Motorcycle accident fatalities have been increasing in recent years. According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, there were 107 deaths among motorcyclists on Virginia roads in 2017, a 50% increase from 2016, and the highest number of motorcycle-related fatalities in a decade.
Nationally, motorcycle-related fatalities were down 3% in 2017, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). Still, the 5,172 deaths in 2017 was almost double the amount of fatalities recorded in any year during the 1990s, when the figures ranged from 2,000 to 3,000 annually.
Many experts believe that the disturbing upward trend in motorcycle fatalities is closely related to the growing problem of distracted driving. In Virginia, for example, distracted-driving related fatalities rose by almost 20% in 2017 alone.
Distracted Driving is Becoming an Epidemic
Distractions have always been a part of driving. Since automobiles were invented, motorists have had to deal with various distractions on the road, such as passengers talking to them, eating and drinking, putting on makeup, reading billboard ads, etc. When car phones came out a few decades ago, this presented another hazard which eventually had to be addressed. Today, a large number of states have laws that prohibit talking on cell phones while driving, unless the phone is in “hands free” mode. Virginia has still not adopted this type of law, although it has been proposed in the last couple legislative sessions.
The advent of smartphones in the late 2000s has taken the problem of distracted driving to a new and dangerous level. Today, smartphones are used for all types of electronic activity, and most commonly sending and receiving text messages.
Most people agree that texting while driving is a bad idea. In fact, in various surveys, approximately 90% of respondents rate this practice as “unacceptable”. But in these same surveys, around one-third of those who say that texting while driving is unacceptable admit to having engaged in this practice.
Texting while driving and other forms of distracted driving are especially common among teens and other inexperienced drivers. A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that distraction is a key factor in almost 60% of crashes involving drivers between the ages of 16 and 19.
Motorcycle Accidents and Distracted Driving
Distracted driving is dangerous for everyone on the road, but for motorcyclists, the hazards are even more pronounced. Bikers do not have a steel cage to protect them when they are involved in a collision with a motor vehicle, and statistically, they are 28 times more likely to be killed in an auto accident than occupants of motor vehicles.
Because motorcycles have a smaller profile, they are more difficult to see than other vehicles. And although the “Start Seeing Motorcycles” public awareness campaigns have been around for decades, many motorists are still not giving motorcyclists the respect they deserve. When you add in the fact that a sizable percentage of motorists send and receive texts while driving (even though they know it is wrong and your legal), it is not hard to see why motorcyclists seem to be in greater danger these days.
Staying Safe During the Summer Driving Season
With school out and summer vacation in full swing, expect far more traffic on the roadways in the coming months. And with the increased risks of distracted driving and motorcycle accidents, it is important for everyone on the road to take proactive steps to stay safe.
For motorists, the task is simple; put your cell phone away when you are behind the wheel. It is not worth risking your life to read and respond to the latest text. In addition, speak with your teens about the dangers of distracted driving, and if necessary, put controls in place to keep them from engaging in this behavior.
For motorcyclists, make yourself visible by wearing bright or reflective clothing, keep your lights on even when you are riding during the day, and be on the lookout for signs of distracted driving, such as a vehicle that is weaving in and out of their lane or crossing the center line on a divided road.
Injured in a Distracted Driving Accident in Virginia? Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
Even if you employ all the best safety practices, preventable accidents can still happen because of the negligent or reckless actions of another driver. If you were injured in an accident that was caused by a distracted driver, you deserve to be compensated. Before accepting any settlement offer from an insurance company, it is important to speak with a skilled Virginia auto accident lawyer, so you fully understand your legal rights and options.
Call Olmstead & Olmstead today at 703-361-1555 to schedule your free consultation. You may also message us through our online contact form or visit our office in Manassas, VA at your convenience.