In news that will no doubt be very welcome to motorcyclists everywhere, the number of those seriously injured in motorcycle accidents fell by four per cent to 5,350 in 2009 and there were 472 motorcycle user fatalities. Which was also four per cent lower than in 2008.
Related fatalities in the United Kingdom in 2009 were down another four per cent and again by 10 per cent in 2011, compared to 2010. This is a trend has continued since 2002, before which fatalities had been on the increase.
It is clear that motorcycle safety has improved over the years and much of this may be attributed to, not only the increased use of motorcycle helmets, but also to the increasing quality and safety conscious aspects of the helmets themselves. Most technology is show cased at motorcycle shows, with the largest one in the UK being the Carole Nash NEC Motorbike Show.
Let’s take a look at the way in which the motorcycle helmet has changed over the years:
The birth of the modern crash helmet
Examination of T.E Lawrence – the British Army officer immortalised as the main character in the film Lawrence of Arabia – following his fatal motorcycle accident in May 1935, brought the relationship between head trauma and motorcycle accidents to light. The neurosurgeon on the case was Sir Hugh Cairns, whose studies and findings led to the development of the first ‘crash helmets’, which were of leather construction.
While more effective than not using a helmet, by today’s standards, these helmets left little to be desired in terms of safety. The increasing popularity of motorcycles – and therefore the increasing number of fatalities – led to two professors at the University of Southern California, eminent scientists Charles Lombard and Herman P. Roth, to develop an impact shock-absorbent helmet.
The new helmet was designed in such a way that spread the energy throughout the helmet, thereby avoid blunt force trauma. The design was patented in 1953, giving life to the modern crash helmet.
There can be no doubt that Lombard’s design has saved many lives through the years, but changes in the way people ride motorcycles, as well as the advent of motocross competition, has given rise to the continued advancement of helmet technology for safety reasons.
There are now five different types of motorcycle crash helmet: Full face, motocross, open face and half helmet. The full face variant is widely recognised as the safest of the five.
Although, helmets have saved many lives at high speed, during low velocity impacts, the modern standard helmet’s EPS lining – the shock-absorbent foam that is key to absorbing impact often doesn’t deform – meaning that too much energy can be transferred to the skull of the rider.
Accordingly, many are calling for a solution to this problem and Southern Californian company 6D helmets think that they might have found the solution, in what it calls ‘Omni-directional suspension’.