There has been a sharp increase in motorcycle accidents in recent years. Over the past couple decades, the average number of motorcycle accident fatalities has risen from under 3,000 per year to around 5,000 per year, according to statistics from the Governors Highway Association (GHA).
Motorcycle crash fatality rates started to climb above 3,000 in the early 2000’s, and they topped 4,000 for the first time in 2004. In 2007, fatalities from motorcycle accidents crossed another tragic threshold by breaking the 5,000 mark. Coincidentally, 2007 was also the year that Apple released its first iPhone.
One possible explanation for the rapid rise in motorcycle accidents is an increase in the number of motorcyclists that are on the road. Motorcycle ownership hit an all-time high in 2018, with over 13 million bikes owned by Americans. This was almost 1.5 million more than the previous record from 2009. In addition, 93% of those bikes are in operation, which means there are a lot more motorcyclists on the roadways these days than ever before.
While an increase in the number of motorcyclists on the road certainly plays a role in the amount of accidents bikers get into, many experts believe it is not the primary factor. The other major driver of motorcycle accident fatalities is the nation’s distracted driving epidemic.
What is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is anything that takes a motorist’s focus away from their primary job of safely operating a vehicle. Drivers have always had to deal with various distractions, such as unruly passengers, signs and billboards that steal their attention for too long, eating and drinking, grooming, tuning the car radio, reaching for objects in the vehicle, and in recent decades, talking on their cell phone.
All of these distractions can contribute to vehicle accidents under the wrong set of circumstances, and drivers should always refrain from these activities as much as possible. That said, texting while driving and other electronic activity on smartphones brings the dangers of distracted driving to a whole new level.
Sending and receiving texts and other electronic messages while behind the wheel is especially dangerous, because it distracts drivers in three ways; visually, manually, and cognitively. This takes a driver’s entire focus off of the road, which can cause them to miss important things that are happening.
How Distracted Driving Contributes to Motorcycle Accidents
Motorcyclists run a much higher risk of serious injuries and fatalities due to distracted driving. Unlike motor vehicle occupants, bikers do not have a steel cage to protect them during a crash. When a motorcycle collides with another vehicle, there is not much that separates their body from hitting the pavement. This is why motorcyclists are 28 times more likely to be killed in a collision than occupants of other vehicles (per 100,000 miles traveled).
Another factor that puts motorcyclists at greater risk is their low profile. There has always been an issue with other vehicle drivers respecting motorcycles on the road, and it is the main reason for the Start Seeing Motorcycles public awareness campaign that has been running for several decades. But with so many drivers out there texting and doing other things on their smart phone, the chances of not seeing the motorcycles they share the roads with greatly increases.
How bad is the problem of distracted driving and motorcycle accidents? According to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report, nearly 40% of all motorcycle accidents now involve a distracted or inattentive driver.
These accidents can happen for a number of reasons, some of the most common include:
- A driver not seeing a motorcycle that enters their blind spot;
- Drivers crossing the center lane or weaving back and forth between lanes because they are too busy looking at their phone;
- Drivers turning left in front of an oncoming motorcycle because they did not see it.
So, how does this problem get solved? States that have enacted stronger cell phone and texting bans have seen motorcycle accident fatality rates reduced by as much as 11%. But the penalties for distracted driving are still not nearly on par with similarly dangerous activities, such as drunk driving.
In Mississippi, for example, distracted driving laws have been strengthened in recent years. But still, a regular driver who was caught texting is only fined $100. This is probably not enough of a deterrent to significantly change driver behaviors in our state, so, we still have a long way to go.
Injured in a Distracted Driving Accident in Mississippi? Speak with an Experienced Auto Accident Lawyer
Distracted driving presents a danger to everyone on the road, and especially to motorcyclists. If you or someone close to you was injured or killed at the hands of a distracted driver, you need strong legal counsel by your side fighting hard for the full and fair compensation you deserve.
If the accident occurred in Mississippi, call Reeves and Mestayer today at 228-374-5151 or message us online for a free consultation and case assessment. We will meet with you to discuss your case and advise you of your legal rights and options.