Motorcycles are a classic and beloved way to get around America’s roads. Unfortunately, they are dangerous. You are about 35 times more likely to die in a motorcycle accident than in a car crash.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led people to find new ways to commute besides mass transit and adopting new socially-distanced activities. Riding a motorcycle meets both of these needs, but with more new riders comes more accidents, and Virginia is no exception.
Motorcycle Sales Are Up Since Pandemic
According to Forbes, the motorcycle industry struggled to find demand in the pre-COVID days. Many longtime riders were hanging up their helmets for good, and the demand was low among new riders. Once shelter-in-place and social distancing became part of our everyday lives, the downward trend in sales shot up. Dealers were suddenly buzzing with activity, and repair shops were busy again.
Avoiding public transportation became a top priority for those using mass transit to travel. Motorcycles and scooters are a cheaper alternative to buying a car, and with the roads being less congested due to stay-at-home orders, it is easy to see why many people flocked towards motorcycles.
Riding a motorcycle safely requires skill and experience, and many amateur riders were taking off without either. Inevitably, that would lead to more accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 80 percent of motorcycle crashes lead to serious injury or death.
Virginia Motorcycle Accidents By the Numbers
According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, the Commonwealth saw more than 1,800 motorcycle crashes in 2020. A whopping 77 percent of those resulted in injury, nearly half of which were serious. And 87 motorcyclists died, representing more than 10 percent of all traffic fatalities. That means that between seven and eight motorcycle drivers or passengers lost their lives every single month in 2020.
And 2021 has proven even more dangerous for motorcyclists. The year is not yet over, and already there have been 95 motorcycle fatalities in Virginia. That represents a 17 percent increase since last year.
While motorcycle accidents, injuries, and fatalities in Virginia varied widely between 2010-2014, a few counties stood out as clear leaders for most dangerous jurisdictions for motorcyclists. Some statistics over those five years:
- Fairfax County had the most crashes by far, with 976 motorcycle accidents.
- Fairfax and Prince William counties had a significant number of fatalities, with 24 and 15, respectively.
- The top three counties for injuries were Fairfax with 910, Prince William with 474, and Loudoun with 263.
- The three safest jurisdictions overall were the cities of Falls Church, Manassas Park, and Fairfax.
Notably, motorcyclists aged 21-35 had the highest number of fatalities across the entire state during this time period.
Just How Dangerous Are Motorcycles?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcycles make up just 3 percent of all vehicles on the road. Yet, they account for 14 percent of all motor vehicle crash fatalities. Car accidents happen every five minutes in Virginia, but you are far more likely to make it out of them alive.
Of course, the obvious reason is that motorcycles are completely open, not offering any safety features found in a car. They do not have protective frames, seat belts, or airbags.
How To Safely Enjoy Motorcycles
Yes, motorcycles are indisputably dangerous – but they are also a lot of fun. Riding the open roads can be a great way to de-stress, enjoy a beautiful day, and cut down commuting costs. The best way to protect yourself while on a motorcycle is to have the proper clothing and protective gear:
- Helmets are the most critical safety device; going without one increases your risk of a fatal head injury by 40 percent.
- Eye protection such as goggles, glasses with strong lenses, or helmets with face shields.
- Durable jackets and pants that can withstand road rash and brightly colored tops or reflective vests.
- Non-slip gloves, leather, or other gloves with good grips are ideal.
- Closed-toed, protective footwear such as leather boots or athletic shoes that cover the ankle.
While all licensed motorcyclists must pass separate written and road tests to obtain their motorcycle endorsement, the Virginia State Police offers free assessment courses based on police motor trooper training. The courses are designed to help motorcyclists improve their skills and learn how to handle hazards.
Before taking your motorcycle into traffic, always get comfortable operating your motorcycle in a wide-open space, such as an empty parking lot. Do a thorough pre-trip inspection every time you ride and secure any cargo. If you are a passenger, remember these rules:
- Mount the bike only after the engine has started.
- Sit as far forward as possible behind the driver and hold onto the driver firmly.
- Keep both feet on the footrests at all times and away from the muffler.
- Never dismount until the driver says it is safe.
Finally, a little common sense goes a long way. Always obey all traffic laws, ride with the flow of traffic, leave plenty of space between you and other vehicles, and ride defensively. Always assume that the drivers of cars do not see you because most of the time they do not, and that is when most motorcycle crashes happen.
What To Do After a Motorcycle Crash?
If you or a loved one has been in a motorcycle accident at the fault of a careless driver, an experienced personal injury lawyer, especially one with lots of motorcycle accident cases under their belt, can help you get the justice you deserve.
The seasoned team at Curcio Law has experience handling wrongful death and serious injuries cases involving motorcyclists. We will review your case for free. Please call or text 703-836-3366 or contact our office online today to schedule your 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.