Our hearts and prayers go out this weekend to the family of Alyssa Ludovice, a high school junior, member of Elgin High School’s color guard and, from what we hear, an excellent singer and writer, who died Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 5, from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident at 8:53 p.m., Tuesday, at Routes 47 and 176 in Lakewood, Ill. She was 16.
Cherri Ludovice said her husband, Christopher J Ludovice, 54, was riding to a store in Woodstock with their daughter, Alyssa. The two had been riding together since Alyssa was a child, the Daily Herald reported.
“They loved to take long rides, that was the thing they did,” Cherri told the paper. “They rode to Marengo a lot. They made any excuse to go.”
On this trip, however, a Jeep Liberty made a left-hand turn right in front of Christopher and Alyssa’s motorcycle, police said, and the impact threw both of them from the motorcycle.
Police cited the Liberty’s driver for failing to yield the right-of-way while making a left-hand turn, but neither Christopher nor Alyssa was wearing a helmet. The impact from the collision resulted in Christopher being pronounced dead shortly after his arrival at Centegra Hospital in Woodstock, while Alyssa died from her injuries on Wednesday afternoon.
Motorcycle laws in Illinois
Although many people are quick to blame motorcyclists for risky driving behavior, including not wearing a helmet, that does not appear to be the root cause of the crash that killed Alyssa and her father and sent her family into an emotional tailspin.
Illinois, New Hampshire, and Iowa are the only three states that don’t require motorcycle passengers under 17 to wear helmets, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. A total of 19 states and the District of Columbia require all motorcyclists to wear a helmet, while 28 states only require helmets for motorcyclists under a certain age, usually 17 or 20. The institute writes:
Helmets decrease the severity of head injuries, the likelihood of death, and the overall cost of medical care. They are designed to cushion and protect riders’ heads from the impact forces of a crash. NHTSA estimates that motorcycle helmets reduce the likelihood of a crash fatality by 37 percent. Norvell and Cummings found a 39 percent reduction in the risk of death after adjusting for age, gender and seat position. Helmets are highly effective in preventing brain injuries, which often require extensive treatment and may result in lifelong disability. In the event of a crash, unhelmeted motorcyclists are 3 times more likely than helmeted riders to suffer traumatic brain injuries. A recent literature review estimated that helmets reduce the risk of death in a crash by 42 percent and the risk of head injuries by 69 percent.
It is not clear whether wearing a helmet would have saved Alyssa or her father, as the severity of the crash was not reported. However, there’s pretty good research that suggests the odds of a motorcyclist dying in a crash go down by about one-third if the motorcyclist is wearing a helmet.
Why Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire don’t have helmet laws is beyond me, especially for children, who understandably enjoy spending time with their parents on a motorcycle. Accidents happen, even when we’re being very careful, and while broken legs or ribs may heal over time, brain injuries—which are reduced if the motorcyclist is wearing a helmet—don’t always get better.
Drivers beware and share the road
I myself am a bicyclist. I ride about 100 miles a week, most of it on trails, but to get to the trails, I have to ride across some pretty dangerous streets. I have been inches away from being hit by cars, driven by people who are not aware of laws in Maryland that require drivers to maintain three feet between their cars and any bicyclist riding properly on the road.
Tavss Fletcher, an attorney in Virginia, posted some very interesting theories about why motorcyclists get hit by people driving cars, trucks, and SUVs:
- Car and truck drivers aren’t trained to see or look for motorcycle riders, so they will inadvertently cut them off or swerve into their lane.
- Car and truck drivers are not good judges of distance when it comes to motorcycles, and often think that a motorcycle is further away than it really is when they’re checking their mirrors (if they check them!)
- Many drivers fail to check their blind spots before maneuvering, and smaller motorcycles can get lost in the blind spots of larger vehicles.
- Other motorists often assume that a motorcycle rider is speeding, since there is a stereotype out there that all bikers ride too fast. This causes car and truck drivers to misjudge how soon a motorcycle will be in their area as they perform a driving maneuver (lane change, turn, etc).
- Inexperienced motorcycle riders sometimes leave their turn signal on as it is not self-canceling. This can cause car or truck drivers to assume they know what a motorcycle rider is doing, which can lead to a crash.
- Car drivers depend on the brake lights of the vehicle in front of them to let them know when that vehicle is slowing down. However, motorcycle riders usually use their throttle to slow down, not brakes – so there are no brake light warnings. This can lead to rear-end accidents when inattentive drivers fail to notice that a rider has reduced their speed.
We again urge people to use caution when on the road. Many students, who don’t have driver’s licenses yet, ride bikes, and the injuries that would result from a car-vs-bike accident are often very serious. In Alyssa’s case, we send our most sincere condolences to the family—her funeral, with her father, is tomorrow—and we ask that everyone remember them as they drive.