The official start of summer is just weeks away, bringing with it the warm weather that attracts motorcycle enthusiasts to the roads, so it is a critical reminder to all motorists to watch for motorcycles. There are approximately 200,000 motorcycles registered here in Virginia, however, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have labeled motorcycles as the “most hazardous form of transportation.” Riders of motorcycles are almost 30 times more at risk to die in a crash than occupants of passenger vehicles.
Each year, there are approximately 5,000 victims killed in motorcycle accidents and almost 90,000 victims injured. The injured suffered in motorcycle crashes are often catastrophic because there is nothing that protects the rider of the motorcycle from the 3,000+ plus car or truck that slams into them.
Unfortunately, as the number of people who ride motorcycles increases, so has the number of accidents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as other types of vehicle crashes have continued to decrease each year, the number of motorcycle accidents has increased. The CDC has declared this increase of motorcycle crashes as a major public health concern, citing both the physical and economic losses these crashes cause. In fact, the economic burden that motorcycle accidents cause totals more than $12 billion each year.
Causes of Motorcycle Accidents
Crashes can happen due to a variety of factors; however, multiple studies have identified the most common reasons why motorcycle accidents happen, including the following:
- Distracted drivers: A vehicle driver who is engaged in distracting driving activity instead of focusing on the road can very easily miss a motorcycle, especially given their smaller size.
- Dooring: An occupant of a parked vehicle opens the door into the path of an oncoming motorcycle.
- Driving under the influence: One of the main causes of all types of vehicle accidents. When a driver is under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, the risk of failing to see a motorcycle and reacting in time increases dramatically.
- Lane changes: The vehicle driver fails to signal or check their blind spots when changing lanes.
- Left turns: One of the most common – and deadliest – reasons for motorcycle accidents is when a vehicle driver making left turns misjudge the distance of a motorcyclist who has the right of way.
- Speeding: Like driving under the influence, a factor in all types of vehicle accidents.
- Sudden stops: A vehicle following too closely behind a motorcycle may not be able to stop in time if the motorcyclist has to come to a sudden stop.
Motorcycle Accident Injuries
As mentioned above, the injuries that are sustained in motorcycle accidents are often severe. Even a “minor” motorcycle crash can leave the victim with serious injuries that require months of medical treatment, rehab, and recovery, resulting in a significant amount of lost wages. Frequent injuries suffered by motorcycle accident victims include:
- Brain and head injuries
- Internal injuries and bleeding
- Lower-extremity injuries
- Road rash
- Spinal cord injuries
One of the most common – and most devastating injuries that a motorcycle accident victim can sustain is a head injury. The best way to minimize the risk of a head injury is to wear a motorcycle helmet. Multiple studies have shown that wearing a DOT-certified motorcycle helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by 70 percent and decrease the risk of death by 40 percent.
Despite these statistics, many riders still fail to wear helmets if the state they are in doesn’t require wearing one. In states without all-rider helmet laws, the number of victims not wearing helmets killed each year averages 10 times higher than in states that do.
Each state makes its own laws regarding the required wearing of helmets. Nineteen states have universal helmet laws, meaning all riders are required to wear helmets. Twenty-eight states have some kind of law in place that requires some riders – usually those under 18 – to wear helmets. Three states have no helmet requirements.
It is recommended that regardless of what the state law is where you are riding, protect yourself from a potential brain injury and wear a helmet. When choosing a helmet, make sure it does have the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) approval certification. All certified helmets will have the DOT stamp on the back of the helmet. If your helmet is not certified, it does not provide the protection you need to avoid a tragic injury. Ideally, choose a helmet that also has a face shield. If your helmet does not have a shield, them make sure you wear safety goggles when riding.
Riders should also wear other safety gear in order to protect them in the event they are in an accident. No matter how warm the weather is, all riders should wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts. Leather jackets, pants or chaps, boots, and gloves should also be worn for protection. Most motorcycle accident victims experience some kind of sliding on pavement in accidents and the leather can help minimize the damage done as skin scrapes across the pavement.
Call a Seasoned Personal Injury Attorney
If you or a loved one has been injured in a motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to financial compensation for the losses your injuries have caused. These losses include medical expenses, loss of income and benefits, pain and suffering, emotional anguish, permanent disability, scarring, disfigurement, and more.
Motorcycle accident claims and lawsuits can be complex since many insurance companies try to blame the motorcyclist for the crash. A skilled Virginia Beach motorcycle accident attorney from Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn can make sure you get the compensation you deserve.