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Motorcycle airbags – “An ounce of prevention”


Never having fallen from a horse, I nevertheless have a healthy respect for jockeys who ride them for a living.

It is a long way down to the ground when you’re in the saddle, and at speed the likelihood of injury climbs exponentially.

The current record for the world’s fastest horse is held by Winning Brew, a two-year-old US filly who, in 2008, covered two furlongs (402 metres) in 20.57 seconds, at an average speed of 70.76 kilometres an hour. 

That’s mighty fast, particularly compared with the fastest documented human runner Usain Bolt, who covers 100 metres in 9.58 seconds, averaging 38.14 kilometres an hour.

Even at low speeds falling can cause severe injuries, as 46 Australians find out every day when they fall and break their hip.

One in nine of these individuals will then go to a residential aged care facility instead of going back to the family home.

Celebrity status provides no immunity from injury – the Queen Mother fell and broke her collarbone in 2000, and then fractured her pelvis in another fall in 2001, at the ripe old age of 101.

Royal children are renowned for their exuberance, and her great grand-daughter Zara Phillips fractured her collarbone in 2008 when she fell off her beloved horse Tsunami II.

Sadly, Tsunami II broke her neck in the fall, and was promptly euthanased.

In 2010, while training for the Olympic, Zara fell again, this time from High Kingdom.

But on this occasion she was uninjured – she was wearing a high-tech airbag jacket that probably saved her from an orthopaedic appointment.

Ms Phillips was wearing a jacket which inflates when a rip-cord attached to the saddle is pulled when the rider and the horse have parted company.

A CO2 canister inflates a bladder in the jacket in less than 0.5 of a second, protecting the rider’s chest and supporting the neck.

The bladder remains inflated for about one minute, which is just long enough to get back on your horse.

Our very own Superman (Christopher Reeve) may never have suffered fractures of the C1 and C2 vertebrae if that technology had been available when he fell off his horse in 1995.

Motorcycles travel considerably faster than humans, with the Suzuki Hayabusa reaching speeds of 312 kilometres an hour – at least before speed limiters were installed in 2001.

While no one could seriously think that falling off your motorbike at that speed is survivable, there is a good case for all motorcyclists to wear airbag jackets as well as helmets.

An ounce of prevention from your $200 Motorair airbag jacket may just save your life.


Suzuki Hayabusa GSX1300R

For: The world’s fastest production bike.

Against: There are no roads to match its performance.

This bike would suit: Doctors in a hurry.


                1340 cc 16 valve 4 cylinder petrol

128.4 kW power @ 10,100 rpm

132.6 Nm torque @ 7,600 rpm

6 speed manual, chain drive

Top speed 299 km/h (limited)

0-100 km/h in 2.6 seconds (still in first gear)

6.4 l/100 km (combined)

$19,290 + ORC


Fast facts:

Hayabusa is the Japanese name of the peregrine falcon, the world’s fastest bird.

Peregrine falcons prey on blackbirds.

The Honda’s CBR1100XX Super Blackbird was the previous fastest production bike in the world.

Motorcycles riders are 20 to 30 times more likely to die in an accident than car drivers of the same age.

Zara Phillips was recently spotted riding her horse with a baby bump.

Safe motoring,

Doctor Clive Fraser