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Most common motorcycle crash injuries

First Aid for Motorcyclists patch training injuries
THe crash scene

The most common injuries in motorcycle crashes are to the riders’ feet or legs, according to leading US public health institute the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If you fall, you immediately put your hands out to protect yourself, yet hands and arms were actually much lower on the scale of injuries than feet or legs which represent 30% of non-fatal injuries.

It’s a good reason why riders should wear decent shoes that don’t slip off in a crash and long pants that have abrasion protection, even if just riding down to the shops.

Boots, not sandshoes

Sandshoes and slip-on boots can easily come off in a crash, even at low speeds. It’s best to wear boots that zip, clip or tie up above the ankle.

Click here to see which are the most trusted boots by riders.

As for pants, most riders think a pair of denim jeans will save their hide. However, denim has a tested abrasion resistance level of 0.5 seconds before it breaks, exposing the skin.

Even if you fall off your bike at 50km/h, you will slide for several seconds, so your denim jeans are useless.

The minimum abrasion protection required for any sort of European certification is four seconds.

Click here for the safety ratings on 10 pairs of rider jeans and click here for leggings safety ratings.

Draggin Jeans boss Grant Mackintosh and his Next Gen jeans injuries
Intact Draggin Jeans cut off a crashed rider

Neck and head injuries

The CDC study found that the next most common location for non-fatal rider injuries was to the neck and head, accounting for 22%, which is why approved helmets are mandatory in most places around the world.

Third most common area for injuries was the chest, back or shoulders, followed by the hands and arms, then the pelvis and hips.

The results come from a CDC study of data for 1,222,000 American riders who went to hospital for treatment of non-fatal injuries from 2001 to 2008.

Victorian Police have previously called for mandatory boots and gloves, but it has been rejected by the Victorian Motorcycle Council and other rider representative groups.

The VMC says they support the use of all protective equipment, but not mandatory riding gear which would require complex certification like with helmets.

They would rather see education and encouragement of riders to wear the appropriate gear or our government taxes and levies being directed toward subsidies for gloves, boots and other safety gear to make them more attractive. Of course, this is just a plus, added to the basics every driver should know: avoid DUI and reckless driving.


  1. I have a question, and the question is, do the recommended boots actually reduce injuries?
    The quoted statistics don’t spell it out as they weren’t broken down into CE BOOTS and other footwear or types of injuries to feet. You imagine that the injuries are from friction but there are crush impact twist and burn injuries also some of these injuries can result from wearing boots that are too ridged, there is the ridiculous situation where a person could be trapped under their bike by their boots while a person in thongs could slide out a big difference if the bike is on fire or off in the bush.
    The question above also applies to all safety devices that can kill under the wrong conditions has anyone actually done the statistical breakdown to see if they are really doing any good?
    For example how many people have been killed or injured as a result of the blind spot created by the supper thick A pillars that have saved lives in rollovers?

    A discount on rego and other fees that has to be paid back should you have an accident and you are not wearing those items at the time would be a good move to encourage people

    1. The type of studies needed for the results would just be way too expensive and difficult to do an any results would be subjective for each individual crash. When road conditions, speed of motorbike, car, experience of rider and driver were all taken into account then the rider’s gear was factored in, I just don’t think you would get a definitive answer. Having said all that, common (?) sense tells us that riding in boots compared with thongs has to lessen the impact of injuries to the foot and wearing proper gear has to be better than wearing shorts and t-shirt if the crash is survivable. After watching the crash posted yesterday on the ABC it never fails to amaze me regarding the lack of skill or awareness of some drivers.

      1. You can look at a study called “Motorcycle protective clothing: Protection from injury or just the weather?” by Liz de Rome and others.

        Yes, motorcycle boots do reduce the risk of injury, and so do sturdy non-motorycle boots.

  2. The motorcycle council doesnt want proper certification for riding gear? Thats like saying, “why bother figuring out if it actually works, as long as they buy it who cares if it will protect them”…

    Absolutely no mandatory gear (natural selection), but every piece of riding gear should be certified as protective equipment, and riders should know that the expensive items they are buying are not just a gimmick and that they are being adequately protected.

    1. I think the problem with certifying riding gear is that it will be done at a state level and the MCC want to avoid having each state go their own way like they did with helmets.

  3. I can strongly suggest definately not donning steel cap boots when riding. I don’t know what the odds are, but getting one’s foot crushed and the steel cap severing the toes is not pretty. Thongs….well, not sure if they would have saved the skin or what lurks beneath either, but for me, definately not steel caps.

    1. You need enormous forces to crush steel caps, and at those forces your toes would be mashed anyway.

  4. Riders are vulnerable to the death wobble (also ‘Harley Death Wobble) so they had better be well protected at all times with sturdy clothing that will withstand sliding along the bitumen. This video is excrutiating to watch, but a reminder of the vulnerability.

  5. ATGATT – all the gear all the time. Back in the early 80’s before all the great affordable riding gear was available I learnt the hard way. The gravel rash was bad enough (luckily at a fairly low speed about 40ish kph) but it was the infection in my knee from deeply embedded pieces that caused all the trouble, when your leg is swelling and turning strange colours and they tell you if the IV antibiotics don’t work (5 days on IV) they will have to cut it open or worse you realise the expense of the right gear is well worth it. Remember ATGATT and if it’s too hot to wear the gear it’s too hot to ride.
    Make it mandatory!!!

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