Even with all the advanced safety features that have come onto the market in the past decade, there are still over 4 000 motorbike-related fatalities on European roads every year. So clearly, there’s still room for improvement – which is where the EU-funded PIONEERS project comes in. “By improving personal protective equipment and enhancing the motorcycle’s on-board systems, we can reduce the number of motorcycle deaths and serious injuries by 25 % by 2025,” says Enric Soriano, a researcher at Applus+ IDIADA, a leader in the testing, inspection and certification sector, which coordinated the project. To get a better understanding of the nature of motorcycle accidents, researchers started by conducting a comprehensive study across different European countries. According to Soriano, this work led to some interesting findings. “What we found is that most fatal accidents involve either scooters travelling at a low speed or motorcycles traveling at high speeds,” he explains. The study also looked at how accidents impact motorcycle gear, the motorcycle and the rider. This included an in-depth look at helmet damage and pinpointing which parts of the body were most susceptible to serious injuries.
Enhanced safety gear
Information from the study was then compiled and used to develop new safety solutions, including innovative personal protective equipment. “Our main goal was to improve the safety of motorcyclists by providing an integrated approach to rider protection, with a particular focus on the gear they wear,” adds Soriano. For example, the project designed an improved touring boot that enhances protection against impact and ankle hyper-rotation – two very common motorcycle injuries. It does this by using specific impact absorption elements and an inner brace structure similar to what is currently used in professional racing boots. “This boot enhances rider protection while maintaining reduced weight and a practicality and comfort that make it ideal for everyday use,” notes Soriano. Another key outcome of the project was the design of a motorcycle jacket complete with built-in airbags. The airbags are positioned to inflate upon impact and protect the rider’s thorax. The project also worked on improving the motorcycle helmet. “Current motorcycle helmet standards are optimised to prevent the risk of skull fractures,” remarks Soriano. “Our helmet takes this one step further by adding a breathable liner to protect the brain against compression during an accident.” The project also made improvements to the motorbike itself, including reinforced leg covers for maximum protection of this vulnerable part of the body and side airbags for speeds of up to 50 kph. All solutions have been fully tested, confirming their ability to provide enhanced protection to motorcycle riders.
Ready to be worn
According to Soriano, the PIONEERS project’s safety equipment and solutions have already been widely accepted by the motorcycle industry, including some of the leading bike manufacturers and clothing producers. “The next step is to take our results from prototype to market, where they will have a direct impact on improving rider safety,” he concludes. Researchers are now working on further developing the test methods that were first defined during the course of the project and that can be used to test additional safety enhancements.
PIONEERS, motorcyclists, motorcycle, motorcycle accidents, motorbike, personal protective equipment, motorcycle helmet