Articles Posted in Motorcycle Safety

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helmet-on-bicycle-10045610Here at Georgia on Two Wheels, we watch motorcycle trends, including such things as safer riding and how to avoid injury. As we come to the close of 2016, our hope is that this past year’s statistics on how riders fared across the country will be an improvement over 2015. We will not know that for a while as the statistics are gathered and published early next year. Our further hope is that 2017 is the safest year ever for both bike riders and bicyclists.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reviews and analyzes statistics on motorcycle riding in America. They also keep track of how safety measures help avoid injury and keep riders safer on the roads with other vehicles. We often share stories of riders who have been seriously or fatally injured while doing something they love … riding. We share them to make our readers more aware of what they can do to stay safe on their rides. We know for example, that many serious or fatal bike crashes happen while riders are traveling through, or turning at, intersections. We also know that helmet use can help protect riders. Whether you ride once a month or every day, we want all riders to make sure they know the latest data on how to avoid serious injury. The IIHS has recently noted what the federal government has reported … riders are significantly more likely to be injured or lose their lives than those in cars.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) noted in 2015 that a  over 4,550 motorcyclists lost their lives in accidents in that year. Although fatal motorcycle crashes declined in the early 1980’s, that decline turned into a steady increase until 2008. The increase has leveled out in the past few years. Out of all fatal motor vehicle crashes in 2015, about 13 percent were those riding motorcycles. Last year, nearly 30 percent of those fatally injured were those who did not hold a valid driver’s license, while only 15 percent of those fatally injured in other motor vehicles did not hold a driver’s license. Another interesting statistic is that in 2015 about 30 percent of fatally injured motorcyclists were under the age of 30. In 1975, 80 percent of fatally injured motorcyclists were under the age of 30.

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moto5We like to keep our riders apprised of bike recalls both for bikes they might own or that riders they know might own. We urge all riders to pay attention to recall notifications. Sometimes owners ignore recalls. They assume the recall might not apply to their bike. But when a recall is issued, owners should contact their dealer, manufacturer or the federal consumer authorities at SaferCar.gov. Sometimes recalls can protect against Georgia motorcycle injury. One recent recall occurred because two riders were injured while riding a competition motorcycle. A recall has been issued for the Husqvarna TC and FC and KTM SX and SX-F motocross competition motorcycles. These motorcycles are identifiable by their colors, logos and the model name and engines identifications. The company has recalled these bikes due to reports provided to them of wheel spoke failure. These reports were of specific injuries that had been sustained by the riders. In one case the rider broke his shoulder and in another accident, the rider broke ribs.

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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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Motorcycle4In October 2014 at a gathering in New York on highway safety, a researcher from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) presented preliminary results from the naturalistic riding study that is currently underway at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI).  The study is a coordinated effort with MSF and VTTI. The data collected thus far is not being formally published yet as it is too early for researchers to reach final conclusions from it. But there are some general points emerging thus far.  The purpose of the study is intended to help researchers understand “the role of human factors in traffic safety outcomes.” In other words, it is an effort to identify how riders can manage their rides more safely and avoid bike crashes and fatalities. We have been sharing information about this study that has been underway for the past couple of years in four locations around the country. These include riders in Irvine, California riding year round;  those in Orlando, Florida riding in similar conditions; riders in Blacksburg, Virginia with lots of two-lane roads and hills; and, those in Phoenix, Arizona where there are many sports bikes and no helmet laws.

The intention of this study has been to collect riding data in a natural way using video and other technologies that will pin-point what specific factors are involved in motorcycle crashes and near-crashes. Although the data is still being collected and analyzed, there are some early patterns emerging based on what has been collected thus far. The collected data is based on over 350,000 miles of riding so far. Riders of all ages are part of this study. All types of riding is also part of this study — subjects were not only those riding during leisure time, but those who use their bikes to get to work. It also includes those who wear protective gear and those who do not.

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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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courthouseIn my work as an Atlanta motorcycle accident lawyer, I keep up with the rulings in states around the country that relate to bikes. A very interesting ruling has just come out of the Indiana Court of Appeals. The case involved the question of whether the blood drawn from a police officer could be admissible in the criminal case filed against him. The blood could be important evidence as to why he ended up crashing into two motorcycles at an intersection, killing one rider and causing the critical injuries of two others.

The blood was drawn from the officer and now could be used as evidence against him. The prosecution must still prove that the blood was not tainted or damaged in any way by showing what is called a proper chain of custody before the trial court can admit or allow the evidence in the case against the officer. Apparently, the officer’s defense counsel believes there is a good chance that the evidence was not properly managed. As it stands now, the sample revealed an alleged blood-alcohol level of more than twice the legal limit in Indiana.

The drunk driving charges had initially been dropped and later were refiled by a different prosecutor. Initially, the trial court judge ruled that the blood sample was not admissible for technical reasons such as, alleged medical protocol failures and issues with the personnel that drew the blood.

Georgia law also provides for the personnel who may draw blood in these circumstances. Official Code of Georgia section 40-6-392 provides for chemical tests for alcohol or drugs in blood and provides, in part, that “The person tested may have a physician or a qualified technician, chemist, registered nurse, or other qualified person of his own choosing administer a chemical test or tests in addition to any administered at the direction of a law enforcement officer. The justifiable failure or inability to obtain an additional test shall not preclude the admission of evidence relating to the test or tests taken at the direction of a law enforcement officer …”

In Indiana, only certain medical personnel are permitted to draw blood in drunk driving cases. Interestingly, reports say that the blood could be used to support other charges, such as reckless homicide. But, in the court’s opinion, the person that performed the blood draw did it in a way that followed necessary protocols and they concluded that the state statutes were not intended to throw evidence out on these grounds if the proper procedures were otherwise followed.

According to reports, the public became outraged when it appeared that the crash scene was not handled properly. As a result, literally hundreds of bikers rode into downtown Indianapolis for several weekends after the crash to hold vigils and protest the way the situation was handled. The protests may have supported the end result which was disciplinary action or demotion of not only the police chief, but others in the department,
It is now hoped that the case will move forward with greater public trust. The decision may be appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court which may or may not accept the case for review.

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Thumbnail image for iStock_000003222033XSmall.jpgKnowing the risks of failing to wear a helmet, I am baffled by those riders who choose to ride without one. The risks of serious injury are so high in the event of an accident without a helmet. As a motorcycle injury lawyer, I work with riders who have been injured wearing a helmet. And I work with riders who have been injured without wearing a helmet. Those families whose loved one has lost his or her life due to lack of helmet live with their loss knowing it might have been prevented.

Last week, we learned that a veteran police officer in a nearby state lost his life while riding his motorcycle without a helmet. In that state, the helmet law was enacted and then repealed after riders protested it. So what he did was legal. But had that law not been repealed would the office be alive today? Without a helmet, he could not protect himself from the injury he sustained when he crashed into a deer while riding his bike. It was said that he “died of blunt force trauma to the head and trunk.”

The loss of this fine man and his family’s sorrow are difficult to imagine. I have helped families through this sort of inconceivable loss and my heart goes out to this family and their community.

In Georgia, riders are required to wear a helmet. Georgia’s law, found at Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-315 referred to as the Georgia Motorcycle Helmet Law, sets out the requirement for approved headgear when riding on our roadways. Specifically, O.C.G.A. § 40-6-315 (a) states that “[no person shall operate or ride upon a motorcycle unless he or she is wearing protective headgear which complies with standards established by the commissioner of public safety.” In addition, a windshield or an approved type of eye-protective device is also required.

Georgia riders can consult with a great resource for what is required in our state. Please consult the Georgia Motorcycle Operator’s Manual. There is no doubt that neck and head injuries are more likely to be serious or fatal. Wearing an approved helmet can lower the risk of these terrible outcomes. In fact you are three times more likely to survive head injury if you are wearing a helmet. Riders should select a helmet that complies with U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) and state standards. Look for a helmet with the Snell Memorial Foundation label in it, those are recommended for quality.

Bikers sometimes say they like the feeling of riding without a helmet. But consider the feeling that you will never ride again because you are disabled or your family is grieving your death when it might have been avoided. Also consider the fact that helmets do not obstruct your ability to see the road.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for motorcycleriderleg.jpegOver the weekend, we read about a New York avid biker who apparently lost control of his bike and ended up losing his life. This accident happened on a curve. This scenario is one that bikers know can be dangerous. And my Gwinnett County motorcycle accident law practice clients have shared their experiences with me about the physics of bikes and curves.

The deceased biker was 69 years old, a visual artist of some renown and an art gallery owner. The local state police said that he was driving his 2011 Kawasaki Ninja when he veered into the opposite lane of traffic and was struck by an oncoming Toyota RAV4. He was wearing a leather jacket, leather pants and a helmet and was driving at the speed limit. There is no indication that alcohol was a factor.

We don’t know what went wrong in this accident or why he lost control of his bike, but we do know from that curves can be dangerous for all bikers. Loss of control on a curve can be deadly when a biker loses control or when an oncoming vehicle travels into the wrong lane at the wrong time.

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DD-tn.jpg The upcoming national enforcement for motorcycle safety focuses on drunk riding prevention. Riders know that drinking and driving are not a good mix. I have learned a great deal about this issue in my capacity as an Atlanta, Georgia MADD Board of Directors member and a proud supporter of the organization for more than five years. In addition, as part of my work as a Gwinnett County motorcycle accident lawyer, I have represented motorcycle riding clients who have been injured by the negligence or impaired driving of other drivers on the road. But as a passionate and proud community of riders, the motorcycle community also should pride itself on being examples of great driving. And great driving requires a lot of skill and that in turn requires a sober driver.

To emphasize this, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes on its website that, ‘[a]lcohol affects those skills essential to riding a motorcycle – balance and coordination.” This in turn is said to play a major role in bike crashes and fatalities because “[s]tatistics show that the percentage of intoxicated motorcycle riders in fatal crashes is greater than the percentage of intoxicated drivers on our roads. This is why NHTSA urges all motorcycle riders to always ride smart and sober.

Most riders are very aware of the need to be sober and clear while driving. Putting ourselves, our passengers or our beloved bikes at risk when riding is not what any driver wants to do. The problem is that alcohol can impair our own assessment as to whether we are in a condition to drive.

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iStock_000003222033XSmall.jpgAs we noted in a recent post, bike rider safety in intersections cannot be underestimated. Often car or other motor vehicle drivers are responsible for the accidents that happen in intersections. I see this in my practice as a Gwinnett County motorcycle accident lawyer.

As you all know, you cannot be sure that someone else on the road sees you. Experts say that you must never count on another driver seeing you, even if you have made eye contact with them. The Georgia Motorcycle Operators’ Manual is a great source of information for all riders, new and experienced.

Sometimes, as we know even from driving a car, another driver can look right at us and still take the right of way, even though it might belong to us. That is even more important when it comes to drivers failing to see motorcyclists. It is very important to make sure that when other vehicles enter your path, you are checking constantly to stay out of the way and avoid trouble for yourself.

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