MANOA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii doesn't have a mandatory helmet law for adults, but wearing one can make a huge difference for moped and motorcycle riders. Crash survivors promoted safety by sharing their stories at a presentation on Tuesday at the UH Manoa Campus. A former star athlete returned to the campus with a moving message.
After spending eight years overseas playing professional volleyball, Tony Ching, 30, is back in the islands. He wants to study nursing because of a critical moped crash nearly nine years ago. He said a car failed to yield while making a turn and slammed right into him.
"I just remember being in the air thinking to myself that, 'Ok, tuck and roll,' or 'If I can roll through this I might have a chance,'" recalled Ching. "Upon impact, I just remember thinking to myself, 'Oh this is bad.'"
Ching had surgery for the bleeding in his brain. He also had a collapsed lung and two leg fractures. With intense physical therapy, the former All-American volleyball player was back on the court in three months.
But he still regrets not wearing a helmet.
"I guess coming here, being an athlete, having that invincibility mentality and just that whole 'not cool' factor," said Ching.
"We see a lot of crashes involving motorcycles and mopeds and guys without wearing their helmets. Unfortunately, some guys don't make it," said Bryce Yamamoto, a crisis nurse in the Queen's Medical Center emergency room.
Back in 2003, Yamamoto was also a patient. He said after doing a wheelie on the freeway, he crashed while going 80 miles an hour. His helmet saved his life.
"Scratches all the way around (the helmet). Lost the visor. Lost pieces off the sides. My motorcycle was trashed. I was able to hobble away, but I still needed surgery on my knee and my arms," said Yamamoto.
According to Queen's, Hawaii emergency rooms treat roughly 329 college-aged moped and motorcycle riders annually. 6 of them die each year. 20% end up with a traumatic brain injury.
"I firmly believe that a helmet would have changed my situation greatly, immensely. My medical bills were through the roof and the pain my mom and my family went through, that was the hardest part for me," said Ching.
Ching has no lasting physical injuries from that day, but because he didn't wear a helmet he is stuck with a scar for the rest of his life.
Efforts to pass a mandatory helmet law have failed several times at the State Capitol. The only mandate in Hawaii is that motorcycle and moped riders age 17 and younger must wear them.