By Kristin Edge
A vest that inflates to help protect motorcycle riders in high impact crashes could become a stand piece of equipment for those riding on Northland roads.
The vests fit over the normal riding gear and a simple elastic-nylon tether connects the bike to a gas cartridge mounted in the front of the vest.
When the rider falls off the bike, a steel ball is pulled away from the housing that holds the gas cartridge, inflating the vest and protecting the riders neck, back and chest.
The vest will inflate in 0.1 of a second.
In Northland this year of the 25 fatal crashes four have involved motorcycle riders.
Keen rider Heidi Millard, IT project manager with Whangārei District Council, commutes to work every day from Maunu. She won a Helite vest at the Get Ready To Ride event in Whangārei, in September as part of Motorcycle Awareness Month.
While it is yet to be given the ultimate test she wishes she had it when she was involved in a rush hour crash on the Auckland motorway when a driver decided to do a u-turn in front of her.
Millard slammed into the rear tyre of a car when the driver of a car did a u-turn on the four-lane motorway.
She had no time to react; fortunately her bike suffered more damage than she did.
"He did a turn across all four lanes. I hit my brakes but ended up hitting his rear wheel and coming off. The first thing I thought was someone was going to run me over".
Wearing the new vest she said gave her a feeling of having a bit more protection if things did go wrong.
A Sergeant with Northland police Highway Patrol, Lance Goulsbro, is also a motorcycle trainer and was presented with a vest by Gillian Archer of RoadSafe Northland.
Goulsbro said the vest should become a part of any rider's kit and while it was an extra cost, it could safe a rider's life.
"This blows up like airbags in a car and protects all your internal organs. It gives you a better chance of surviving a crash."
Archer also encouraged riders to invest in the new piece of safety equipment.
"You can't put a price on getting home after a ride," Archer said.