October 27, 2005 As science advances at a rapid rate, most areas of road safety have improved markedly, with the motorcycle seemingly decades behind the automobile in terms of applied technology to reduce road trauma. For example, the motorcycle airbag recently developed by Honda is a full 25 years behind the first automotive airbag from Mercedes Benz. With motorcycle helmets now compulsory in most markets, the most vulnerable part of a motorcyclist is now the neck and spinal area. A new initiative announced this week betweeon KTM and BMW Motorrad plans to push ahead with the development of an adequate system of protection for this extremely sensitive area. The objective is to reduce the risk of injury to the neck, the cervical spine, the spinal cord and the collar bone in the event of a serious fall. The work builds on and supports the work of South African Dr. Chris Leatt from Leatt-Brace. Leatt-Brace manufactures Kevlar and carbon-fibre neck brace systems for both motorsport and motorcycle sports.
In addition to working with Dr. Leatt, BMW Motorrad and KTM will also work closely with a team of specialists comprising accident researchers, biomechanics and accident surgeons specialising in spinal injuries. Dr. Leatt is currently involved in the promotion of motorcycle safety in South Africa and is employed as a consulting physician for the South African racing series.
The prototype made of carbon fibre, damping material and titanium is currently undergoing intensive testing at BMW Motorrad, and is reportedly producing such excellent results that experts at BMW Motorrad Accident Research regard it as having a huge safety potential. Its use can reduce the following injuries suffered as the result of an accident, but without any loss of the necessary freedom of head movement:
- Hyperflexion: overflexion of the head when forced forwards
Hyperextension: overflexion of the head when forced to the rear
Lateral hyperflexion: overflexion of the head when forced to the side
Axial loading: compression of the spinal column due to the effect of force on the helmet
To the enduro motorcyclist and rally biker, but also to the motorcyclist in everyday traffic situations, this system of neck protection will mean a great step forward in the area of passive safety.
“Motorcycle sport should be safer and we wish to make a contribution in achieving this”, explains Dr. Herbert Diess, Head of BMW Motorrad, while commenting on the decision to dedicate a substantial degree of attention to this subject. He continues: “The concept is extremely promising. If this system continues to come up to our expectations, I can well envisage us putting it into series production.”
The new concept for minimising the risk of injury resulting from accidents is scheduled to be employed by KTM works motorcyclists and by BMW Motorrad before the end of this year.