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Blacks More Likely to Die in Motorcycle Crash Than Whites

THURSDAY Sept. 30, 2010 -- Despite the fact that black Americans are more likely to be wearing a helmet when they get into a motorcycle crash, they are still 1.5 times more likely to die from their injuries than white Americans are, new research reveals.

The new study does not identify an underlying cause for this apparent racial disparity, but the researchers found that the observation holds true even after taking into account the rider's insurance status, gender and injury severity.

The research team did note, however, that prior work has suggested a number of contributing factors that could make blacks more vulnerable in terms of survival. These include a lack of health insurance, less access to care, poorer quality of care and having a greater number of pre-existing illnesses or injuries.

There may also be differences in terms of the types of helmets and/or motorcycles that black riders prefer, they noted.

What is clear, the study authors stated, is that injury-prevention programs that mandate the use of motorcycle helmets are not a panacea for reducing rider risk.

"For reasons that we are still trying to figure out, one size of injury prevention does not fit all groups of people, and just wearing a helmet is not enough," study senior author Dr. Adil Haider, an assistant professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said in a Hopkins news release. "Helmet for helmet, African Americans have more lethal injuries."

Haider, who is also co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Surgical Trials and Outcomes Research, and colleagues published their findings in a recent issue of the American Journal of Surgery.

The authors noted that in the United States, motorcycle crashes injure roughly 88,000 and kill more than 4,800 people each year. About one in eight motor vehicle deaths is the result of motorcycle crashes, and that figure has risen over the past 10 years.

The current finding stems from an analysis of information gleaned from the National Trauma Data Bank concerning nearly 69,000 people who were injured in a motorcycle accident between 2002 and 2006.

The highest death rate was observed among black crash victims who were not wearing a helmet.

That said, black riders were 30 percent more likely to be wearing a helmet when they had their accident than were white crash victims. And, white riders who did not have a helmet on when they crashed were more likely to survive their incident than black riders who did have a helmet on, the investigators found.

More information

For more on motorcycle helmets and safety, visit the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Posted: September 2010


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