Summertime in Georgia means warmer weather and a lot more motorcycles on the road. For avid bikers, there are few activities that are more refreshing and exhilarating than riding on the open roads while enjoying the beautiful scenery the Peach State has to offer. Motorcycle riding is also a socially distanced activity, which is especially helpful as our country continues to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Riding a motorcycle is a very enjoyable activity, but it can also be very dangerous. Unlike motor vehicle occupants, bikers do not have a steel cage to protect them, and when there is a motorcycle accident, there is very little that separates the rider from hitting the pavement. With that in mind, it is no surprise to learn that motorcyclists are 28 times more likely to be killed in a collision (per hundred thousand miles traveled) than vehicle occupants.
In recent years, motorcycle accident fatalities have been rapidly increasing. Back in the 1990s, things looked to be improving for bikers as the number of fatalities had been reduced to a consistent rate of under 3,000 per year. But around the turn of the 21st Century, things began to turn back in the wrong direction.
In 2001, motorcycle accident fatalities went above 3,000 for the first time since 1990. In 2004, fatalities broke the 4,000 mark for the first time since 1986. And in 2007, they went above 5,000 for the first time ever. Since 2007, the fatality rate has consistently stayed well above 4,000, and it has broken 5,000 several times during the past 13 years.
2007 just happens to be the year that Apple released its first version of the iPhone. By the time the first iPhone came out, texting was already a popular means of communication in the US, especially among younger people. But once smartphones became mainstream, Americans started to get addicted to the idea of “staying connected”.
Today, most Americans have some type of smartphone, and while carrying around a pocket-sized computer gives us access to a world of information at our fingertips, it is also become a major distraction. It comes as little surprise then that texting while driving has reached epidemic proportions.
Distracted Driving and Motorcycle Accidents
Vehicle drivers have always had distractions to deal with, but none have been as dangerous as texting and other types of electronic messaging using a smartphone. Texting while driving distracts motorists in three different ways; manually, visually, and cognitively. The end result is that a driver’s focus is directed entirely on their phone, rather than on the road where it should be.
Just to provide some perspective, the NHTSA points out that when a driver who is traveling at 55 mph takes their eyes off of the road for just five seconds to send, receive, or read a text, it is similar to driving the entire length of a football field blindfolded.
So, what does all of this mean for motorcyclists?
Even before texting came on the scene, there were well-funded national public awareness campaigns admonishing drivers to “start seeing motorcycles”. There has always been an issue with vehicle drivers not giving motorcycles proper space on the road, and because motorcycles have a smaller profile, they are more difficult to see even under ideal conditions.
When you add the element of texting while driving to the equation, it puts motorcyclists in even greater danger. This is why many experts believe that distracted driving is one of the major contributors to the spike in motorcycle accident fatalities in recent years.
According to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report from 2017, nearly 40% of all motorcycle accidents involve a distracted or inattentive driver. These types of accidents can happen for a number of reasons; such as when a driver does not see a motorcycle that enters their blind spot, a driver weaves out of their lane or straddles the center line in the road, or a driver fails to notice a motorcycle slowing down in front of them.
Georgia and most other states have made texting while driving illegal, but the penalties for violating this law are not very severe. For example, for a first distracted driving violation, the penalty is a maximum fine of $50 and one demerit point on their driving record. A second offense doubles the fine to $100 and adds two demerit points to the driving record. And a third offense triples the fine to $150 and adds three demerit points to the driving record.
So far, it does not appear that these penalties are doing all that much to curb the problem of distracted driving. Hopefully, behaviors will change in the future as more people become aware of the dangers of this type of activity. In the meantime, motorcyclists need to continue driving defensively and watch closely for signs that a motorist might be distracted so they can keep their distance.
Injured in a Distracted Driving Crash in Atlanta? Contact Ross Moore Law for Assistance
Even if you do all you can to avoid an accident, you cannot control the actions of others. If you or a loved one got hurt in a distracted driving accident in Georgia, Ross Moore Law is here to help. Message us online or call our office today at (404) 905-3146 for a free consultation with our attorney. We look forward to serving you!