A Motorcycle Safety and Transport Policy Framework
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has improved dramatically over the last 30 years. Technology offers riders more choice than ever. Good PPE can be the difference between life and death, or a slight rather than a serious life changing injury. This action is a new addition to the Motorcycle Safety and Transport policy framework.
We have all seen a minority of motorcyclists in the summer riding in a t-shirt, shorts and sometimes even sandals. In recent years we have also seen an upturn in the up to 125cc motorcycle and scooter market. Many of these riders are not ‘motorcyclists’ but use their machine to commute or for other short local journeys. These riders are less likely to wear PPE but are just as vulnerable as riders of larger capacity motorcycles.
Transport for London have carried out some research into the need for PPE as part of their Motorcycle Safety Action Plan:
“However, heavy weight clothing that is not approved can also offer a lower level of protection to riders. The wearing rates of protective clothing (heavy-weight motorcycle clothing and PPE) by motorcyclists in summer are 60 per cent for protective jackets, between 22 per cent and 27 per cent for protective trousers and 64 per cent to 77 per cent for protective gloves. PPE wearing rates increase by between four per cent and 12 per cent in the winter and lightweight clothing, which offers no protection from injuries, reduces by between 10 per cent and 20 per cent. Scooter riders are considerably less likely to wear PPE, or heavy-weight clothing.
Research shows that the probability of protective clothing preventing an injury ranges from 17 per cent to 26 per cent for injuries to the upper torso, from 20 per cent to 45 per cent for the upper extremities, from 11 per cent to 39 per cent for the lower torso and from 21 per cent to 45 per cent for the lower extremities. This supports the need for an increased focus on the use of protective clothing which could result in a reduction in the extent and seriousness of motorcyclist injury in the Capital, in the event of collisions occurring”6
These potential reductions in injury severity cannot be ignored if we are to reduce the number of riders killed and seriously injured on our roads.
PPE covers all types of motorcycle gear; purpose-made gloves, jackets, trousers, helmets, boots all help reduce the severity of injuries sustained by riders. Kevlar, Goretex and Lorica are just a few examples of modern textiles that can be used as an alternative to traditional leather clothing that will offer good abrasion resistance. Garments can be lightweight and comfortable as well as waterproof, breathable and warm in winter and cool in the summer when thermal liners are removed.
Body armour such as knee, hip, shoulder, elbow and full back protectors are all useful additions and can help prevent or lessen bone and soft tissue injuries as well as abrasion resistance.
More recently air bag technology offers riders the opportunity to protect themselves further with some leading manufacturers offering the ability to cover the spine from the cervical vertebrae to the coccyx with an inflation time of just 80 milliseconds. Some manufactures offer this technology built into vests or jackets to cover the thoracic area to protect the ribcage and vital organs such as the heart and lungs.
Clothing, body armour and air bag protectors all must meet approved EU standards to be classified as PPE and must carry the appropriate CE logo.
However, some of this technology comes at a price and when a ‘cheap run-around’ can cost as little as £1,000 riders will be reluctant to spend hundreds of pounds on safe riding kit. This Framework aims to encourage all riders to improve their safety in some way, whether that means a rider beginning to wear motorcycle gloves for all trips, or at the other end of the spectrum, upgrading their riding kit to top of the range CE approved PPE from head to foot, any positive changes will make a difference. See Action 19 Safety Messaging – Creating Awareness of Motorcycling.
One of the barriers to the use of PPE is price, and only helmets are currently VAT exempt by law. New opportunities to lobby government to remove VAT from motorcycle clothing and PPE may be possible as our post Brexit opportunities become clearer.
- Working in partnership with other stakeholders develop ways of promoting the benefits of PPE to riders.
- In the longer term lobby government to allow VAT exemptions for all protective motorcycle clothing.
UPDATE – Action 18 – Encouraging Riders to Use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
This is a new addition to the framework.
6 Transport for London Motorcycle Safety Action Plan, Page 15, March 2014. http://content.tfl.gov.uk/motorcycle-safety-action-plan.pdf