A crash between a passenger vehicle and a motorcycle in Westmoreland County, Virginia (VA), drew new focus to two of the most-dangerous errors drivers can make. On the night of November 10, 2017, a woman behind the wheel of an SUV was driving under the influence and going the wrong way down a one-way street when she struck and critically injured a motorcyclist.
The nearly deadly wreck happened at the intersection of Washington Avenue and Hawthorne Street in downtown Colonial Beach, Virginia State Police received the call at 9:40 pm.
Troopers charged the female driver with driving while intoxicated. They had the motorcycle rider airlifted to Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he was admitted with life-threatening injuries.
The most up-to-date statistics maintained by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles indicate that drunk and drugged drivers pose a serious risk to motorcycle riders. During 2015, 70 motorcycle operators and passengers died in wrecks on state roads, and another 1,776 people on motorcycles suffered injuries in crashes. Of those incidents, 95 involved a driver who was impaired by drugs or alcohol. Twenty-two other wrecks involved a driver who had been drinking but did not register a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit.
Drinking and driving or driving while high obviously make roads unsafe for everyone. Motorcycle riders always run a higher risk for injury or death from impaired drivers because their bikes offer no physical protection. This makes sharing the road safely and respectfully with motorcyclists a principal responsibility for all drivers.
The U.S. Department of Transportation offers these tips for decreasing the odds of colliding with a motorcycle:
- Though a motorcycle is a small vehicle, its operator still has all the rights of the road as any other motorist. Allow the motorcycle the full width of a lane at all times.
- Always signal when changing lanes or merging with traffic.
- If you see a motorcycle with a signal on, be careful: motorcycle signals are often non-canceling and could have been forgotten. Always ensure that the motorcycle is turning before proceeding.
- Check all mirrors and blind spots for motorcycles before changing lanes or merging with traffic, especially at intersections.
- Always allow more follow distance – three to four seconds – when behind a motorcycle. This gives them more time to maneuver or stop in an emergency.
- Never drive distracted or impaired.
My Virginia personal injury law firm colleagues and I want everyone to pay particular attention to that last reminder to driver sober. We also hope the motorcycle rider injured in Colonial Beach makes a full and rapid recover.