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Why Distracted Driving is a Leading Cause of Motorcycle Accidents

motorcycle accident attorney in Charlottesville

There’s little question that motorcycle accidents can be severe and life-changing. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), motorcycle fatalities take place at a much higher rate than other types of accidents.

In 1994, motorcycle fatalities represented 5.7% of all motor vehicle-related fatalities. Today, that figure has jumped to 14%. One of the factors that is a potential contributor to more motorcycle deaths and injuries is distracted driving.

Distracted Driving and Motorcycle Accidents

Whether they have their head bent over a smartphone or they’re doing something else, distracted drivers are putting motorcyclists at serious risk on the road. According to the NHTSA, distracted driving plays a role in roughly 10% of all fatal traffic crashes. There’s a good chance that the true figure is much higher.

The University of South Florida’s Center Urban Transportation Research analyzed ten years of motorcycle crash data. In crashes involving a collision between a vehicle and a motorcycle, it found that the driver of the passenger vehicle was at fault 60% of the time.

What is Distracted Driving?

According to the NHTSA, distracted driving is considered to be “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.” The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that there are three main types of distracted driving:

  • Visual – you take your eyes off of the road
  • Manual – you take your hands off of the wheel
  • Cognitive – you take your mind off of operating the vehicle

Some of the ways that distracted driving can put the lives of motorcycles and other drivers at risk include:

  • Texting while driving
  • Using a mobile phone
  • Drinking and eating
  • Talking to other passengers
  • Grooming (fixing hair and makeup)
  • Using a navigation system
  • Reaching for items in a vehicle
  • Adjusting climate control
  • Adjusting a music player or radio
  • Smoking

The Danger of Texting While Driving

While all types of distracted driving are dangerous, texting while driving gets the most attention because it involves a combination of visual, manual, and cognitive distractions. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) released a study concluding that drivers who text while operating a vehicle are 23 times more likely to cause a crash than those who don’t do this.

According to this same study, drivers involved in crashes spend five or more seconds staring at a device just before the collision, which can be enough time to travel the length of a football field. Even a hands-free solution isn’t perfect since it involves a degree of cognitive distraction.

Virginia’s Distracted Driving Law

Virginia does have a law that restricts texting while driving, but it’s confusing. Originally passed in 2009 and updated in 2013, the law bans manually entering text or reading messages on a handheld device while driving. Being caught is now a primary offense, meaning a driver could and should be pulled over for violating this law.

Despite the laws that are currently in place, Virginia is still not a “hands-free” state. It has failed to pass a law that would make it illegal to hold a phone while driving. Technically, it’s still legal to use apps and streaming video while driving, which are major distractions that make motorists more likely to cause an accident.

Common Reasons Why Drivers Don’t See Motorcyclists

Distracted driving is just one of many reasons that a driver might fail to see a motorcyclist and subsequently cause an accident. According to the Association for Psychological Science, the main reason that these accidents occur is that drivers simply aren’t looking for motorcycles on the road. Other reasons include:

  • Drivers are too busy watching for other cars, SUVs, and commercial vehicles.
  • Drivers are used to larger objects and vehicles, and motorcycles don’t fit that profile.
  • Motorcycles react to weather and road conditions differently than other vehicles, and drivers don’t expect this.

What to Do If You’ve Been in a Motorcycle Accident

In a crash between a passenger vehicle and a motorcycle, the motorcyclist bears the brunt of the damages and injuries. A motorcycle and its rider aren’t protected by the steel cage of a car or truck and its advanced safety systems. The injuries resulting from these accidents are often severe and sometimes deadly.

If you or someone you love has been the victim of one of these accidents, whether due to the actions of a distracted driver or some other careless or reckless act, you have the right to pursue a claim for damages. At Buck, Toscano & Tereskerz, we have over a century of combined legal experience advocating for accident victims and their families throughout the Charlottesville, VA area.

Call our office today at 434-977-7977 or reach out to us online to schedule a free consultation.

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