from an NFL player’s nasty accident

08-24-06, 02:40 PM
August 22, 2006
Risky Ride
What you can learn from an NFL player’s nasty accident

By Eric Peters
Special to the Times

It’s been said that the skills necessary to safely operate a motorcycle — especially a high-performance sport bike — are comparable to those required of a fighter pilot.

The accident that seriously injured pro football player Ben Roethlisberger comes as a reminder that the risks are just as high.

Roethlisberger, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ starting quarterback, was badly hurt June 12 when he collided with a car turning left in front of his motorcycle, ending up in the hospital with a broken jaw and nose.

Within the ranks, motorcycle accidents continue to kill and injure troops at an alarming rate, despite aggressive efforts to educate riders about these dangers.

Accident totals vary from year to year, but the numbers are generally rising. More troops have died in off-duty motorcycle accidents since 2002 than have been killed in fighting in Afghanistan since October 2001. More than 390 troops have died in motorcycle accidents since 2002, compared with 319 killed in Afghanistan as of Aug. 10.

In fiscal 2005, 89 service members died in motorcycle-related accidents, Defense Department figures show — a four-year high. In the Army alone, 40 soldiers died in motorcycle accidents in 2005, nearly twice the number killed the previous year.

Military officials have said the deaths are largely the result of boredom, enough bonus pay to buy a bike and adrenaline to burn after returning from combat. And while troops must wear safety gear to ride on base, the rules off base aren’t as strict.

While news accounts focused on Roethlisberger’s failure to wear a helmet — Pennsylvania has no helmet law — few pointed out that he stacked the deck against himself in other ways. Here’s what you can learn from his ride gone wrong:

A helmet’s not enough

Apart from not wearing a helmet, he also wasn’t wearing protective leathers or proper riding boots.

Without proper riding gear, a helmet alone may ensure only that your face still looks good when you’re sitting in your wheelchair — or lying in your coffin.

Multiple compound fractures (sometimes requiring amputation), cervical or spinal trauma, life-threatening internal injuries and the loss of chunks of flesh and skin are often the price of not gearing up — helmet or no helmet.

Twenty states and the District of Columbia require motorcyclists to wear helmets and/or eye protection; none mandates that leathers and boots be worn when riding. On military installations, high-visibility personal protective equipment is required, as are helmets, face shields or goggles, full-length pants, gloves and sturdy footwear such as boots or over-the-ankle shoes.

A good one- or two-piece leather suit will cost you from $400 to more than $1,000, depending on the brand and style. This may seem like a big expense, but compared with the cost of a few weeks spent in the hospital — or a lifetime spent with a disabling injury or disfigurement — it’s the bargain of the year.

Gung-ho — but very green

The next strike against Roethlisberger was his inexperience. He didn’t have a motorcycle license and hadn’t been riding for long. He apparently had never taken a basic rider safety course, such as the ones conducted by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation or those taught on military bases.

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 92 percent of motorcyclists involved in crashes were either self-taught or trained by family or friends. More than half of riders involved in accidents had less than five months of experience on the bike they were riding at the time of the accident, according to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.

Most states require that new riders first acquire a learner’s permit, then pass both a road test and a written test before they get full privileges. On-base requirements stipulate that a motorcycle rider also complete a rider safety course.

Finally, Roethlisberger, like many gung-ho and inexperienced riders, made a potentially career-ending mistake in selecting his bike. According to news reports, the 24-year-old quarterback, who had never owned a sport bike before, chose to ride the world’s fastest production motorcycle, the Suzuki Hayabusa.

This is the Ferrari Enzo of motorcycles. A machine with a higher power-to-weight ratio than virtually anything on four wheels, it is capable of running to 60 mph in less than three seconds — and from there to a top speed in excess of 175 mph.

Like other high-performance sport bikes, the ’Busa is designed for expert riders who have developed the skill set crucial to keeping such a machine safely under control. It’s not a good choice for a first bike.

But because such bikes are relatively inexpensive, almost anyone can afford one, including “newbie” riders who may be getting in way over their heads. A new Hayabusa GSX1300R similar to the one Roethlisberger was riding, for example, lists for $11,299, about the cost of a used Toyota Corolla.

This isn’t to slam top-tier sport bikes like the ’Busa or its Kawasaki, Yamaha or Honda competitors. In the hands of a skilled rider, they’re no more dangerous than an F-14 fighter is with an experienced combat pilot at the stick.

But no one’s ready to fly a Tomcat without first mastering a Piper Cub, and the same goes for high-strung sport bikes.

Use your head

In some countries — England, for example — tiered licensing requirements prohibit new riders from starting out on a machine above their skill and experience level. After about a year of learning the ropes on a smaller, less powerful bike, the novice rider is allowed to move up to bigger, faster bikes.

We have no such laws in the U.S., but as with safety equipment, this isn’t so much about the law as it is about common sense.

That means that while it may be perfectly legal for the new and inexperienced rider to buy the quickest, fastest sport bike he can afford, it’s not necessarily the smart thing to do.

The results can be ugly.

Eric Peters is an automotive columnist who has covered the auto industry since 1992. He rides a 2003 Kawasaki ZRX1200R and (when it’s running) a 1976 Kawasaki Kz900 with a big-bore kit and cams. But he never rides without leathers. Write to him at epeters952@aol.com.

On the web:

Learn the ins and outs of motorcycling, find a rider school through the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.



08-24-06, 06:23 PM
I cant believe they forgot the worst part about the whole Big Ben accident.


08-24-06, 06:29 PM
I cant believe they forgot the worst part about the whole Big Ben accident.


With a little commen sense;)