Will an airbag jacket or vest keep me safe while motorcycling?

motorcycle jacketA federal government report found that fatal traffic injuries are 35 times more likely for motorcyclists than for enclosed vehicle occupants. And the primary reason?

Lack of armor.

Well, not literally armor, but relative layers of protection. An occupant of a car, truck, or SUV is restrained by seatbelts and shoulder harnesses. He’s cushioned by airbags to remain in place if a collision occurs. And he's protected by a hard shell of metal and plastic to prevent the worst forces of a car crash from reaching him.

Apparel for the Well-Protected Motorcyclist

Since you can’t protect yourself in a metal cage when riding your motorcycle, you have to rely on other forms of protection. This means you have to wear the right gear. Maximum protection for a ride means putting on these articles of clothing:

  • A helmet approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation. A full-face helmet offers maximum protection.
  • Goggles or other eye protection, unless your helmet has built-in protection for your vision.
  • Durable clothing, such as a leather jacket and leather pants, can help protect you from road rash if you’re thrown from the bike, and can help reduce the sting from road debris. Denim and everyday street clothing isn’t good enough.
  • Gloves and boots crafted of leather or protective man-made fibers. Gloves not only protect your body, they also allow better grip on the handlebars. Similarly, sturdy boots help you maintain your position on the foot pegs while riding and protect you from burns.

Now Available: Airbag Jackets for Motorcyclists

Airbag jackets and vests are a recent development in motorcycle safety technology. This inflatable gear slips on like a conventional jacket, but will suddenly inflate with a burst of CO2 through its air bladders after a collision to provide additional protection for the rider who is thrown from his bike. Inflation with most models happens within milliseconds.

Statistics indicate that forward momentum in a crash is reduced by roughly 60 percent for the rider in an airbag vest or jacket, and head trauma is reduced by approximately 80 percent. Riders have tested this gear on different surfaces, and suffered a few bruises upon impact instead of broken bones, abrasions, or head and neck trauma.

Reports from riders indicate that most jackets are weather resistant and durable, lasting up to two years or longer if not involved in an accident. Replacement CO2 canisters cost $20-$40, depending on the model. Newer models emphasize protection for the spine and may deploy without requiring a tether attachment to the motorcycle.

At press time, there are two drawbacks that might keep a rider from investing in an airbag vest:

  • More comprehensive testing. Although inflatable motorcycle vests and jackets have been around since the late 1990s, there hasn't been expansive scientific testing. Only a few major corporations, such as Honda, have tested this gear with progressive results.  
  • Slow adoption means the items are still quite expensive. Consumers in Europe and Japan have embraced the jackets more than U.S. riders. But as the rider population ages, the demand for inflatable gear may grow, reducing the cost. Current prices range between $350 and $700.

One More Layer of Protection

No matter how much safety equipment you invest in, you could still become a victim of a motorcycle collision caused by a negligent car or truck driver. We hope that never happens—but, just in case, it’s best to be prepared. Take the time to enter our contact number into your phone right now, just in case you need to call us in an emergency: (800) 556-8890 toll-free.