Nicoya is one of the 15 cantons in which 60% of all traffic accidents nationwide take place. Many occur on a motorcycle and are caused by reckless driving and a lack of basic safety equipment, such as helmets.
In fact, according to the traffic police, not wearing a helmet is one of the most common infractions in the coastal areas between Samara and Nosara. But when it comes to not wearing a helmet, there are bigger risks than a fine. Not doing so could cost you your life.
Data from the National Insurance Institute (Instituto Nacional de Seguros - INS) shows that in the past five years the number of motorcycles in Costa Rica has nearly tripled, increasing the number of accidents. Currently, out of every 10 patients admitted to the INS Rehabilitation hospital (Albergue de Rehabilitación del INS), six are due to motorcycle accidents. In addition, it has been shown that most deaths occur in 20 to 40-year-old men, on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m.
The purpose of a motorcycle helmet is to protect the head, which is often the first body part that hits the ground, resulting in death or severe injury in only seconds.
That said, what could happen if you have an accident and are not wearing a helmet? Although you might walk away with injuries that are not life-threatening, such as scrapes, bumps and small cuts or wounds as a reminder, you could also have fractures or friction burns.
However, you might not be so lucky and might suffer a head injury. These are the most feared since they cause many accident-related deaths. These include bumps or concussions, with or without brain tissue exposure, facial trauma (in eyes, nose and/or mouth), abdominal and/or chest trauma and wounds that may cause severe bleeding (either visible or internal), among others. If the person survives, these injuries often leave many serious aftereffects, both physical and emotional.
A wide variety of helmets are available on the market today (open face, full face, flip-up visor and dark sun visor helmets, among others), which not only protect you in case of an accident but also shield your head and face from the dusty roads, sunlight and insects. In addition, modern motorcycle helmets give bikers excellent visibility and the ability to hear external sounds. Whatever your choice, always remember to wear a helmet to avoid risking your life and the lives of your passengers.
ADVICE FOR TRAVELING BY MOTORCYCLE
By María José Zamora, M.D.
1. Maintain your motorcycle in the best condition possible. Review the state of the tires, breaks and lights frequently.
2. Although wearing shorts and sandals is the most common along the coast, this is NOT adequate for riding a motorcycle. Closed shoes will help you stabilize yourself on the ground without slipping and long pants protect you in case you fall. In addition, the two together protect you from direct contact with the muffler, which could result in very serious burns.
3. Before using a helmet, always clean the visor for the best possible visibility.
4. Remember that motorcycles have a maximum capacity of two people, no more, not even children. Each time you decide to use a motorcycle in a way that isn't permitted, you put your own life and the life of those with you at risk since the risk of having an accident increases considerably.
5. While driving any vehicle, and especially a motorcycle, you need all of your senses to be as alert as possible. If you are going to drive, don't consume alcoholic beverages, don't use any drugs and don't take medications that cause drowsiness.
6. Finally, and though it might sound trite, respect the speed limit. Speed limits are established according to the characteristics of each roadway (curvy, straight), the surface (asphalt, cement, gravel) and the zone (school zone, residential or barren). In zones where there is no posted speed limit, the limit is 100 km per hour on primary roads and 60 km on secondary roads.