Georgia on Two Wheels
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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Motorcycle riders in the sunset.jpgWe are saddened by reports that a motorcycle rider died recently in Clayton County in the early evening hours. The reports indicate that the rider was traveling north on Georgia 85 when his bike crashed into the rear of another stopped vehicle. We don’t know the cause of this crash, whether there was a malfunction of the bike’s brakes or whether the rider simply did not see the stopped vehicle or misgauged the distance needed to brake. But any loss of life is a tragedy and perhaps this rider’s passing can serve as a reminder about braking and bikes.

Lots of riders have something to say about braking on a bike and how to gauge distance and speed. Most bikes’ braking systems make it possible to stop within seconds of braking. But of course the faster you are going, the more distance it will take to stop your bike. Effective braking requires practice and it is one of the most important skills a rider can work on over time. The more experienced riders know that it isn’t always predictable how quickly his or her bike will stop in any given conditions. Distances required to stop become greater quite quickly, the faster the bike is going. Slowing down when you think you might need to brake is a good way to help yourself and your bike to stop in time before hitting an immoveable object. Assuming that the road in front of you will be predictable at all times is a big mistake.

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helmet-on-bicycle-10045610.jpgWe are reminded of the serious intersection dangers for motorcyclists as we learn that a corrections officer has lost his life in such a crash. The Clayton County officer was in the southbound lane when he was struck and killed by another vehicle. Although reports are unclear on the precise facts, it appears that there were two other vehicles involved. One that came out in front of the motorcycle and another that struck the officer in the southbound lane in which he was traveling. It could well be that the motorcyclist was hit when trying to avoid the first vehicle that pulled in front of him in the intersection.

Unfortunately, we cannot post enough about the dangers to bikers in situations involving intersections. The problem is so serious that one national insurance company has initiated an intersection safety campaign that includes posting warnings to drivers at intersections known to be dangerous. The effort is intended to remind motorists that checking an intersection just one time for other vehicles and motorcycles is not sufficient.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for bicycles on georgia roadAs we approach the holiday season, there is a greater likelihood that fun and holiday cheer will result in tragedy on the road. In modern life we have become somewhat used to the hectic nature of the season and the losses made more poignant by this season. And when loss occurs during this time of year, families suffer a greater sense of this loss because this is a time when families gather. Sadly, a Cobb County incident involving a DUI, resulted in the death of one person and injuries to the allegedly drunk driver and a bicyclist just before the holiday season in late October. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that charges have already been filed against the driver in this incident and an arrest is likely to follow.

The nature of the charges including the most serious first degree vehicular homicide which is found at Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-393 , derive from an incident that occurred earlier this fall. The reported facts are that the driver was traveling at a high rate of speed and struck the bicyclist, then hit a tree. His passenger was killed also the man riding his bicycle on Riverside Parkway was seriously injured. Unfortunately the bicycle rider sustained injuries that involved the spinal cord and cervical spine, but were said to be survivable. The driver also sustained some level of injury.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for motorcycleriderleg.jpegEarlier this month, a young biker was tragically killed after sustaining traumatic injuries. He was riding his motorcycle on an Athens street and apparently was struck by a vehicle that was exiting a drive way. The rear of the vehicle collided with the young rider who was a graduate of Peachtree Ridge High School and a student at the University of Georgia. In the early reports, the authorities indicated that it was possible the 22-year old biker’s helmet was not fastened completely since it flew off during the impact of the crash. This tragic loss of life is made all the more tragic if the helmet could have saved the young man’s life.

In Georgia, the numbers of bikers killed while riding are down slightly since 2008. But that is not the case in nearby Tennessee. Authorities in Tennessee have noted that motorcycle crash fatalities are actually rising. Just this fall, three crashes occurred in nearby Chattanooga very close in time to one another. A young woman was critically injured after being ejected from a bike she was riding on as a passenger. Her helmet was apparently not secured, similarly to the recent crash in Athens, Georgia, as it flew off and she ended up in a lane of traffic.

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candles .jpgA beautiful autumn ride turned horrific after five individuals lost their lives on a country road at a beautiful location on the Pennsylvania – Maryland border. The countryside in this area is similar to that found around the hills and mountains in Georgia and the story of what happened is still being uncovered. One thing is for sure, four bikers and an SUV passenger have lost their lives and the grief for the families and the community is overwhelming. Over many years as an Atlanta motorcycle injury lawyer, I have represented motorcyclists and their families deal with the legal and medical issues involved in motorcycle accidents. This recent crash is very tragic.

In addition to the fact that this accident is reported to be the most severe that has ever occurred in the small border township in which it occurred in the loss of life and injury, the cause really remains a mystery. On a perfect fall afternoon at around 2 in the afternoon, two bikes, each carrying a passenger were riding at the area of the Blue Ridge Summit. The bikes somehow ended up in a deadly collision with an SUV.

Updated reports are now indicating that for the SUV apparently traveled into the opposite lane of traffic and hit one of the motorcycles. Subsequently, the second bike hit the vehicle. The cause of the drifting of the SUV is not currently known. The crash was so horrific, that all four on the bikes were killed along with an SUV passenger.

Due to the severity of this crash, the emergency responders received extra support because according to reports the accident scene was worse than most had ever seen. At least one person survived and has been taken to the hospital in Maryland. Perhaps the survivor will be able to help authorities piece together what happened.

Bikers know that the beautiful rides of fall can be among the most peaceful and wonderful there are. The cool air, drifting leaves and open road are so inviting. The unexpected collision, particularly one in which bikes and other motor vehicles collide head-on is not what we think about as we get on the open road.

But when we are driving or riding at even normal rates of speed and we end up facing another vehicle coming towards us in our lane … what can we do to try to avoid tragedy? Are there any technological advances that might avoid such a collision? Researchers have already established that the use of helmets in general can save a biker’s life. The famous and renown study done in the early 1980’s for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (The Hurt Report) established key factors in motorcycle safety. The NHTSA continues to work on identifying risk exposure to riders and how to best communicate to the biking community about crash avoidance. But some situations on the road present challenges that even the most experienced and cautious riders might not be able to manage safely.

One of those is a situation in which vehicles (bikes and cars, or bikes and trucks for example) traveling in the opposite direction from one another end up in the same lane. Perhaps in the future there could be some sort of warning system using a GPS-like system to detect the other vehicle. But even this will not assist if there is no where to safely pull over to avoid collision.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for motorcycleriderleg.jpegWe have posted in the past about the fact that single vehicle accidents that involve road departure can be among the most dangerous for bikers. Just this weekend, a Marietta man took his last ride early Saturday morning. It is my job as Gwinnett County motorcycle lawyer, to represent the families of those who have been injured or have lost their lives in bike crashes and it is very sad and difficult to go through such an experience.

Reports indicate the Marietta Police are currently investigating a crash involving one motorcycle that was traveling on the Canton Road Connector. The bike was ridden by a 26 year-old man. He was on a 2004 Suzuki motorcycle in a location that is east of I-75 and specifically on the Canton Road Connector.

It is suspected from witness to the crash that the bike was speeding at the time of the accident. The rider lost control of the bike which left the road and hit a guardrail. Tragically, the biker died at the scene of the accident. Our deepest sympathies go the family and friends of this young man, whose life is gone too soon.

Although the investigation of this accident is not complete, speed may well have been a factor. The Marietta crash is another example of how treacherous it is to drive at excess speeds. We read all too often about situations in which motor vehicles and motorcycles leave the roadway and hit objects that include trees, mailboxes, telephone polls and guardrails. Very often, and all too often these crashes result in serious injury or fatality.

Guardrails are there to protect lives, but they can be unforgiving in a collision. We have shared with readers that collisions involving road departures and guardrails are very dangerous for all vehicles, but especially for motorcycles.

The National Academies of Science provided grants in late 2010 to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute’s (VTTI) Center for Injury Biomechanics to review and gather information on fatal road departure crashes. The study is still underway and should be completed some time next year. This study involves both passenger vehicles and also is focusing specifically on motorcycle road departure crashes.

The current study should provide very essential information on just how road departure crashes occur and identify very precisely the patter of injuries and fatalities that occur in these crashes. The primary factors contributing to these crashes include speed and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. One study underway specifically involves the injuries that result in fatal motorcycle crashes and roadside barriers.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Motorcycle rider on fall roadway.jpgA series of horrific crashes around Atlanta and Georgia earlier this month has left motorists, including bikers and cyclists injured and worse. These accidents were not due to bad weather or visibility, but apparently were just a constellation of terrible circumstances with tragic results. We posted about a string of deadly and serious accidents on our Atlanta Injury Attorneys Blog.

In one bike crash, a 46-year-old rider died after losing control of his motorcycle. His bike left the road on Cobb Parkway near Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta. In another incident on the same night, two bikers from Lithia Springs, were both killed after hitting a car stopped on I-285 southbound between Camp Creek Parkway and Washington Road. And a third motorcyclist, 43-year-old of Douglasville, was also injured in the accident.

And on Georgia 400, a woman riding on the back of a bike, was thrown off of it when her brother, the driver clipped a wall. She was then hit by another vehicle that left the scene and police are still trying to find that driver. The driver of the bike who is the deceased woman’s brother, was not seriously injured. He has been arrested and charged with DUI, reckless driving, failure to maintain his proper lane and first-degree vehicular homicide.

First degree vehicular homicide or homicide by vehicle, is a felony found in the Annotated Code of Georgia section 40-6-393 (a). This provision states that a driver under the influence of alcohol or drugs that causes the death of another person can be sentenced to up to 15 years of imprisonment. The minimum sentence can be longer for habitual DUI violators.

Late the same night, a 52-year-old man was struck and killed while riding a bicycle on Georgia Highway 6 in Paulding County. This cyclist was struck by a car driven by a young adult from Hiram.

It is difficult to imagine what all the injured are dealing with and it is even more difficult to imagine the sense of loss for families who have lost a loved one in these crashes. It goes without saying that we are saddened by any loss of life in the biking community. The sense of loss is worsened when we consider that avoiding drinking and driving is something that all of us can and should do. In at least one of the accidents here, if the allegations are true, this might have saved at least one of the lives lost in recent days.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for burned out bikeLast week, a rider lost his life while riding on I-75. The collision that ended his life was not between two vehicles that were in any way a match for such a situation. One rider on a bike and one driver of a tractor-trailer. My work representing bikers and their families as a Gwinnett County motorcycle injury lawyer involves many match-ups between vehicles, but there is nothing more dangerous to a biker than a tractor-trailer that isn’t where it should be on the road.

In this crash, the motorcyclist was riding northbound on the highway near I-675. This crash took place in daylight around 11:30 in the morning. The tractor-trailer crossed the median and traveled into the opposite direction of traffic and into the motorcycle’s lane killing the biker. The road was closed for some period of time after the crash. The accident was said to have been the result of an improper lane change by the tractor-trailer. The driver of the truck is likely going to face charges. This could include a charge, based on the improper lane change and resulting death, of second degree homicide by vehicle under Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-393.

As biker’s know, trucks are some of the largest vehicles on Georgia’s roads and highways. Traveling near or around them can be very treacherous for bikers. There is nothing this motorcyclist could have done to avoid a large vehicle suddenly coming into his path. The loss of his life is a huge price to pay for riding on an open highway.

We do not know the condition of the truck driver at the time of the accident. Perhaps the trucker was fatigued or otherwise compromised. Federal regulations make it very clear how long a trucker can drive in one day, required brakes and rest. We cannot assume anything in this situation, all we know is that the driver left his lane of traffic resulting in the rider’s death.

Trucking in Georgia is highly regulated and is in accord with the federal law. If this driver was working for a commercial motor carrier, that company and the driver could well have liability in a wrongful death action brought by the surviving family of the rider.

Wrongful death is a type of action that can be brought after a death caused by another person. It is brought by close family members or spouses and generally is intended to compensate the family, including children for the sudden and perhaps early death of a loved one. Calculations are made that determine what the deceased person would have earned over the course of his or her lifetime and that becomes part of the damages claimed by the victim’s family. Other damages and causes of action can also be a part of the action.

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Thumbnail image for Motorcycle4.jpgAfter a string of fatal motorcycle crashes in the Atlanta metro area, particularly those in which bikers have been struck by other vehicles as those vehicles are either making a turn or the biker makes a turn, we have set out to remind our readers about the importance of safe riding. Earlier this year, the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety launched a safe riding campaign, with the aim of reducing motorcycle crash fatalities. Over the two prior years, the highest rates of fatal crashes came from metro counties, including Fulton, DeKalb and Gwinnett and neighboring Newton County.

As a Gwinnett County motorcycle injury lawyer, this latest string of bike crashes and fatalities concerns me greatly. I represent riders and their families and support them through what can be traumatic and life-changing experiences. Although the statistics show that Georgia had slightly fewer fatalities in 2012, than in 2011, over 130 people lost their lives in bike crashes. This why both motorists and riders, have been asked to renew their commitment to sharing the road.

In Georgia, we have over 200,000 registered motorcycles — less than two and one half percent of all registered vehicles. But sadly, in 2011 (for example) motorcycle deaths amounted to 11 percent of all fatalities on our roads and highways. This type of statistic is found in other states around the country. It is not just true in Georgia. In 2011 motorcycle deaths in the United States amounted to 14 percent, with a three percent average registration across the country. We have seen a drop in fatalities in Georgia from 2005.

But as we are all aware, any fatality on a bike is a tragedy and our fatal crash rates in urban and rural areas are too high. In general, bike riders are 30 times more likely to die in a collision than are those driving or riding in other types of motor vehicles.

We know that proper helmet use is one reason why riders are surviving crashes that would other wise be fatal. The importance of the proper helmet can never be overstated.

Education is also key in safety. About 22 percent of riders in motorcycle crashes do not have the proper license or have no license. And it is said that because bikes are fuel efficient, some riders do not get the background they need to ride safely. Right here in Georgia, our Department of Driver Services has 22 motorcycle safety training sites and certifies nearly 15 additional sites around the state.

Here is are some safety reminders: don’t drive impaired or distracted; do wear protective a helmet and bright clothing with reflectors; avoid riding in bad weather; always signal a lane change and use hand signals when possible in addition to your turn signal; make sure to position your bike before a turn so that other drivers can best see you.

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Thumbnail image for Motorcycle rider on fall roadway.jpgThis has been a very very bad week for local riders. We have lost two motorcyclists to the same or similar danger — a vehicle turning left and failing to yield the right of way. In this tragedy, a 19-year-old man was killed. I mentioned in my last post that riders can only protect themselves from this type of motorcycle crash by using every possible means to be seen by other vehicles. In our next post, we will share some thoughts on this, but for now, we are sending our sympathies to the families of these two victims.

I have represented many bikers who have been in this situation and have been injured or worse in my law practice as a Gwinnett County motorcycle accident lawyer. A grieving family isn’t really consoled by the compensation they receive for the wrongful death of a loved one, but at least they can move on with their lives and have some protection for others left with the loss, such as children and spouses.

We have discussed in the past that it is extremely difficult for riders to protect themselves if and when another vehicle simply crosses the path of an oncoming rider — which is what happened in this situation and the fatal crash we posted about earlier this week. Wearing a helmet that is structurally sound and other protective gear can help protect your head and your ability to see. But, nothing can protect you from a driver going at full speed and turning in your path. That is just careless and it is against Georgia law.

In the most recent crash in Forsyth County, a pick-up truck driver was driving northbound on Heardsville Road, when he made a left turn into a parking lot at the Old Heardsville Store. The truck hit a young rider who was traveling southbound on the same road on his Yamaha bike. The fatal crash occurred in the afternoon hours, so weather and visibility do not appear to be factors in this crash.

The rider is reported to have been thrown from the motorcycle and pronounced dead at the scene. He attempted to avoid the impact of the oncoming truck by taking some evasive measures, but was thrown from his bike. The truck driver was not injured in the crash and was immediately arrested and charged with misdemeanor vehicular homicide and failure to yield while turning left.

The Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-393 sets out the crimes involving homicide by vehicle. The charge of misdemeanor vehicular homicide carries a lesser penalty than more serious offenses, such as first degree homicide by vehicle.

In our post earlier this week, we shared the fatal crash of another rider that happened the same way this one did. A car was riding in the opposite direction of a woman on a scooter and made a turn directly into her path. She died after her transport to a local hospital.

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