Helmets cut injury risks by 72%, Oman Road Safety Association

300 bicycle and motorcycle accidents were registered by the Royal Oman Police in 2013. File photo

Muscat: Riding a quad in the Bousher Dunes, cruising down Oman's scenic highways on a Harley Davidson, or cycling along the Corniche should be fun activities, but without a  proper safety equipment, these can be deadly.

In January this year, a 16-year-old boy lost his life in the Bousher Dunes while riding a quad bike without a helmet. While helmets may not prevent fatalities 100 per cent of the time, experts say they can make a huge difference.

No wonder, the experts are advocating more awareness about the importance of wearing helmets.  "Wearing a helmet decreases the risk of injuries by about 72 per cent," says Shaima Al Lawati, CEO of the Oman Road Safety Association (ORSA).

Statistics from the World Health Organisation state that people riding bicycles or motorcycles who were killed in road accidents in Oman accounted for five per cent of the total number of accident fatalities.

In 2013, the Royal Oman Police (ROP) registered more than 300 bicycle and motorcycle accidents. In the past 10 years, between 2004 and 2013, there were 2,609 two-wheeler accidents which left 177 riders dead and 2,684 injured.

"In Oman, we don't have too many bikes ... so considering not too many people ride motorcycles or bikes here, it's quite a significant number," says Roopa Koshy, a psychologist and senior researcher at the SQU's College of Medicine and Health Sciences who is currently studying traumatic brain injuries in Oman.

Head trauma
According to Koshy's research, head trauma was a particular problem in 2004 among motorists and cyclists. She says a study into bicycle accidents in 2004 found that 88 per cent of bicycle related deaths could have been prevented had the cyclists been wearing helmets.

"One must not negate the importance of helmets because it significantly reduces severe mid-face, nose and eye lacerations, fractures, and even brain injuries at times. It isn't 100 per cent guaranteed but it is a protective measure and it shouldn't be ignored," Koshy says.

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Push cars, bicycles, mopeds, scooters/ motorcycles, trucks, minibuses and cars.
"Danger arise from this mixture of this slow-moving, nonmotorized users and speeding motorized users sharing the same road space".

Large differences in speed and mass of different road users in the same space must be eliminated as much as possible. Road users can best be forced to travel at lower speeds by road design. This works better than with signs. If crashes occur at lower speed differences they cause a lot less damage to the most vulnerable road user. Where speed differences cannot be eliminated types of traffic must be separated.

On roads with higher speeds road users travelling in opposite directions should be separated by a division as well, to further eliminate conflicts. Cycle paths and pedestrians are always separated from these through roads, following the principle of homogeneity of mass as well as speed.

In particular, the “vulnerable” road users such as pedestrians and two-wheeler users are at greater risk than vehicle occupants and usually bear the greatest burden of injury. Separating them from some arrogant road users would make roads safer for everyone. At the end pedestrians and cyclist have the same right as cars to move freely.