Stunt rider encourages motorcyclists to wear helmets
MARLON Fletcher, former president of the Jamaica Motorcyclists Association, is urging bikers to invest in purchasing and wearing helmets as one way to save their lives in the event of a road crash.
The motorcycle enthusiast and former stunt rider pointed out that wearing a helmet offers many advantages and is inexpensive to purchase.
“As a motorcyclist a helmet can save your life and should be worn every time you ride a motorcycle,” said Fletcher.
“Wearing a helmet offers many advantages for the rider because most importantly, in the event of a crash, it can prevent serious head injury. Also, when you are riding, it prevents dust and wind from getting in your eyes and so you should wear it all times.
“The only disadvantage to wearing a helmet is the heat because it will get hot because of the sponge and foam which are built in the helmet to provide comfort and protect you,” added Fletcher, who has been riding professionally for more than 20 years.
He argued that cost should not be the reason motorcyclists fail to wear a helmet.
“They have been shown to reduce the risk of serious injuries with the only disadvantage being that it can be hot inside them. Helmets save lives and so bikers should invest in them. They can cost anywhere from $7,800 to $46,800, so affordability should not be a deterrent,” said Fletcher.
He added: “There is also the cultural element where some of these guys may not think it is cool to wear a helmet, let alone other protective gear. But riding without a helmet is like exposing oneself to a contagious disease without the necessary protective gear. You would not do that under normal circumstances. So why expose yourself in a situation like that?”
One motorcyclist interviewed knows all too well the dangers of not wearing protective gear when riding a motorcycle.
He believes he has lost much income over the past 15 years as he has not been able to hold a full-time job since surviving a motorcycle crash back in 2008.
The Westmoreland-based motorcyclist, who asked not to be named, walks with a severe limp because of the crash, and he still feels pain in both legs on occasions.
He told the Jamaica Observer that he was riding his motorcycle one morning when he collided with a car travelling in the opposite direction. That incident was a turning point as he is now unable to hold jobs because of his inability to stand or walk for long.
“I wasn’t wearing protective gear or a helmet, so I ended up sustaining head injuries. Both my legs were broken and huge chunks of flesh were missing. I also had scrapes and scratches on my hands,” he said.
“I was 22 at the time and the main provider for my family. I was in the hospital for three months and lost my job. I also used the motorcycle to carry goods for small shops in my community and I lost that income too,” he added.
According to the motorcyclist, after being discharged from hospital, he received a bill for $47,000 for the pins in his legs and a whopping $700,000 for another round of surgeries to correct the limp he now has.
“I did not pay for the hospital bill. However, my family struggled to find the money. They spent an average of $700 per day on meals when they visited. My medication was $70,000 in total which my family struggled to afford. I was also required to do physiotherapy, which cost $5,000 per session. I only did about six which was $30,000 because we could not afford it,” he said.
“I was told I would require surgery to correct the limp, which was $700,000. I could not afford it because I wasn’t working and my sister, who was now the family breadwinner, could not afford it either,” he added.
Choosing instead to live with the pain and disability, the motorcyclist estimates his loss of income since the crash at millions of dollars.
“Job-wise, I have probably lost about $6 million and with the accident, I am looking at even more money. I can’t find full-time employment and so I have to do odd jobs to care for myself,” he revealed.
In the meantime, Owen Smith, general manager of the Jamaica Automobile Association, said this motorcyclist’s expenses to aid in his recovery is in line with the findings of the Cost of Care Report, a report commissioned and funded by the United Nations and the JN Foundation in 2017.
“The UN and JN Foundation Cost of Care Report presented the case of a 24-year-old motorcyclist who was hit by a motor car. The report said at the time it cost approximately $9 million to treat him. Consider that the report was compiled roughly about eight years ago when things were less expensive.
“Also, when you consider the salaries of the nurses, doctors, ward assistants, things like soaps and other costs associated with the victim’s stay in hospital, you’re looking at probably close to $15 million,” said Smith.
“In this case, where he was the breadwinner, you’re looking at a family that has found it even more difficult to survive economically over the past 15 years. Therefore, we need to emphasise to motorcyclists, especially the need to wear protective gear such as helmets. There also needs to be messaging about responsible road usage such as adhering to the road code, paying attention to road markings and traffic signals,” added Smith.
He noted that in an effort to reduce the number of road crashes and fatalities among motorcyclists, the Jamaica Automobile Association (JAA) has been encouraging bikers to wear helmets when riding.
Smith said the association recently partnered with the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) to donate 700 helmets to bikers and more will be done to advocate for helmet wearing.
“The donation of the helmets reflects a part of FIA’s commitment to road users; and as FIA’s key partner in Jamaica for almost a century, the JAA has always been committed in advocating for best practices as it relates to road use,” said Smith.
Up to December 29, Jamaica had recorded 420 deaths on the nation’s streets with motorcyclists accounting for 31 per cent of the road users killed.