Airbag doctor: “I don’t wear one”

By Steve Farrell -

General news

 19 February 2009 14:13

A doctor behind calls for airbag jackets to be made compulsory riding equipment has admitted he doesn’t wear one on his own motorcycle.

Last week Andy Parfitt told BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat: “I think dozens of lives could be saved if these jackets were made compulsory.”

But he told MCN: “I haven’t bought one. Why haven’t I bought one? I don’t know why I haven’t bought one, really. I wear my back protector, my leathers, my body armour, my boots and I commute on a bike in London.”

The A&E doctor admitted having virtually no experience of the jackets, which inflate in a crash, and no evidence they work.

“I can see a big headline saying: ‘The guy who said they’re useful doesn’t wear one,’” he said. 

Parfitt, who works at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital, added: “I know very few people who use them and I’ve never seen somebody who has experienced an accident in one to be able to comment.”

Newsbeat declared on Friday: “Dozens of lives could be saved every year if, like helmets, motorbike airbag jackets were made compulsory by the Government. That's according to accident and emergency doctors.”

But Parfitt, the only authority quoted in the news item, disclosed: “You know the way it works. It’s sort of soundbites.

"I would wear one if they appeared sensible and there was empirical evidence to suggest that they worked and I’m sure all of us would do the same, but there isn’t yet, as far as I can see, any evidence.”

He said he only learned the jackets existed days ago and met with the makers before commenting to Newsbeat. “Basically we sat down about a week ago and we talked through it and I spoke to the guy who made them.

"I’ll be frank, up until a week or so ago the only motorcycle airbag system I knew about was the one on a Honda Goldwing.”

“I got a lot of stuff through from Newsbeat and did a bit of reading and research myself,” he said.

On making the jackets compulsory, he told MCN: “I don’t like the idea of mandating anything personally. There are a lot of other things for rider safety that the Government could mandate that would be perhaps more effective.

"Get rid of the barriers that people slide into and get killed… I haven’t seen any studies. I don’t think anything should be mandated unless we can decidedly prove it’s sensible.”

Newsbeat’s story included a video on its website of a stunt rider testing the jackets by deliberately crashing a perfectly good Yamaha TZR125.

Parfitt said: “I’m surprised it became so newsworthy in that there are so many other very sensible safety initiatives that could also be done, but they had that interesting footage of the guy falling off.”

On his interview with the BBC, Parfitt said: “What I said to guy was that I suspect that these jackets have got a role and if you come off a bike they will prevent certain injuries.

"It’s not going to make a difference if you come off a bike at 70mph I guess but if you came of at 20, 30, the kind of accidents we see in London, it might make a difference. You know what it’s like.

"There are no hard facts and figures about how many riders would be saved by this, that and the other.”