May is Motorcycle Safety Month and PennDOT is encouraging riders to register for a free motorcycle safety course through the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program. There are programs for new motorcycle riders, as well as returning and experienced riders. Spring can be one of the best times for motorcyclists, but sadly it can also be one of the most dangerous. As a personal injury firm, the attorneys at Distasio, Kowalski & Yelen have seen the damages of motorcycle crashes firsthand. We’ve just come off a cold snowy winter in NEPA and the weather has finally warmed up. Motorcycle riders can’t wait to get out on the open road and feel the wind in their face. It’s important to keep safety top of mind when riding. Motorcyclists are much more likely than passenger car occupants to die or become injured in a serious crash. The NHTSA reported that in 2016, we saw the largest number of motorcyclist fatalities since 2008. The number took a 5.1 percent jump to 5,286 fatalities.
PA motorcycle helmet laws
Motorcyclists who ride without helmets run a significantly greater risk of death or permanent injury. The U.S. General Accounting Office found that helmeted riders have a 73% lower fatality rate than unhelmeted riders and an 85% reduced incidence of severe and critical injuries. Motorcycle helmet laws vary from state to state. Currently only 18 states and the District of Columbia have universal helmet laws. PA Law requires that any person who operates or rides a motorcycle (including an autocycle) must wear protective headgear unless he or she is over 21 years of age and has either two years of riding experience or has completed a motorcycle safety course approved by PennDOT or the Motorcycle Safety foundation.
Ten dangers to watch for when riding a motorcycle
- Potholes – We live in northeast Pennsylvania, so we all know the dangers of potholes. Ever experience that horrible bump when you’re
driving down a Wilkes-Barre road and your vehicle hits what seems like a large crater? Imagine if you’re riding a motorcycle what that impact can feel like and the real danger it can pose. Potholes seem to be everywhere right now, on city streets, in rural areas and on our highways, including I80, I81 and the PA turnpike.
- Gravel & Road Debris – Small rocks, leftover leaves, branches and twigs and any other road debris can cause a serious motorcycle accident. Debris on the road is something you definitely need to be on the lookout for. Even the smallest amount of gravel can cause a cycle to skid and crash when traveling at a high rate of speed.
- Unsafe Lane Changes – When the driver of a passenger vehicle or a motorcycle fail to check carefully before changing lanes, especially their blind spot, it can lead to a dangerous motorcycle collision. This is another common cause of crashes.
- Car Doors Opening – The opening of car doors into the path of an oncoming motorcyclist is a leading cause of motorcycle accidents in cities. As the driver of a passenger vehicle, you need to be extremely careful when opening your car door on a busy street. A motorcyclist also needs to be on the lookout for opening doors.
- Sudden Stops – Tailgating can result in a rear end motorcycle collision that can result in serious injury to a motorcyclist.
- Distracted Drivers – Distraction on the part of other drivers can pose a danger to a motorcyclist who lacks the protection of a car and is very vulnerable in the event of an accident. Consult with a motorcycle accident lawyer at Distasio, Kowalski & Yelen if you’ve been injured by a distracted driver.
- Motorcycle Defects – Just like vehicles that we see recalled every day, motorcycles can be defective as well. They can have a dangerous design or a defect in manufacturing that may lead to a crash.
- Impaired Driving – Alcohol use plays a huge factor in motorcycle accidents. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 25% of motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes in 2016 were alcohol impaired. That’s higher than the drivers of any other vehicles involved in fatal accidents.
- Dangerous Driving – This can include speeding weaving in and out of traffic, making unsafe turns, lane splitting and driving too closely to the vehicle in front of you. Lane splitting occurs when a motorcycle drives between two lanes of stopped or slow moving traffic. It’s a common cause of collisions and a dangerous practice for motorcyclists. Oftentimes motorcycle accidents are caused by another vehicle turning left in front of the motorcycle. The driver of the other vehicle may be distracted or just misjudged the speed of the motorcycle. All drivers need to pay attention on to their surroundings.
- Lack of Proper Riding Gear – Most noteworthy, statistics show that motorcycle helmets do save lives. Many riders opt not to wear them, and it can mean very dangerous injuries in the event of a motorcycle crash. In addition to a helmet, motorcyclists should also wear protective face and eyewear, boots, gloves and a jacket.
Motorcycle accidents in Pennsylvania
A motorcycle accident in Pennsylvania can cause very serious and possibly fatal injuries. Traumatic brain injuries are not uncommon in motorcycle collisions, especially when a helmet is not worn. Other serious injuries can include head, neck and spinal cord injuries, paralysis, fractures, loss of limb, internal injuries and serious road rash. Be sure to always wear safety gear when riding, be visible to other motorists, be sure you are well trained on your bike and be on the alert for roadway dangers. In addition to the training courses available through the PA Motorcycle Training Program, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation also offers courses for riders and provides important motorcycle safety information and training.
If you have been in a motorcycle accident as a result of the negligence of another party, the motorcycle injury lawyers at Distasio, Kowalski & Yelen in Wilkes-Barre can help. Call 570-970-5400 or contact us online.