Avoid Slippers, Shorts when Riding Motorcycles – Surgeon

    Jennifer D'Aguilar

    Orthopaedic Surgeon, Cary Fletcher, is urging motorcyclists to avoid open footwear, such as slippers, and shorts when driving motorcycles to reduce the risk of serious injuries to their lower limbs in the event of a crash.

    The surgeon who conducted a study between 2016 and 2018 examining the impact of motorcycle crashes on the St Ann’s Bay Hospital, added that most of the victims in motorcycle crashes during the period had injuries to their lower bodies.

    “Fifty-five per cent of the injuries involved the lower limbs (defined as from the foot to the hip). These lower limb injuries are not only the commonest injuries, but also the injuries requiring greatest need for hospital admission and need for surgery, which both speak to how bad the injuries are. I’m, therefore, imploring persons to desist from wearing shorts and slippers and wear lower limb protective gear in addition to a helmet. At the very least cover your skin,” he added.

    Dr Fletcher notes that motorcyclists who are number one when it comes to road user fatalities, made up 98 per cent of the study with almost 70 per cent of those observed in the study being below the age of 40. The study covered patients from the entire North Eastern Health Authority that is St Ann, St Mary and Portland.

    “When you consider the wages of all medical and non-medical staff involved in patient care, the cost to the government with regards to the use of the operating theatre (staff, equipment and drugs used etc.), these are prohibitive considering that many of these crash victims require multiple surgical procedures due to the severity of the injuries. There are also long-term costs to consider such as rehabilitation, lost time from work, psychological support,” he said.

    Dr Fletcher is also advocating for motorcyclists to be trained in an effort to reduce road fatalities.

    “Over the period of the study, we found that loss of control and poor judgement when executing and overtaking accounted for 80 per cent of the injuries we saw, which means most injuries were preventable. Had they been formally trained, they would have likely not had these injuries,” he said.

    He revealed that only three of the 155 riders in the study had been trained. As a result, he wants more to be done to reduce fatalities.

    “The government needs to expand training of motorcyclists island wide as it is only done in Westmoreland and St Elizabeth. Training is necessary not only to improve the skill level especially when performing emergency maneuvers, but also to change the culture of riders to get greater compliance with appropriate gears, and behaviour,” he said.

    Owen Smith, general manager, Jamaica Automobile Association explains that the over the years the JAA has taken steps to train motorcyclists and minimise the risk of injury by providing helmets. He said the organisation would continue its role of advocating for safe use of the nation’s roads.

    Fatalities from road crashes remain high across Jamaica despite various national efforts to keep them down. Data from the Road Safety Unit indicate that 488 people died in 2022.

    “Annually, the majority of persons killed in road crashes motorcyclists who are primarily young males. This is an ongoing area of concern because of the impact it has on our health services, economy and family,” said Mr. Smith.

    “The high number of deaths sometimes come from the failure on the part of motorcyclists to wear protective gear, especially helmets. This is why in the past we have worked with motorcyclists in an attempt to reduce fatalities among that group. In 2020, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) donated 1,000 helmets to bikers, through the JAA. The donation of the helmets was a part of FIA’s commitment to road users; and as FIA’s key partner in Jamaica for more than 95 years and we were pleased to spearhead that initiative locally,” he added.

    Mr. Smith said the JAA continued to advocate for the safety of road users.

    “We remain committed educating motorcyclists to be responsible road users and will continue our advocacy efforts focusing on that group because too many lives are lost on our roads annually especially among young men in the most productive years of their lives,” he added.

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