Despite the promising news that motorcycle fatalities decreased by 5.6 percent between 2016 and 2017, there is still no denying that riders are over represented in traffic deaths. In 2016 (the last year of verified stats), motorcyclists contributed to 14 percent of all traffic fatalities in the U.S., yet they account for only three percent of all registered vehicles.
Unfortunately these odds were against a Las Vegas motorcyclist on October 12, when he died from blunt force trauma after the driver of a Lexus IS350 failed to notice the motorcycle riding next to his car before attempting to switch lanes. After being hit by the Lexus, Ernest Swymmes, 52, was ejected from his motorcycle onto the road then killed when he immediately got run over by a second driver. One must wonder If the first driver had followed some basic sharing the road safety tips and looked over his shoulder before merging, would this collision and subsequent death have been entirely avoidable.
While drunk driving, speeding, and fatigue are well known contributors to collisions, distracted driving is posing more of a risk to motorcyclists than ever before. In fact, one recent article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel stated that Wisconsin has seen a rapid rise in distracted drivers failing to see two-wheeled travelers to the tune of nearly 40 percent of all motorcycle accidents arise due to driver distractions.
Distracted driving encompasses anything that takes your mind off the road: texting, eating, drinking, talking to passengers, applying makeup, putting on or changing music, and setting up a GPS, and daydreaming are just a few. Not paying attention to the road for even five seconds at 55 miles per hour is the equivalent of driving across an entire football field with your eyes shut.
Motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable to injury or death when a collision does occur. In fact, motorcyclists have a 28 times higher fatality rate than passenger car drivers. This number may be even higher in Nevada. In 2017, 22.6 percent of the total motor vehicle fatalities were motorcycle deaths, which is the highest percentage in all of the 50 states.
As a driver, following multiple safety procedures can help keep motorists safer:
- Check your blind spots multiple times before changing lanes or turning at intersections.
- Keep a longer following distance between yourself and motorcycles than you would another car.
- Recognize that a motorcycle may look farther away than it actually is and drive like it is closer than it looks.
- Look specifically for motorcycles when you are crossing an intersection or making a left turn.
- Use your turn signals and stop completely at all red lights and stop signs.
Ultimately, individuals who drive distracted are putting everyone on the road in danger, especially motorcyclists. Being acutely aware of the motorcyclists on the road is pivotal to prevent incidents like this from continuing to happen.
Steve is the Managing Shareholder of Steven J. Klearman & Associates, a civil litigation law firm located in Reno, Nevada. He practices primarily in the areas of civil litigation and injury law, and has authored one of the definitive guides to Nevada civil law that is widely used by Nevada judges and attorneys, his book entitled Elements of Nevada Legal Theories.