A collision between a motorcycle and a car in Wilmington, North Carolina (NC), left the motorcyclist dead and one of the car’s passengers hospitalized with serious injuries. The fatal crash happened at the intersection of Eastwood Road/U.S. 74 and Rodgersville Road at around 1:15 pm, April 29, 2017. The driver of the car also suffered minor injuries but refused an offer from EMTs to be transported to the hospital.
Police did not release information on what caused the fatal wreck, and no charges have been filed as the investigation continues. Details from news reports indicate that the motorcycle slammed into the front passenger-side door of the car as both vehicles moved through the intersection. The female passenger had to be cut free from the car’s wreckage, according to television station WWAY-3.
Such a scenario also suggests that either the car’s driver or the motorcycle rider violated the other person’s right of way. Stoplights control all four corners of the Eastwood-Rodgersville intersection. In such locations, section 20-158(2) of the North Carolina Code of Laws states that
When a traffic signal is emitting a steady red circular light controlling traffic approaching an intersection, an approaching vehicle facing the red light shall come to a stop and shall not enter the intersection. … [And] when a traffic signal is emitting a steady yellow circular light on a traffic signal controlling traffic approaching an intersection or a steady yellow arrow light on a traffic signal controlling traffic turning at an intersection, vehicles facing the yellow light are warned that the related green light is being terminated or a red light will be immediately forthcoming. When the traffic signal is emitting a steady green light, vehicles may proceed with due care through the intersection subject to the rights of pedestrians and other vehicles as may otherwise be provided by law.
Failing to yield right of way leads to thousands of injury-causing and fatal collisions each year. In a 2007 report titled Fatal Two-Vehicle Motorcycle Crashes, researchers with the National Highway Transportation Administration revealed that while 4 percent of deadly failure-to-yield crashes are caused by negligent or reckless riders, “for the passenger vehicle drivers involved in two-vehicle motorcycle crashes, 35 percent of the driver-related factor was failure to yield right-of-way.”
It is too early to know whether the car’s driver is at fault for this deadly wreck in Wilmington. Also, even if the motorcyclist ran a red light or ignored a yellow signal, the injured passenger would have grounds for filing personal injury claims against the rider’s insurance policy. The real lesson to take from this tragedy, and one that my Carolina wrongful death colleagues want all people to take to heart, is that yielding right of way at intersections prevents injuries and save lives.