When the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued its most recent report on the country’s motor vehicle crashes in March of 2022, motorcycle advocates were disheartened by some of the numbers. The agency’s reporting showed that fatal motorcycle crashes are rising.
Between February 2019 and February 2020, fatal accidents involving a motorcycle increased at a rate of 11 percent, according to the NHTSA. In 2019, 5,044 people were killed in a motorcycle crash. In 2020, the number was 5,579. This is the highest number of motorcyclists killed since the NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) started in 1975. And, in 2020, here at home, 101 individuals were killed in Virginia motorcycle accidents.
Why the Uptick in Motorcycle Accidents?
Motorcycle accidents can be caused by motorcycle driver factors such as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, speeding, inexperience, and inattention. Also, roadway and weather conditions can play a role. More recently, many motorcycle accidents have been caused due to the actions of other drivers sharing the road resulting in severe personal injuries or death.
The last three years will be remembered for the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on daily life, including people’s driving habits. The pandemic virtually upended driving patterns. While the roads were less busy due to people isolating at home, the drivers on the streets were driving distracted. To add insult to injury, many drivers also disregarded standard traffic rules, breaking speed limits and violating other regulations.
Unfortunately, distracted and careless driving has continued as more drivers return to the roads. Distracted driving in the U.S. has risen more than 30 percent since the pandemic began. On top of that, more than 23 percent of U.S. drivers now engage in texting or emailing while behind the wheel. This all leads to an increase in personal injuries sustained by motorcyclists.
So, what does this mean for motorcycles? As distracted driving numbers continue to increase, motorcyclists must exercise a greater abundance of caution on the road. It could be the difference between life and death.
Another major cause of motorcycle accident fatalities involving other vehicles occurs when cars turn left. A left-turn vehicle-motorcycle accident happens when a vehicle turning left strikes an oncoming or passing motorcycle. This could be due to other drivers being distracted, speeding, or not seeing the motorcyclist.
New Potential Danger: Electric Motorcycles
In the last few years, a new type of motorcycle has been ushered in – the electric motorcycle, or e-motorcycle.
As people recognize the need to lessen their carbon footprint, they choose electric vehicles as their mode of transportation, including e-motorcycles, instead of traditional gasoline-powered models. This is particularly true for electric bicycles, where sales are growing exponentially.
These new electric motorcycles are more environmentally friendly and provide a quieter ride. Unfortunately, the peaceful hum of an e-motorcycle is not necessarily a good thing. One of the best-known characteristics of a traditional motorcycle is the roar of the gasoline-powered engine. While some love the noise, others detest it, but it is necessary due to its exhaust system. Without that typical roaring motorcycle engine, drivers in other vehicles are likelier to miss an electric motorcycle in its proximity.
Motorcycle Accident Injuries and Safety Tips
Motorcyclists are vulnerable to catastrophic injuries because they do not have heavy protective frames, airbags that buffer a driver on impact, seatbelts, or camera systems that help drivers monitor blind spots that cars do. Motorcycle crashes often lead to traumatic brain injuries, internal organ damage, broken bones, dislocated bones, loss of limbs, severe lacerations, burns, or even death.
Out of necessity, motorcyclists must always use extra caution on the roads to avoid accidents and life-altering injuries. Motorcyclists must stay alert, especially at intersections. They should constantly monitor their surroundings, watching for hazards on the road like falling objects, potholes, debris, and distracted drivers. They should also avoid other drivers’ blind spots and maintain a safe distance from other vehicles.
It is more important than ever to use a helmet and ride with protective gear. Dressing correctly from head to toe is crucial for motorcyclists. Motorcycle riding gear such as eye protection, leather jackets and pants, durable gloves, proper footwear, and a helmet can reduce some injuries if a motorcycle crash occurs. The Virginia DMV states that helmets are about 29 percent effective in preventing motorcycle deaths and about 67 percent effective in preventing brain injuries. A helmet-less rider is 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury than a helmeted rider. Fortunately, in Virginia, motorcyclists and their passengers must wear an approved motorcycle helmet that meets or exceeds the standards and specifications of the Snell Memorial Foundation, the American National Standards Institute, Inc., or the federal Department of Transportation.
Like other motorists, motorcyclists have licenses and rules to ensure they are qualified to operate their vehicles. By law in Virginia, drivers who own and operate a motorcycle must hold a valid driver’s license with a Class M, M2, or M3 designation. The designation means the type of motorcycle the driver is allowed to operate. According to the NHTSA, of the motorcycle operators involved in fatal crashes in 2020, 36% were riding without valid motorcycle licenses.
Virginia motorcycle riders should also keep their driving skills sharp. They can do this with the help of the Virginia State Police Ride 2 Save Lives (R2SL) free motorcycle assessment courses. How to handle hazards, special situations, interstate highways, and curve negotiation are taught in a safe environment with the assistance of the Virginia State Police motor troopers.
Even after following the suggested motorcycle safety tips, you could still get injured in a motorcycle crash due to someone else’s negligence. After a motorcycle accident, it’s essential to contact an experienced Virginia motorcycle accident attorney as soon as possible. Often victims of motorcycle accidents suffer serious injuries that include costly medical bills and missed work, and those responsible for the injuries should be held accountable. Curcio Law has experience handling wrongful death and severe injury cases involving motorcyclists. Call or text (703) 836-3366 or contact our office online to schedule a free consultation.
Justin Curcio joined Curcio Law in January 2020. Justin received his J.D. from St. John’s University School of Law in 2015. After passing the Virginia Bar in 2015, Justin was in-house counsel for an insurance defense firm (Allstate/Esurance/Encompass) for over four years before joining Curcio Law. During law school, he worked for the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and the law firm of Bartlett, McDonough & Monaghan, LLP. Contact Justin at email@example.com.