Now — more than ever — riders and motorists need to know the basics of motorcycle accident prevention. Consider these facts and statistics:
- Just a few weeks ago in Virginia Beach, one motorcyclist died and another was critically injured in a crash on I-264 involving two motorcycles and a minivan.
- In 2017, more than a hundred motorcyclists died on Virginia roads. That number is a nearly 50% increase over 2016. It constitutes the greatest number of motorcycle fatalities in the state in a decade.
- Virginia Beach reported six fatalities, making it one of four jurisdictions with the highest number of motorcycle deaths in 2017.
- Virginia Beach ranked among jurisdictions as having the second highest number of motorcycle accidents in 2017, reporting 134 crashes and 106 injuries.
This year, the Federal Highway Administration will be releasing the results of the most comprehensive data collection in more than 30 years regarding causes of motorcycle accidents. When the report becomes available, it will provide new opportunities for developing countermeasures to address the significant number of motorcycle accidents. Even before the report becomes available, however, there are some basic precautions that motorcyclists and drivers can and should take to prevent motorcycle accidents.
Motorcycle Accident Causes
While each accident is unique, there are some circumstances that frequently occur in motorcycle accidents. Understanding the common causes of motorcycle accidents can go a long way toward preventing them for riders and motor vehicle operators alike.
Based on current research data and statistics, more than half of motorcycle accidents involve another vehicle. The majority of these accidents occur at intersections. Many of them happen because the driver of a vehicle simply does not see the motorcycle on the road. Common situations that occur include:
- A car or truck turning left in front of a motorcycle;
- A motor vehicle changing lanes into a motorcycle;
- A vehicle striking a motorcycle from behind.
Defensive driving by both riders and vehicle operators is one obvious key to avoiding and preventing motorcycle accidents — just as it is for preventing any type of accident on the road. In the prevention section below, we offer even more tips for motorcyclists and drivers.
Motorcycle Accident Injuries
By the very nature of a motorcycle, riders and passengers are much more exposed than occupants of any other type of vehicle on the road. It’s no surprise that injuries from an accident are often severe and life-changing and can be fatal.
Injuries can involve virtually any part of the body. One of the most frequent and most serious of all motorcycle accident injuries is traumatic brain injury (TBI). The degree of severity of TBI can vary greatly. It often is life-threatening and life-altering.
The nature of injuries from motorcycle accidents is different in each accident. Temporary or permanent disability or disfigurement is not uncommon. Types of injuries that frequently occur include:
- Joint injuries to multiple extremities
- Arm, leg, neck, and back fractures
- Soft tissue damage to back and neck
- Internal organ damage
- Loss of limbs
- Multiple lacerations of varying severity
Especially because of the risk of brain injury, the full extent of injuries may not be obvious or determined until sometime after the accident occurs.
Motorcycle Accident Prevention For Riders and Motorists
For riders and passengers, the most important and first step to riding safely is always wearing a helmet. Virginia requires motorcyclists and passengers to wear approved helmets. A face shield or safety glasses/goggles, or safety glass or windshield is also required.
The National Highway Transportation and Safety Board estimates that helmets are 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries for operators and 41 percent effective for passengers. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles says a rider without a helmet is 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury than a helmeted rider. A helmet is 67 percent effective in preventing traumatic brain injuries.
Motorcyclists should also wear equipment and clothing that will make them more visible to drivers, such as brightly colored clothing or clothes with reflective strips. The right clothing and equipment does more than helps vehicle operators see the motorcycle rider. Clothing that is especially made to protect the rider from injury — like motorcycle jackets, pants, gloves, and boots — can help minimize injuries if there is an accident.
In addition to using the right gear and equipment, there are other steps motorcycle riders should take to prevent accidents, including:
- Always keep the bike’s headlight on while riding;
- Take safety, skill, and defensive driving courses to learn how to handle a bike in any situation;
- Ensure that the bike is fitted correctly to the rider (a too-large bike is a safety hazard);
- Keep a vigilant lookout to anticipate common hazards like potholes when riding;
- Inspect your bike before every ride to ensure its operating properly;
- Maintain a safe distance from motor vehicles when riding;
- Avoid riding in the blind spots of cars and trucks;
- Pay extra attention at intersections and when turning and changing lanes;
- Maintain a safe speed, and slowing down when weather conditions and road conditions warrant;
- Never operate a motorcycle after consuming alcohol or drugs.
For motor vehicle operators, being aware of the risks that exist when motorcycles are on the road is absolutely essential. Be alert for their presence and know that you must exercise additional caution when a motorcycle nearby. Motorcycle safety precautions that vehicle drivers should take include:
- Be alert to the presence of motorcycles and exercise additional care when they are on the road with you;
- Avoid driving distractions or inattention to prevent impairing your ability to see a motorcycle;
- Exercise special care at intersections and when turning and passing;
- Check blind spots carefully when changing lanes;
- Keep a safe distance from motorcycles at all times — never tailgate a motorcycle.
The key to safety for motorcyclists and motor vehicle operators alike really comes down to two fundamental rules: Pay close attention to what’s going on all around you, and exercise basic precautions. Motorcycle accidents will still occur, but your careful driving will lessen the chances that you will be involved in one.
Moped Accident Prevention and Safety in Virginia
Mopeds are extremely popular in Virginia, especially in our beach towns. All the rules about motorcycle accident prevention apply to mopeds — which pose even more hazards to riders and motorists than motorcycles, because they are smaller and lighter. In fact, just a few weeks ago, one teenager died and another was seriously injured in an accident in Hampton that involved four vehicles and a moped. Sadly, the recent accident is not an isolated case of a moped accident in our region.
Virginia has special laws and regulations that apply to mopeds. If you ride a moped, make sure you know the laws and comply with them. Moped insurance — while not required in Virginia — is available, usually for a nominal fee. Having insurance is a good way to protect yourself in the event you are in an accident while riding your moped.
Talk With a Virginia Beach Motorcycle Accident Lawyer
If you’ve been seriously injured in a moped accident or motorcycle accident — or if you’ve lost a loved one in a motorcycle accident — and someone else was at fault, personal injury attorney Jeff Brooke has the experience and skill to help you and your family. Contact us by phone at (757) 785-0837 or by using our online contact form.
Jeff Brooke is a personal injury attorney devoted to helping individuals who have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries or lost a loved one as a result of someone else’s negligent and careless actions. The Jeff Brooke Team serves all of southeastern Virginia. The firm helps clients in the Greater Tidewater and Greater Hampton Roads areas, including in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Chesterfield. The Jeff Brooke Team also handles cases in northeastern North Carolina, including the Outer Banks.