Archive for the ‘motorcycles’ Category

For U.S. Marines: Motorcycles Deadlier Than Iraq

November 1, 2008

More Marines have died on motorcycles than in Iraq so far this year. Just under 10 percent of Marines own high-speed sport bikes, and no one knows why the corps is so plagued by serious accidents. The military brass is so concerned that officials have scheduled a meeting to address the issue.

From Larry Shaughnessy
CNN Pentagon Producer

Twenty-five Marines have died in motorcycle crashes since last November — all but one of them involving sport bikes that can reach speeds of well over 100 mph, according to Marine officials. In that same period, 20 Marines have been killed in action in Iraq.
The 25 deaths are the highest motorcycle death toll ever for the Marine Corps.
Gen. James Amos, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, told CNN that commanders are trying to drill down on what “we need to do to help our Marines survive on these sport bikes.”
“The Marines are very serious about it,” he said.
Marine Gunnery Sgt. Art Tucker knows all too well about the dangers of sport bikes. An owner of a Kawasaki Ninja, Tucker has had two crashes, and the second one nearly killed him.

Despite crashes, Gunnery Sgt. Art Tucker rides a sport motorcycle. "I enjoy it. ... It relaxes me," he says.

Above: Despite crashes, Gunnery Sgt. Art Tucker rides a sport motorcycle. “I enjoy it. … It relaxes me,” he says.

“I sustained a broken collar bone, I tore the shoulder out of the socket, I tore three ligaments in the shoulder, the rotator cuff, I broke three vertebrae,” said Tucker, a drill instructor for new officers.
“The worst was a head injury I received: a bruised brain. And it caused hemorrhaging, and from that I had partial paralysis of the left leg, full paralysis of the left foot and toes, and that was for approximately six months.”
Amos said he and other top Marine officials will spend half the day Monday “focusing on nothing but motorcycle issues.” The commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Conway, and other senior leadership will attend the meeting at the Quantico, Virginia, Marine base, he said.
About 18,000 of the nearly 200,000 Marines are believed to own motorcycles, Amos said.
The Marines have taken some measures. The Marine Corps has had a long-standing policy for all Marines who ride motorcycles to take a mandatory basic riding course. More recently, it added a second training course specifically designed to train Marines who ride sport bikes.
Any Marine caught riding, even on leave, without going through the training courses faces Marine Corps punishment, officials say.
On a recent day at the Quantico training track, Marines whizzed by on their bikes.

Vietnam halts plan to ban short and flat-chested motorists

October 29, 2008

Communist Vietnam has suspended a much-criticised plan to ban very short, thin and flat-chested people from driving, state media reported on Wednesday.

The new draft guidelines on motorcycle and car drivers had drawn widespread criticism and ridicule from motorists, newspaper readers and bloggers since they were published by the health ministry two weeks ago.

From: AFP

Motorists riding in downtown Hanoi. Communist Vietnam has suspended ... 
Motorists riding in downtown Hanoi. Communist Vietnam has suspended a much-criticised plan to ban very short, thin and flat-chested people from driving motorcycles or cars, state media reported on Wednesday.(AFP/File/Hoang Dinh Nam)

Under the 83-point plan, people shorter than 1.5 metres (4.9 feet), lighter than 40 kilogrammes (88 pounds) or with a chest circumference of less than 72 centimetres would no longer qualify for new drivers’ licences.

The proposal worried many in this nation of slender people and spurned jokes about traffic police with tape measures enthusiastically flagging down female motorcyclists, and predictions of a run on padded bras.

The justice ministry has asked the health ministry to temporarily suspend and review the plan, the Vietnam News daily reported.

“After receiving public opinion about the decision, the health and transport ministries agreed there had to be changes,” senior health department official Tran Quy Tuong was quoted as saying by the state-run daily.

Vietnam Begins Enforcing Helmet Law, Motorcyclists Comply But Not Without Gripes

December 15, 2007

HANOI, VIETNAM: Vietnamese police began enforcing a much disliked helmet law Saturday (15 Dec), but nearly all motorcyclists complied by donning their shiny new protective headgear, dubbed “rice cookers,” to avoid hefty fines.
Just a day earlier, only a handful of riders were seen wearing helmets on the streets of Hanoi, but police were out in force on nearly every street corner Saturday to ensure the law was strictly enforced.

“This morning we fined only two motorcyclists,” said police officer Nguyen Van Cai, who added that most Vietnamese would rather comply than pay the steep 150,000 dong (US$9.40) fine. “It will definitely help to reduce traffic fatalities.”

Nearly 13,000 people were killed on Vietnam’s roads last year — one of the world’s highest rates. Most accidents involve the ubiquitous motorbike, the country’s main form of transportation. More than 20 million motorbikes cram Vietnam’s busy streets daily, and every year about 2 million new bikes join the roads, along with a growing number of automobiles.

A similar helmet law was imposed in 2001, but failed to stick when angry riders protested.

Enforcement of the new law did not come without grumbling. Many argued that the bulky helmets, jokingly called “rice cookers,” would be too hot, unfashionable and hard to carry.

“It’s not necessary in the city. I think the risk of having an accident is very slim, and if you do have one, I don’t think you will get hurt,” complained motorbike taxi driver Tran Binh Minh, who now is forced to carry two helmets, one for himself and one for his passenger.

“In the summer the temperature goes up to 38 degrees (Celsius, or 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit). Can you imagine how people will deal with that?” he said.

For months, Vietnamese have been bombarded by public awareness campaigns to explain the need for the law. One television commercial showed grainy black-and-white footage of patients hospitalized with head injuries, some drooling in a vegetative state and others paralyzed or unable to feed themselves.

Vietnam’s traffic fatality rate is about 27 per 100,000 — nearly double that in the United States — and is among the highest globally, according to the World Health Organization.

Vietnam’s main helmet producer, run by U.S.-based nonprofit Protec, has been working 24 hours a day for three months to churn out 5,000 helmets daily. (By MARGIE MASON/ AP)

October 3, 2007By MARGIE MASON
AP Medical Writer

Vietnam has one of the world’s highest traffic fatality rates, with nearly 13,000 deaths recorded last year alone _ the majority involving the ubiquitous motorbike. Few people bother with helmets, saying they are hot, bulky and unfashionable. But as of Dec. 15, everyone will be required to don the so-called “rice cookers” as the government enforces a new law intended to save lives.

The Health Ministry kicked off a traffic safety campaign Wednesday to raise awareness before the new rules take effect.

“It’s not only the deaths, it’s the tens of thousands of injuries. Some people become like vegetables,” said Jean-Marc Olive, World Health Organization representative in Vietnam. “Also what is quite sad is that the major proportion of accidents occur in young adults.”

More than 20 million motorbikes cram Vietnam’s busy streets on an average day, and their numbers are growing as the country becomes wealthier. The roads are also some of the most hazardous on earth. Few drivers look before pulling into traffic. Speeding, weaving, underage driving and drunk driving are common.

Vietnam’s traffic fatality rate is about 27 per 100,000 _ nearly double that of the United States and among the highest in the world, according to WHO.

But those statistics mean little to most motorbike commuters in Hanoi.

“It is an unenforceable law. Wearing helmets in cities is ridiculous,” said Nguyen Tung Anh, 21, a student in Hanoi. “It will reduce drivers’ vision, hearing and it is not suitable for the weather conditions here.”

For those who need more convincing, Dr. Vu Hong Phong says perhaps a visit to Viet Duc Hospital would work. As the chief neurosurgeon there, he races in and out of surgery every day trying to salvage what’s left of motorcyclists who slam their heads onto the pavement without helmets.

“The problem is getting worse and worse,” Phong said. “The number of deaths I’ve seen over the past several years has increased too much and I feel very sad about that.”

He lectures surviving patients and their families about the importance of wearing helmets but said his advice is heeded only about half the time, even among those who narrowly escape death.

In the head trauma ward, blood fills cotton stuffed into patients’ ears as loved ones massage limp arms and legs. Some victims thrash in pain, their arms and legs tied to bed rails. Others lie still, their heads swollen and bruised. Tubes and machines keep them alive.

“He is in a coma and there is blood on his brain,” said Dang Thi Tu, standing over her 21-year-old son, Cong. He was driving home from a wedding when he hit a rock in the road and lost control of his bike. She wishes now that his head had been protected.

“He was only a few kilometers from home, and he didn’t wear a helmet.”

Currently, helmets are only required on highways outside cities where fines the equivalent of $1.25 are levied on violators. All government employees have also been required to wear helmets since last month.

Government officials are discussing whether to raise the fine when the new law kicks in. Helmets must also be certified with a stamp verifying they meet Vietnamese safety standards.

But enforcement will be tough. When Vietnam tried to impose a helmet law in 2001, angry drivers protested and the government backed down. Some say they will only abide this time if forced.

“I cannot imagine myself wearing trendy clothes together with a helmet,” said Le Tra My, 18, who was shopping for hats at an upscale store in Hanoi. “It will look awful.”