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Motorcycle Airbag Vests and Jackets

Do They Really Work?

Motorcycle Airbag Vests and JacketsWhen you ride a motorcycle, you accept a certain risk that’s not there when you travel in a passenger vehicle. But the statistics are a bit staggering. Motor-vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death among people under the age of 30, and about one in three of those fatalities involves a motorcyclist. Furthermore, about 90% of serious and fatal injuries to bikers stem from trauma to the head, neck, or chest. What if there were an effective way to minimize the consequences of a motorcycle collision, particularly when the crash involves impact with the road or other obstacle? A new product may do just that.

Airbag technology has long been standard in most cars and trucks, but it may surprise you to learn that the first patent application for airbag technology, filed in 1976, applied to motorcycles. The approach is different, though, with motorcycles. Instead of attempting to put an airbag on the bike itself (there’s no assurance that would provide any protection to the rider), product developers have integrated airbag technology into motorcycle vests and jackets. Studies show that the result may be effective in preventing injury.

How Does a Motorcycle Vest/Jacket Airbag Work?

With most vest and jacket airbags, a tether or lanyard attaches to your bike, with the other end connected to the vest or jacket. If you fall off the bike, the pull on the tether punctures a CO2 tube in the clothing, which immediately inflates the airbag. Most available jackets and vests are fully inflated within one quarter of a second.

Smart technology also is being applied to airbag vests and jackets. At the high end of the spectrum, there are airbag vests and jackets with built-in sensors that detect when you lose control and automatically inflate.

Does the Technology Work?

Because the products are relatively new, there’s not a lot of data available yet regarding the efficacy of airbag vests and jackets. A two-year study of lanyard-based airbag clothing reported no situations where the airbags accidentally deployed. That study also reported that one biker lost control of his motorcycle on a wet road. The airbag deployed as intended, and the biker walked away without injury. Studies done by Honda have found that airbag vests and jackets reduce forward momentum by more than 50% and head trauma by more than 80%.

Contact Attorney David J. Karbasian

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