Georgia on Two Wheels
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Motorcycle rideWe recently came across an interesting piece in Motorcyclist magazine. We think Georgia motorcycle riders would be interested in the “how to ride a motorcycle forever” perspective. Our experience in representing Atlanta bike riders after injury or accident has led us to a keen interest in protecting riders from motorcycle crashes and injuries. Our clients include all age groups, but it stands to reason that the older we get the more challenging physical activity can get. And we all know that physical and mental sharpness is important in safe riding.

Amazingly, the stats show that American riders generally have about four decades behind them. And that means the horizon of both physical and mental challenges might be ahead as we age. The key to the lifelong safe riding and avoiding serious motorcycle injury, is staying mentally and physically fit. Having the wisdom that should ride along with the years can help us make better judgments in tight situations that we all find on the roads, especially these days with rude and distracted drivers. As an experienced rider, the hope is that you have gained sensory and muscle memory from years of riding that can help you anticipate trouble and respond well to it.

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iStock_000017380527XSmallA recent fatal motorcycle crash reminds us of the dangers of road debris for Georgia motorcycle riders. This past weekend, a Texas man lost his life after hitting a mattress that was in the road. Reports indicate that the rider saw the mattress, tried to avoid it, but wasn’t able to do so. He flew off his bike and landed on the pavement with a fatal head injury. At the time of this bike crash, the rider was not wearing a helmet.

Road debris is a hazard for all travelers. Road debris is particularly dangerous for cyclists and bike riders whose ability to scan the road ahead might well be blocked or hindered by other larger vehicles. Riding “defensively” can only do so much. Riders know they need to scan the road ahead and maintain calm when something unexpected appears on the roadway. It isn’t always possible to manage a way around debris, especially if it is large or it is positioned in a way that makes it difficult for the rider to move out of harm’s way. Cyclists often riding near the road shoulder and they know this is precisely where debris gathers. And it is also the most likely location a cyclist would use to avoid debris on a bike lane or roadway.

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helmet-on-bicycle-10045610Fulton County has been in mourning this holiday season. NBC Atlanta reports that an off-duty MARTA Department of Police Services officer and former Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets player died recently in a motorcycle crash. A tragic irony in this fatal bike crash is that the crash occurred while he was escorting a funeral procession on his own bike. The cause is not known, but the motorcycle crashed into an SUV and a witness said she began to pray when she saw the officer on the ground. Authorities investigated on the scene and said they do not intend to cite the SUV driver or others involved in the crash. The loss of a dedicated officer is a tragedy regardless of how it occurs. He leaves behind five children. The sadness of this situation is made more poignant with the knowledge that he passed away while doing something for his community.

In contrast to this sad story of a downed Georgia rider and fallen hero, is a heartwarming story of a would-be tragedy averted by an off-duty veteran officer who saved a rider after a motorcycle accident. This past summer a Florida man was riding his motorcycle and on his way home when a car cut him off and he went flying. He hit a bus bench which literally cut off his left leg. A Good Samaritan attempted to stop the profuse bleeding that would have killed the rider.

But the story does not end that way. A guardian angel came on the scene and knew what to do. A part time Sheriff’s Deputy and Vietnam vet was in the area and happened to come upon the man who was now bleeding to death. When he could not stop that with his belt he knew to take his fingers and pinch the artery that was bleeding out. A medical helicopter was able to get the rider to safety. The Deputy saved the rider’s life and was honored in a ceremony in Tamarac, Florida. The rider plans to make the most of his life, get back to walking and sports with a prosthetic leg and to thank the Deputy for saving his life.

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1214589454Q2B5aOThis past May, Georgia General Assemby passed the “Motorcycle Mobility Safety Act,” also known as Senate Bill 76. This legislation included language for both motorcyclists and bicyclists to allow them to carefully enter intersections and go through red lights under limited circumstances. The light weight of bikes and cycles can be an issue at some intersections. Given the small size and light weight of many bikes and almost all cycles, engineers have yet to alter many traffic lights in Georgia to ensure that lights will change to green. Under the SB 76, a rider would be responsible for determining whether or not it was safe to enter the intersection. If a Georgia bike crash resulted, the accident would be evidence that necessary caution was not used.

Known as the “dead red” bill, many cyclists and bike riders were involved in helping to get SB 76 through to law. Governor Deal vetoed the legislation. In his veto statement he expressed his “sympathetic concern” for riders in these circumstances, but also stated that allowing bicycles and motorcycles to pass through these intersections would present confusion to motorists. He also expressed safety concerns about a provision of the bill that would have eliminated the 15 inch height controls on motorcycle handlebars. He noted that increased height can make it more difficult to control and steer a motorcycle. Ultimately, he vetoed the bill because given that 13 percent of Georgia’s fatal accidents involve bicyclists and motorcyclists, the bill would not improve Georgia’s road safety.

Some states have enacted laws to deal with these “dead red” zones. These stops are also “Idaho Stops,” since Idaho is one state that has had such legislation on the books for several decades. There are a few states which have also enacted the type of law that the Georgia legislature passed, but by far most states do not have such provisions. The Governor’s veto of the legislation and the Georgia cycling community’s support of it, demonstrates the ongoing dialogue necessary for greater sharing of the road. Public right of ways allow use by trucks, cars, motorcycles and bikes. The question continues to be how all these vehicles can safely travel.

One excellent resource for understanding and participating in this dialogue is the League of American Bicyclists. The League has been in existence since the 1800’s and holds an annual summit in Washington, D.C., which will be held in March. The League does not take a position on dead red laws. They advocate that riders adhere to their state’s rules of the road. They also note that the inconvenience of  traffic lights that do not detect bicyclists can be dealt with using engineering solutions including bike lanes and signal adjustments.

Scholle Law supports the biking community wholeheartedly and we are here for you when you need us. We understand the disappointment in the veto of a bill that so many in the community were hoping would be enacted and their concern that insurance companies were able to influence the outcome in Georgia for now. We deal with insurance companies every day in our law practice and fight for the rights of those injured on our roads and highways. Although we do not have a position on this legislation, but we hope that over time, there will be a resolution that supports safety and the riding community.

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iStock_000017380527XSmallA tragic motorcycle crash in Cobb County is currently under investigation. Marietta Police have the important task of determining precisely what happened when a biker was killed after his bike hit a Cobb Community Transit bus last week. The bus was not carrying any passengers at the time. We can only hope that when bike accidents like this happen, the outcome is greater safety for bikers. Although the facts about this fatal bike crash are not yet determined, there are some witness reports. Some witnesses reported that the motorcycle accelerated before the crash, but at this point police do not know which vehicle had the right of way. It also appears that the location of this accident is known to police to be dangerous. Enforcement has been recently increased due to the known problems with the road in this area. Apparently, speeding is an issue there as is jaywalking, both of which the police have been trying to manage.

This tragedy took place in the afternoon on which there was good visibility. The driver of the bus was apparently driving in the westerly direction and was making a left turn into the transit depo there. The bike struck the back area of the bus and tragically burst into flames, killing the rider. Georgia Good Samaritans heroically tried to put out the fire with their own jackets, but they were unable to do so. As noted previously, the rider may have accelerated before hitting the bus or the bus may have needed to wait before turning. The bus driver was able to get out of the bus after the crash and cried out for help. She was taken to the hospital, but her condition is unknown.

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iStock_000006752189XSmallMany of us can relate to losing concentration for a moment while driving or riding. This is a moment we have all had on the road in which our eyes move away from the road ahead, or something causes us to end up on the rumble strip for a second. In that second, so much can happen, including a devastating and fatal bike crash. Such motorcycle crashes have happened in and around Atlanta. On a stretch of road across the country in San Diego, a young Marine was riding when he overcorrected seeking to avoid an oncoming vehicle. This move turned fatal, and tragically he lost his life. Riding his Triumph bike, he drifted into the oncoming lane of traffic. Once he overcorrected, he ended up on the shoulder, hit a boulder and was thrown from his bike. He had two young kids and a wife who has lost him way too soon. His riding and military families are in mourning for this father of two and one on the way.

Riders know that overcorrection can be a major hazard for experienced and inexperienced drivers. This is a hazard that riders train for, but once it occurs, it is difficult to get out of the consequences, which in this case were terrible. In his piece in the New York Times several years ago, titled “Motorcycle School, Be Very Afraid,” one author shares the key take aways learned in his riding course. These included common sense advice like do not ride if you are in a hurry; do not ride if you are thinking about something else; never remove your focus from the road in front of you, and; NEVER become overconfident. In short, he concludes, its ok to be afraid, that can keep you safe. It is not easy in this complex world we live in to maintain concentration at all times when riding, but it is so important for rider safety.

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fallTime and time again, we have written about drivers of caged vehicles who cause serious accidents, injuries and fatalities to motorcycle riders. Over many years, patterns have emerged and worsened as drivers become more and more distracted and do not look carefully at the road or their surroundings. The visibility of a motorcycle and rider are key to rider safety. Riders can do all they can to be visible, but if a driver doesn’t pay attention and concentrate, a rider’s safety can be sacrificed.

We know that intersections are fraught with danger for motorcycle riders. Statistically, inattentive cagers who drive into an intersection to make a left turn can present a serious threat to riders. When a driver fails to yield the right of way to oncoming motorcycles or other vehicles and makes the turn, disastrous results can occur. Georgia riders have had their share of tragedy caused by failures to yield. Georgia law is clear in this regard. The Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-71 states that a driver attempting to make a turn in an intersection must yield to vehicles approaching. Drivers making a turn must quickly assess whether an oncoming vehicle is close enough so that turning would be hazardous. In my law practice, I have represented many motorcycle accident victims who have been struck by caged drivers because the drivers failed to see them.  Continue reading →

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scooters_2Georgia riders likely know that throughout our state we not only have great rides, but also great resources. Motorcycle enthusiasts are a unique community with a strong commitment to riding on the open road and also doing that safely and securely. Georgia’s Department of Driver Services (GDDS) has great programs for rider safety and training. Rider education sites around Georgia are easy to locate on the GDDS website and offer support to both experienced riders and new riders too.

The safety and security of motorcycle riders is important to those of us who support the rider community in different ways. We apply our legal expertise in helping those injured in motorcycle crashes to recover and to maneuver through the legal system. Since many motorcycle accidents occur at intersections and are caused by caged drivers’ failure to see a motorcyclist, we fully support the efforts to teach safest riding best practices. Avoidance may not always be possible, but learning best practices can help riders be more visible and defensive when sharing the road with other motor vehicles.

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1214589454Q2B5aOLast week, a pedestrian walking his bicycle was hit and killed by a driver in southwest Atlanta. The Atlanta police are searching for the suspect who may have owned the vehicle that killed the man … the vehicle was abandoned nearby. This situation may have been intentional, as the driver turned on the road and hit the cyclist while he was on the sidewalk. Or perhaps it was some sort of road rage. We do not know at this point, but what is true is that pedestrians and bicyclists are vulnerable to careless drivers not only in Atlanta, but all over the country.

Recently, the League of American Bicyclists studied how bicycle accidents and fatalities occur and how they are reported. Their study which was called “Every Bicyclist Counts” determined that by far the greatest danger to a bicyclist is a rear end collision. A stunning 40 percent of those bicyclists who lose their lives on their bikes in this way … the vehicle essentially overtakes the bicyclist. Additional factors that contributed to these bike crashes that were attributed to the driver involved were revealing as well. In over 40% of these fatal accidents, the driver was inattentive or careless. And other sobering statistics included that the drivers causing fatal injury to bicyclists were under the influence in about 12% of the accidents studied and had left the scene or hit and run in about 36% of the accidents.

The study also made it clear that it is important for governmental entities to ensure that roads are safe for those riding bicycles. It is also clear that the media and law enforcement need to do a better job in reporting facts after these accidents. Often critical data is not reported regarding these crashes and that makes it difficult for researchers to study why and how such fatalities occur.

Since so many bike crashes involve vehicles rear-ending bikes, distracted driving may well become a major factor in such accidents. As we see our roads becoming filled with distracted drivers, we know that there is a greater risk to those who are riding on two wheels. This too makes bicyclists more vulnerable to catastrophic injury and to fatal injury as well. If a driver is talking on the phone, reading a text or writing a text, they can veer out of their lane of travel or fail to apply the brakes when traffic is stopped or slowed and they become less aware of their surroundings which is one danger with distracted driving.

If you or a loved one has been injured while riding on a bicycle or motor cycle, often another driver or an unsafe road can be a factor. To find out why a crash occurred, injured victims need legal representation that will work to ensure that the facts are investigated and determined. Please contact Scholle Law to talk with a lawyer about your situation. We are experienced, highly rated legal professionals here to help those riders on two wheels who are most vulnerable to being struck by cars and trucks on our roads and highways.

 

 

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1214589454Q2B5aOBicyclists love this time of year … the good weather and sunshine makes riding a real joy. And with so many beautiful rides in Georgia and many events that are aimed at bike enthusiasts, our state is a great place for a great ride. One recent bicycling event was a somber reminder that our roads can also be unfriendly at times. Earlier this week, Roswell City Hall was the site of a memorial for those who have lost loved ones and friends due to bicycle or pedestrian accidents. There were opportunities to memorialize those tragedies and the people who have lost their lives on foot or on a bicycle. In addition, a forum was created during this event in which those attending were given two minutes each to express their feelings and ideas about how Georgians can lower the fatality rate for those who are sharing the road with motor vehicles of all kinds.

The Georgia Department of Transportation keeps tabs on many aspects of road safety and statistics and is reporting a very steep rise in bicycle fatalities since last year. The alarming statistic is that as compare to 2014, these fatalities have risen a shocking 63 percent. Overall, those most vulnerable sharing the road such as bicycle riders and pedestrians, comprise over 15 percent of Georgia’s traffic and road fatalities. On their Twitter feed, GDOT notes that in the first three months of 2015, 17% of fatalities on our roads were either bicyclists or pedestrians.

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