Motorcycle Deaths and Injuries on the Rise

An insurance industry study reports that the average medical claim from a motorcycle crash rose by more than one-fifth last year in Michigan. What accounts for such a dramatic rise? The state passed a law no longer requiring all riders to wear motorcycle helmets. And many motorists took advantage of their new freedom, hitting the road sans helmet. Across the nation, motorcyclists opposed to mandatory helmet use have been chipping away at state helmet laws for years while crash deaths have been on the rise. According to the study done by the Highway Loss Data Institute, the average insurance payout for a motorcycle injury claim was approximately $5,410 the two years prior to the law being changed, when helmets were mandatory for all riders. After the new law went into effect, the average payment rose to $7,257— a 34 percent jump. The Highway Loss Data Institute is part of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing the losses sustained from crashes on the nation’s roads. This includes personal and property losses. The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) supports this mission through scientific studies of insurance data and by publishing insurance loss results. According to HLDI’s chief research officer David Zuby, “The cost per injury claim is significantly higher after the law changed than before, which is consistent with other research that shows riding without a helmet leads to more head injuries.” This particular study is the first one to take a specific look at the consequences repealing helmet laws have on the severity of injuries as measured by medical insurance claims. Although some states have set minimum medical insurance requirements for motorcyclists, “that doesn’t even come close to covering the lifelong care of somebody who is severely brain-injured and who cannot work and who is going to be on Medicaid and a ward of the state,” according to Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. Giving an opposing opinion, Vince Consiglio of American Bikers Aimed Toward Education of Michigan, claimed bikers not taking the required safety courses was the real cause of the increase in injuries. According to Consiglio, bikers without motorcycle licenses make up an increasing share of fatalities and injuries. Nationwide, motorcycle fatalities are on the rise, even as many states are weakening or repealing helmet laws. The fatality rate for riders has gone up for 14 of the past 15 years. The Governors Highway Safety Association reported 5,000 deaths in 2012—14 percent of overall traffic deaths for that year.

Bell Helmets Boosts Impact Protection

Bell Helmets is launching an important first for the company this month with the addition of the Moto-9 Flex, an offroad helmet with a new approach to impact protection.  The company is using what it calls “progressive layering technology” in the Moto-9 Flex liner to manage high-, medium- and low-speed impacts, as well as rotational impacts. The system incorporates three protective materials, each designed to address specific impact velocities.  Bell has discovered Expanded Polyolefin (EPO), which works in tandem with the often used Expanded Polypropylene (EPP) and Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) layering systems. EPO is a soft and flexible low-density polymer that, when placed between the EPP and EPS layers, dampens low-threshold impacts.  Bell has addressed rotational energy management by engineering a “slip zone” within the liner which allows for subtle movement between the inner layers in an effort to reduce rotational energy transfer from angular impacts. There are two different types of forces at play whenever an impact occurs:
  1. A LINEAR FORCE, which is caused by a straight and direct impact (such as when a ball hits a wall without rotating); it consists firstly of blunt compression (the hit) and then a reaction (the bounce) causing direct injury to the point of impact and potential further injuries following a straight line into the brain.
  2. A ROTATIONAL FORCE is slightly oblique and causes the head to rotate around its point of articulation at the top of the spine as it is hit.
Rotational head injury is startlingly common, but often under-recognized as a threat.  It is the principal cause of brain injury from motorcycle and motor vehicle accidents.  It happens because the head rotates around its point of articulation, which is the neck. This causes the brain to rotate within the skull tearing the veins and causing bleeding which results in a subdural hematoma.  Because the head is not perfectly round, the brain not only spins as a whole but some parts within it spin at different rates. This sets up additional shear forces inside the brain itself. This stress within the brain results in the tearing of nerve fibers and tiny veins within the brain.  This is called Diffuse Axonal Injury (DAI). “We’ve seen so much attention and discussion being given to specific impact scenarios, and that concerned us, because off-road motorcycling can be completely unpredictable. A proper helmet needs to protect the rider in the widest array of situations they might encounter,” said Chris Sackett, Bell Helmets vice president.

NHTSA Launches Car Seat Finder Tool

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched a new Car Seat Finder Tool, adding the ability to look up car seat recalls on its mobile app, and reminding parents and caregivers to register their child’s car seat through its new campaign – “Don’t Delay. Register Your Car Seat Today.” Statistics show that a child under the age of 13 is involved in a crash every 34 seconds and more than a third of the children who are killed in crashes were not properly restrained (either in car seats or wearing seat belts). NHTSA’s new Car Seat Finder Tool is designed to help parents select the right car seat or booster seat for their child.  Additionally, the campaign is a reminder of the importance of registering car seats in order to receive important safety recall notifications. “Safety is our highest priority, and our new tool and registration campaign are two more ways we’re working to protect our most vulnerable passengers — our children,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Parents and caregivers are the first line of defense by ensuring they are selecting the right car seat, registering it, and using it correctly for every trip.” Millions of Car Seats Have Been Recalled In 2014, NHTSA pushed manufacturers to recall more than 7.4 million car seats with defective buckles to ensure that owners received a replacement buckle at no cost. However, on average, only 40% of car seats get fixed.  By comparison, on average 75% of light vehicles (passenger cars and trucks) subject to a manufacturer’s recall are repaired.  It is thought that a primary reason for the difference is that registration of light vehicles is required by law. The NHTSA campaign urges caregivers to register their car seat so manufacturers know how to notify customers in the event of a recall so that they can receive the free fix. The agency’s Parent Central site allows parents and caregivers to select their manufacturer or brand of car seat and directly links them to the manufacturer’s registration page. In addition, the agency encourages people to utilize the updated SaferCar app which now allows users to search for car seat recalls, in addition to vehicle and tire recalls. The SaferCar app also provides information on where people can go for help in installing their car seats. NHTSA offers parents and caregivers the following safety tips:
  • Utilize NHTSA’s Car Seat Finder Tool to determine the right seat for your child based on age and size.
  • Read the instructions and labels that come with your child’s car seat and read the vehicle owner’s manual for important information on installing the seat in your particular vehicle.
  • Register your child’s car seat with the manufacturer to ensure you receive important safety recall notifications.
  • If your child’s car seat is subject to a recall, contact the manufacturer and follow their guidance to receive a free fix for your seat.
  • Go to your local car seat inspection station to have your seat checked by a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician.
  • Use the lower anchors and tethers for child restraint systems or seat belt to install your car seat and use the top tether to secure forward-facing car seats.
  • Be sure all children under 13 years are seated and properly restrained in the back seat.
  • Always wear your seat belt to set a good example. Unbuckled drivers are more likely to have unrestrained children in the car.

Death Toll Reaches 21 for GM’S Faulty Ignition Switches

According to a recently released report by an unnamed lawyer working for the program to compensate victims of accidents caused by GM’s faulty ignition switch, the number of deaths deemed eligible for compensation has reached 21 with another 16 eligible claims for serious injuries.  Reuters has reported that as of August 1, 2014 a total of 1,675 claims have been submitted for serious injuries or deaths related to the faulty ignition switch.  Of those claims, 143 are related to  fatalities attributed to the accident.  Statistically, with only 37 of the 1,675 claims deemed eligible, only 2% of the submitted claims have been deemed eligible for compensation. Earlier this year, GM recalled 2.6 million vehicles over the faulty ignition switch.  The ignition switch defect allows the ignition to slip out of position during vehicle operation which results in the disabling of the airbags and causes the vehicle to stall and lose power steering and power braking capabilities.  Investigations have shown that GM executives not only had knowledge of the faulty ignition switches as far back as 2004, but emails obtained by Reuters showed that the parts could have been fixed for about 90 cents per car, plus $400,000 in tooling costs.  In May, NHTSA fined GM $35 million, the maximum amount allowed under the law, for their delay in recalling vehicles with the faulty switch. In the consent decree, GM “admitted that it broke federal law by not recalling the vehicles in a timely fashion” reported Vox. In an ironic twist, GM’s bailout from the federal government could also become a factor. “As part of the government restructuring, GM technically isn’t liable for injuries that happened before it went bankrupt in the summer of 2009. That potentially includes some of the victims of the ignition-switch defect,” according to Vox.  However, according to Peter J. Mougey, head of Levin, Papantonio’s Business & Securities Litigation Section, “Our bankruptcy laws are not designed to shield debtors from injuries caused by problems their companies knew about and failed to fix,”  Mougey believes the new GM, the post-bankruptcy GM, will be held liable for the hidden defects as company executives were aware of the problems and did not tell consumers. In cases where there are questions as to whether an accident is related to a manufacturer’s recalled part, a forensic engineer is often utilized.  Forensic engineering and accident reconstruction involves analysis of physical evidence in an effort to understand the events and circumstances immediately preceding an accident.  Veritech Consulting Engineers are highly trained, licensed Professional Engineers who specialize in accident reconstruction and failure analysis.  Typical investigations involve analyzing crash related evidence, and pre-crash evidence, to identify potential mechanical failures which may have caused or contributed to an accident.

Infiniti Q70 earns “Top Safety Pick+” from IIHS

Thanks to a “good” overall evaluation and the Top Safety Pick+ award, the 2014 – 2015 Infiniti Q70 is the safest car the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested recently.  The luxury sedan kept the crash test dummy out of harm’s way with measurements indicating low risks of any significant injuries in a similar crash situation. Throughout the crash sequence, the dummy’s movements were well controlled, with the head loading the frontal airbag, while the side curtain airbag deployed appropriately and offered sufficient forward coverage to protect the head from the side structure and outside objects. The Q70’s driver space was maintained reasonably well, with max intrusion at the parking brake pedal (22 cm), while the lower hinge pillar moved roughly 15 centimeters. Upper interior intrusion was measured 8 to 9 centimeters at the hinge pillar and instrument panel. Equipped with the optional Technology Package, which adds safety features such as Forward Emergency Braking and Forward Collision Warning, the Infiniti Q70 offered good levels of protection during the small overlap front crash test. However, the IIHS awarded the structure and safety cage an “average.”  To see the IIHS video of the small overlap test click here.   More about IIHS Testing IIHS tests evaluate two aspects of safety: 1) crash-worthiness – how well a vehicle protects its occupants in a crash,  and 2) crash avoidance and mitigation – technology that can prevent a crash or lessen its severity. To determine crashworthiness, IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal or poor, based on performance in five tests: moderate overlap front, small overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraints. In the area of crash avoidance and mitigation, IIHS assigns vehicles with available front crash prevention systems ratings of basic, advanced or superior, based on the type of system and performance in track tests. To qualify for 2014 TOP SAFETY PICK, a vehicle must earn good ratings in the moderate overlap front, side, roof strength and head restraint tests, as well as a good or acceptable rating in the small overlap front test. To qualify for 2014 TOP SAFETY PICK+, a vehicle must meet the TOP SAFETY PICK criteria, plus earn a basic, advanced or superior rating for front crash prevention.

Bosch Releases CDR Version 14.1

Bosch Releases CDR Version 14.1 On October 6th, 2014 Bosch CDR (Crash Data Retrieval) announced the release of its latest software version, 14.1.  The new software adds airbag module imaging support for select 2015 vehicles sold in the US and Canada.  Select vehicle “black boxes” can now be accessed via the DLC (Diagnostic Link Connector) or by directly connecting to the vehicle’s Airbag Control Module (ACM).  The select vehicles which are now supported include: BMW / MINI / Rolls-Royce (MY2015, US Market) – BMW 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 series – BMW X3, X4, X5 and X6 – MINI – Cooper Hardtop, Convertible, Coupe, Countryman, Paceman and Roadster – Rolls-Royce Ghost and Wraith Ford / Lincoln (MY2015, US/Canada Markets) – Ford Escape and Expedition – Lincoln Navigator Honda / Acura (MY2015, US/Canada Markets) – Honda Accord 4Dr and FHEV – Honda Crosstour and CR-V Mazda (MY2015, US/Canada Market) – 2015 CX-9 and Mazda5 Mercedes-Benz / smart (MY2014-2015, US/Canada Markets) – MY2014 Mercedes-Benz B-Class EV – MY2015 Mercedes-Benz C, CLA, E, G, GLA, M & S – Class vehicles – 2015 Mercedes-Benz SL & SLK – 2015 smart Toyota (Various MY2001 – MY2015, European Market) – Lexus CT200h, ES, GS, IS, LF-A, LS, LX, RX – Toyota 86, Auris, Avalon, Avensis, Ayg, Celsior, Corolla, Corolla Verso, Dyna, ES/Camry, Harrier, Hilux, Ist, LandCruiser/Prado, Prius, Ractis, RAV4/Vanguard, Toyoace, Verso-S, Yaris Toyota (MY2015, US/Canada, Australia Markets) – Lexus GS, LS & NX – Scion xB – Toyota Avalon, Camry, Highlander, RAV4, Tundra The Bosch CDR system supports select airbag modules for vehicle as far back as 1996.  To see if the pre-crash data from your vehicle’s airbag module can be downloaded please see the BOSCH CDR Coverage List. Veritech engineers utilize the Bosch CDR system as an important tool to aid in performing vehicle accident reconstructions.  Airbag modules are capable of recording valuable pre-crash information, such as vehicle speed, brake application and seatbelt usage, but are not capable of telling the entire story.  Accident reconstruction engineers must still consider all of the available physical evidence, along with the ACM data, in to order to properly reconstruct an accident.  Veritech Consulting Engineering employs Professional Engineers who are specifically trained and certified in the use of the Bosch CDR system and have performed numerous accident reconstructions utilizing airbag module information.  Click on the following link for more information on “black box” technology.

Arctic Cat recalls 40,000 ATVs from 2008-09 model years

Arctic Cat Inc. announced that it is voluntarily recalling its all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) manufactured in 2008 and a portion of the models produced in 2009; a component in the front gear box may not meet the company’s standards. There are no confirmed reports of serious injuries traced to the front gear case. “Consumer safety is at the top of Arctic Cat’s values,” said Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Chris Twomey. “We ask ATV owners of affected models to stop riding their vehicles and to bring them to one of our dealers so we can make the necessary repairs free of charge and allow users to ride their ATVs again as soon as possible.” This recall affects an estimated 35,000 ATVs from the 2008 model year and 4,500 ATVs from the 2009 model year. Registered owners of the affected ATVs will be notified by direct mail. A toll-free number is available for consumers to call with any questions: US 1-800-279-6851, CANADA 1-800-373-0717. Issues with front gearboxes on ATVs have the potential to cause unexpected changes in the handling and stability of the machine.  If a rider experiences an unexpected change while operating the vehicle there may be a resulting loss of control.  When an injury accident occurs involving a vehicle with an alleged defect, it is the job of an experienced forensic engineer to determine whether the alleged defect caused or contributed to the accident.  Veritech Consulting Engineering specializes in accident reconstruction and product failure analysis.  Our Motorcycle-ATV expert is well suited to investigate issues related to alleged defects on powersports vehicles and to determine whether the accident was influenced by a mechanical deficiency or whether it was simply operator error.

Harley recalls 105,000 2014 Touring bikes

Harley-Davidson has announced that it is recalling more than 105,000 Touring motorcycles from the 2014 model year for a clutch master cylinder repair issue. According to documents submitted to NHTSA, 105,746 Touring models from the 2014 year are being recalled because a component in the clutch master cylinder may fail, reducing the pressure available to keep the clutch disengaged. Vehicles affected by this recall include:
  • Electra Glide Ultra Classic (FLHTCU)
  • Ultra Limited (FLHTK)
  • Police Electra Glide (FLHTP)
  • Street Glide Special (FLHXS)
  • Street Glide (FLHX)
  • Tri Glide Ultra (FLHTCUTG)
  • CVO Limited (FLHTKSE)
  • CVO Road King (FLHRSE)
  • CVO Breakout (FXSBSE)
  • Electra Glide Ultra Classic Twin Cooled (FLHTCUTC)
  • Ultra Limited Shrine (FLHTK SHRINE)
  • Street Glide Shrine (FLHX SHRINE)
  • CVO Softail Deluxe (FLSTNSE)
Harley-Davidson Motor Co. estimates that about 10 percent of the recalled bikes have the defect. Harley-Davidson informed NHTSA that it had received about 632 warranty claims and 266 customer contacts related to clutch functionality issues as of Aug. 19. “There were a total of 19 crashes (low speed tip over) with three minor injuries reported. There was also one report of an incident where there was non actual crash but a reported minor injury,” the OEM stated. On both original equipment and Harley-Davidson Parts & Accessories intended for these bike models, the hydraulic clutch system may develop a tear in the primary cup (seal) on the master cylinder piston. If the primary cup (seal) on the master cylinder piston develops a tear, then the system may lose the ability to maintain sufficient lift to keep the clutch disengaged. If this condition remains undetected, it could allow the motorcycle to “creep” forward from a stop, which could lead to a loss of control of the vehicle possibly causing a crash. Dealers will remedy the issue with a master cylinder rebuilt kit, which includes a plastic retaining ring that decreases the stress in the primary cup seal, the company stated. For more information and access to the official recall related documents visit the following link:  NHTSA website Veritech Consulting Engineering reconstructs accidents involving motor vehicles with a specialty in the reconstruction of motorcycle accidents.  Our motorcycle expert, Mark Kittel, P.E., is a former AMA pro-level road-racer and a registered professional engineer in multiple states.  Please contact us at 303-660-4395 with questions or to discuss the reconstruction of a motorcycle accident.