A collision between a motorcycle and a car in Suffolk, Virginia (VA), left the motorcyclist dead and raised unanswered questions about fault. The deadly crash happened in the 1100 block of Carolina Road/U.S. 13 at around 6:30 pm on September 3, 2017.
Suffolk Police and Fire & Rescue responded to the scene and found the motorcycle rider with severe injuries. He died after being taken by ambulance to a local hospital. Later news reports identified the man who lost his life as 67-year-old Steven Louis Decker. He had lived in Hayes and worked for decades as the news chopper pilot for WAVY-TV 10.
Three days following the fatal wreck, no charges have been filed against the driver of the car and no official explanation of how the crash happened has been released to the public. A news photo of the aftermath of the crash (shown here) shows the car resting in the cut-through of the median on Carolina Road, having apparently tried to enter the southbound lanes of the highway from the airport. A long, single skid mark appears on the pavement, suggesting that the motorcycle rider tried to brake suddenly in order to avoid hitting the car.
No traffic lights, stop signs or yield signs control the entrance and exit from the airport. This means that a driver trying to get onto Carolina Road must comply with section 46.2-863 of the Virginia Code, which states, “A person shall be guilty of reckless driving who fails to bring his vehicle to a stop immediately before entering a highway from a side road when there is traffic approaching on such highway within 500 feet of such point of entrance.”
Failing to yield right of way to motorcycles while turning, changing lane or entering a highway is a leading cause of traffic fatalities -- and a problem seems to be growing. In response, government agencies at all levels and numerous private organizations launched the Share the Road program to protect motorcycle riders from reckless, negligent and distracted drivers. As one component of that, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration issued this list of “tips to drivers on how to prevent a fatal crash 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 wrongful death attorney colleagues ask all drivers to study this list and put all the lifesaving advice into practice. Regardless of what happened near the Suffolk Executive Airport on Carolina Road, watching out for and yield right of way to motorcycle riders will prevent many tragedies.