A motorcycle rider died at the scene of a collision with a transit van in Durham, North Carolina (NC). The fatal crash happened just before 7 am on February 12, 2018, as the van driver attempted to turn left from NC 55 onto I-40.
The motorcyclist, identified as 44-year-old Johnathan David Oneal of Durham, suffered fatal injuries on impact. Local police issued a preliminary charge of misdemeanor death by vehicle against 44-year-old Benjamin Parker Brandenburg, also of Durham.
The charge indicates that investigators believe the van driver violated one or more traffic laws and that the act of negligence led directly to the death of the motorcycle rider. A likely traffic violation was failing to yield right of way while turning left at an intersection. The relevant state law, section 20-153(b) of the North Carolina General Statutes, reads,
Left Turns. - The driver of a vehicle intending to turn left at any intersection shall approach the intersection in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the direction of travel of that vehicle, and, after entering the intersection, the left turn shall be made so as to leave the intersection in a lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the direction upon the roadway being entered.
If asked, the van driver might claim that he did yield but never saw the motorcycle rider. As Carolina wrongful death attorneys, we hear this explanation from at-fault drivers all the time. We never accept it as a valid excuse.
While spotting and correctly judging the distance and speed of a motorcycle is often difficult, the solution is simple: Look twice and save a life.
When cars, trucks or vans hit motorcycles, serious injuries and deaths are practically guaranteed. Even wearing a helmet and heavy clothing provides none of the protection afforded by a side panels and crumple zones. Proving this point, the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles recorded 3,763 crashes involving motorcycle riders during 2016. Those wrecks resulted in 154 deaths and 3,015 injuries. When a driver error could be identified, some of the most-common causes were inattention, failure to yield right of way and improper turn.
My Carolina wrongful death law firm colleagues and I remind all drivers to keep an eye out for motorcyclists, bike riders and pedestrians. We almost urge everyone to check and double-check for oncoming vehicles before entering an intersection to make a turn.