There has been a major increase in motorcycle accident fatalities in recent years. Over the past couple decades, the average number of motorcyclists killed in accidents each year has nearly doubled. During the 1990s, the number of individuals killed in motorcycle crashes were less than 3,000 per year. Today, motorcycle fatalities routinely exceed 4,000 or even 5,000 in any given year.
Many believe that the sharp increase in motorcycle crash fatalities is largely due to the evolution of the electronic age. In the early 2000s, texting started to become popular. And by the time Apple introduced its first iPhone in 2007, many motorists were regularly sending and receiving texts. That same year, the number of motorcycle accident fatalities exceeded 5,000 for the first time.
Today, just about everybody uses texting to communicate. Smartphones also provide numerous other ways to stay connected, such as emailing, social media messaging, social media status updates, and watching YouTube videos. All too often, this proves to be far too much of a temptation for many motorists.
What is Distracted Driving?
Motorists have always had distractions, and any activity that diverts a driver’s attention from the road is considered to be distracted driving. Examples include tuning a radio, adjusting a music player, eating and drinking, grooming, using a GPS/navigation system, talking on the phone, talking with passengers, and of course, smartphone activities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) separates driver distractions into three general categories:
- Manual: Any distraction that causes a motorist to take their hands off of the wheel.
- Visual: Any distraction that causes a motorist to take their eyes off of the road.
- Cognitive: Any distraction that causes a motorist to take their mind off of driving.
Any of the aforementioned examples can be dangerous, especially those that fall into two or more of the general categories of distraction. Texting while driving and similar activities are particularly hazardous, however, because they fall into all three categories, thus taking the focus of the motorist completely away from the primary task of driving.
Distracted Driving and Motorcycle Accidents
The CDC says that distracted driving kills thousands of individuals and injures hundreds of thousands more each year. And while everyone is at risk of being involved in an accident that is caused by a distracted driver, the risk of serious injuries and fatalities from these types of accidents is much greater for motorcyclists.
Motorcyclists already have a lower profile than other vehicles, and they are not as easy to see, especially when a motorist is distracted or inattentive. In addition, motorcyclists do not have a steel cage and a seatbelt to protect them, and when there is a collision with another vehicle, there is not much that separates their bodies from the pavement. These are just a couple reasons why motorcyclists are approximately 28 times more likely to be killed in a collision (per vehicle mile traveled) than occupants of motor vehicles.
Just how bad is the problem of distracted driving and motorcycle accidents? According to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article from 2017, approximately 40% of all motorcycle accidents are caused by driver distractions.
Most states now have bans on texting while driving, including Alabama. And numerous surveys have shown that the vast majority of motorists believe that this type of activity is dangerous and unacceptable. Unfortunately, many of these same people continue to give in to the temptation to send messages through their smartphones while driving.
Many experts believe we need stricter penalties to help deter drivers from engaging in this behavior. For example, in Alabama, the penalty for a first-time distracted driving violation is only $25.00 and two demerit points on your driving record. A second-time offense is just $50.00, and a third time offense is just $75.00.
For motorcyclists who are at the mercy of distracted drivers, defensive driving is more important than ever. Motorcyclists should be on the lookout for signs that a motorist may be distracted. Some behaviors that may indicate distracted driving include:
- Vehicles weaving over the center line;
- Vehicles moving back and forth between lanes;
- Vehicles stopping for extended times at stop signs;
- Vehicles remaining stopped at a stoplight even after it turns green.
If you see signs of distracted or inattentive driving, keep your distance from these vehicles, give them plenty of space, and be cautious when you pass them.
Injured in a Distracted Driving Accident in Alabama? Call the Experienced Car Accident Attorneys at Burge & Burge
Even with all the caution in the world, accidents can still happen. And when these accidents are caused by the negligence or reckless actions of a distracted driver, those who suffer injuries deserve to be fully compensated. If you or someone close to you has been injured in a distracted driving accident, contact Burge & Burge for a free consultation and case assessment.
Call us today at 205-251-9000 or message us through our web contact form. You may also stop by our Birmingham office in person at your convenience.