Rob Lawrence is adamant that he'll never ride a motorcycle. With his oldest brother killed in a motorcycle crash and another seriously injured in a separate accident, there's just too much personal tragedy.
But he's equally adamant and passionate about making sure those who do choose to ride are as safe as possible.
Lawrence currently serves as chief operating officer of the Richmond Ambulance Authority (RAA) in Virginia. He moved to the United States from his native United Kingdom a few years ago and brought with him knowledge and familiarity of the CRASH Card program, a motorcycle safety initiative developed by the Ambulance Motorcycle Club that has flourished in the UK since its introduction about two years ago. To date, more than 325,000 motorcyclists in Europe ride with CRASH Cards.
A similar program, the Rider Alert program, was just launched in Richmond by RAA and Bon Secours St. Mary's Hospital in partnership with Motorcycle Virginia, Inc. The Rider Alert program offers free identification data cards that help first responders provide rapid and accurate medical assistance to motorcyclists involved in serious accidents.
The waterproof cards, placed inside the lining of riders' helmets, contain vital, life-saving information such as contact name, emergency contact, medication allergies, physician information and other important medical data. A separate decal of the Star of Life is included and can be affixed to the outside of the helmet to alert EMS personnel about the existence of the Rider Alert card. The sticker also warns bystanders not to remove the helmet.
"The program was just launched April 12," says Lawrence. "Already it's gone viral. We ran out of Rider Alert cards within the first 48 hours and we're getting another 20,000 printed."
The good word is spreading and other EMS agencies are quickly following suit. Med Star, Forth Worth, Texas, plans to roll out its Rider Alert card program soon and another agency in Maryland isn't far behind. Lawrence was also invited to be a guest speaker on a talk radio show in Florida promoting the program.
Promote Safety Discussions
While the card itself won't literally save a rider's life, Lawrence indicates the initiative promotes safe riding discussions. "Yes, the card can identify a victim," he notes. "But the card itself is not a cloak of protection. It is a badge of awareness. A lot of the cards in the UK were handed out at dealerships and shows. It provided a moment to connect with riders to encourage and promote safety. A rider who picks up the card will start to think about his or her riding style and the equipment he or she is using."
Lawrence is also hoping the media attention garnered thus far for the US program will raise awareness from other motorists on the road. "Motorcycles are a third narrower and a third harder to see than an automobile," he says. "Motorists in general need to be aware of motorcyclists around them.
"When you look at motorcycle statistics its eye-watering," he continues. "There were in excess of 4,000 road deaths in the US last year. That's 7.5 jumbo jets full of motorcyclists crashing, and not surviving. There would be outrage if we lost that many jumbo jets in a year. That statistic is very sobering. Even in Virginia, the average for the last five years is 75 motorcycle road deaths each year."
Start Small; Think Grand
Lawrence indicates the program can be easily adopted by other agencies. "I'm on a safety crusade," he admits. "I hope what we've done in Richmond can turn into a grand motorcycle safety initiative for the entire country. That would be phenomenal. We don't want to stop in Virginia."
With that being said, Lawrence indicates the hard work has already been done. "We can't produce cards for the entire US," he says. "But we have worked out how to make and reproduce the cards. We've done the research into what type of paper to use, what type of glue to use, etc. That's been the backroom work.