May is Motorcycle Awareness Safety Month in Canada. At long last, even if it has been unseasonably cold, bikers can get back on the road.
But, statistics show May also marks the start of a significant increase in the number of motorcycle-related crashes and resultant hospital visits.
The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) has compiled data about the number and cause of these hospital visits in 2016-17.
While there has been a great deal of news recently about head injuries in rugby, hockey and football, these numbers pale by comparison to those involving motorcycles.
CIHI data shows more than 3,000 people were hospitalized in Canada in 2016-17 as the result of a motorcycle accident.
During that same period, 711 hockey players and 302 rugby/football players required hospitalization.
The largest single source of hospitalization involving sports or winter activities?
More than 8,800 Canadians fell on the ice, 4,268 involved cyclists, 2,800 were related to all-terrain vehicles and 1,717 to skiers or skateboarders.
While all of these were serious enough to require hospitalization, motorcylists face a greater risk of serious injury or death than most because of the speed involved, and the likelihood of coming into contact with another vehicle weighing tonnes.
It comes as no surprise that motorcycle-related hospital visits are highly seasonal. There is a sharp spike in starting in May and they trail off in October.
Similarly, the provinces with the largest population have the largest numbers. Ontario has the dubious distinction of leading the pack at 936 followed by Quebec at 716 and BC at 568. Atlantic Canada as a whole accounted for 223 and the Prairies for 583.
CIHI says the types of motorcycle-related problems/injuries included fractures of the shoulder, leg, arm, rib, sternum and thoracic spine. It says intracranial injury is also common.
The data does not get into the cause of the crash, only of the consequences. Motorcyclists will tell you the most common cause of crashes are drivers who do not see/recognize motorcycles.
Many of these happen when the two-wheel vehicle is in the “blind spot” and the driver changes lane or directions.
This result is the vehicle hitting the bike, or causing it to have to take violent corrective action. Two wheels are less stable than four in these situations.
Another common situation involving the failure to recognize a motorcycle, is when one or the other is pulling unto the road, or slowing to leave it.
Motorists play a significant role in the number of injuries and deaths involving bicycles and motorcycles.
Reducing these numbers will require effort on both sides of the fence. Motorists can do their part by being more aware of their surroundings.
Look further down the road and maintain a constant use of mirrors.