Study finds black bikers more likely to die in crashes
A study by Johns Hopkins researchers shows that African-Americans who were involved in motorcycle crashes were 50 percent more likely to die from their injuries than white riders even though black bikers were more likely to be wearing helmets.
The study of 68,840 people involved in such crashes between 2002 and 2006, led by Dr. Adil Haider of the School of Medicine, found the higher death rate among blacks even though African-Americans were 30 percent more likely to be wearing helmets when they crashed than white riders. The study found that whites who weren't wearing helmets were less likely to be killed in crashes than blacks who wore protective headgear.
Haider, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Surgiical Trials and Outcomes Research, said the study shows that helmet laws such as Maryland's may not be enough to protect all riders equally.
The researcher, an assistant professor of surgery, said he suspects several factors may account for the disparity between black and white deaths on motorcycles. He pointed to a lack of health insurance, reduced access to health care and pre-existing illnesses or injuries as possible reasons for the gap.
Haider said it is possible that there may be differences between the races in the types of motorcycles they driive and way they use them. He said more research may be needed to answer these questions.
In other studies, helmets have been shown to reduce traumatic brain injuries and reduce the cost of hospital stays brought on by motorcycle crashes. However, the study appears likely to be used to raise questions about the efficacy of state motorcycle helmet laws.
The answer might lie in the demographics of the motorcycle-riding populations and their respective behaviors. For instance, future research could ask whether one group or the other is more likely to operate the lower-weight, higher-speed bikes known as "crotch rockets." Such vehicles could be getting into higher-speed crashes. Another question could involve the relative length of experience aboard motorcycles.