Avi Cohen's injury may have been avoided with legal helmet

Road safety official concedes that police and other authorities should team up in an effort to reduce two-wheeled fatalities.

Harley Davidson motorcycle enthusiasts (photo credit: AP)
Harley Davidson motorcycle enthusiasts
(photo credit: AP)
The apparently unbuckled “half-helmet” that 54-year-old former soccer star Avi Cohen was wearing when hit by a car while riding his motorcycle in Ramat Gan on Monday is illegal and does not meet the demands of transport regulations, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The required helmets, called “integral” and costing NIS 600 to NIS 1,500 – much more than the half-helmets – protect the head much better and might have prevented or minimized his critical brain injury.
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Asked by the Post why the Road Safety Authority (RSA) had not long ago called together all authorities – including the Israel Police, the Transport Ministry, the Trade and Industry Ministry and the Customs Authority – to systematically reduce the death rate among motorcyclists that has increased substantially this year, RSA chief scientist Dr. Shai Sofer said: “You are right! We need to act together and produce a comprehensive program. The RSA has only the power of recommendation, not to decide things and initiate bills. I will contact the others, and we will do it.”
He added that the RSA recommends – and has sent Internet links to many motorcycle riders to give this information – that they wear full, integral helmets, a protective jacket and gloves.
Sofer, a physicist by training, said that “riders must know that if they break the law and don’t wear protective equipment that meets official standards, they will get caught by the police and punished.”
He conceded, however, that the police do not fine or arrest those who violate the laws.
Cohen was riding on his motorcycle near the Ramat Gan diamond bourse on Monday when it was hit by a car. It is not yet clear whose fault it was, but he was thrown far from his vehicle, and his halfhelmet came off because it was not fastened. He suffered severe damage of the vital brain stem and last night was in critical condition and declining at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center’s intensive care unit.
Mordechai Feder, national chairman of Metuna – the voluntary organization to promote road safety – said that there are only four types of legal motorcycle/scooter helmets: those that are approved by the US, the British, the Japanese and the UN. No halfhelmets are covered by these standards, he said.
He noted that the Customs Authority does not prevent half-helmets from being imported, even though they cannot be legally worn when riding motorcycles.
“I don’t know if it is illegal for stores to sell them, but it should be,” Feder added.
He said it is very unfortunate that the Israel Police is not enforcing the law and stopping riders wearing no helmet at all or the half-helmet. Those who sell them should be arrested for conspiracy to commit a crime, he insisted.
Feder said that the number of deaths among car drivers and passengers has declined somewhat in 2010 compared to last year, but those of motorcycle riders and pedestrians has increased significantly.
“Motorcycles are inherently dangerous, as there is no seat belt, the vehicle is unstable and the driver is completely exposed and can easily lose control,” he said. “There are hardly any motorbike or motorcycle riders who haven’t fallen. The lucky ones will walk away, while the others reach the hospital with a broken rib or leg, or die. But the riders who wear no helmet or an illegal one show they are not serious about the safety issue. They too have to take responsibility.”
Feder, who was born in the US and lived for years in France, said he came to Israel with a foreign motorcycle license that he renewed in Israel.
“But I never drove a motorcycle here because it is too dangerous.”
He urged that people be forbidden from obtaining a motorcycle license at a young age. Instead, he said, potential riders should be required to have a driver’s license first and then wait several years, perhaps until age 24 or so, to ride motorcycles.
“Then they will have more experience,” Feder said.
He also recommended that motorcycle accident survivors volunteer to go to schools to describe their experience – and injuries – to teenagers. It’s impossible to take motorcycles off the roads, he said, as they are cheaper than cars and zoom easily through traffic jams, but people should not be encouraged to have them and should be older when they start driving them.
“We must reduce the death and injury rate,” he added.
RSA spokesman Yoni Sharir said there is no law prohibiting the import and sale of helmets that do not meet standards.