A head-on collision between two motorcycles on Knotts Island, North Carolina (NC), left both riders critically injured. The crash, just south of the border with Virginia Beach, happened on the Marsh Causeway through the Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge on the afternoon of February 12, 2017.



According to local police, a biker heading south on the causeway caused the nearly fatal wreck when he crossed the center line going into a curve around a cove. The northbound motorcyclist, identified as 56-year-old Francis Robert Wissert of Norfolk, was ejected from his bike and found unconscious by emergency responders. Flown by Nightingale Air Ambulance to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, Wissert remained in critical condition three days later.

The at-fault motorcycle rider has been released from a Dare County, NC, hospital and is currently facing a single charge of driving left of center. The relevant section of the North Carolina Code states that no one operating a motor vehicle can legally “drive to the left side of the centerline of a highway upon the crest of a grade or upon a curve in the highway.”

Marsh Causeway is a rural two-lane state highway marked with a double yellow line. This makes it particularly prone to serving as the site for a head-on collision. As a summary of Fatal Analysis Reporting System data shows, 75 percent of head-on crashes occur on rural roads. The most common scenario for such wrecks involves one driver crossing into the path of oncoming traffic from the opposite direction. That is, attempting to pass from behind and getting caught on the wrong side of the road only rarely results in a head-on. The much more usual situation sees the at-fault driver drifting out of their own lane while being distracted or speeding.

Having helped motorcycle riders who were injured by wrong-way drivers, my Virginia Beach-based personal injury law firm colleagues and I understand how badly a negligent or reckless driver can hurt a motorcyclist. Traumatic brain injuries and lifelong physical disabilities commonly result, simply because a person on a motorcycle is so exposed. Often, the only real protection a motorcycle rider enjoys is the attention and caution of other people on the road. Failing to slow down around a curve or losing focus long enough to leave one’s lane creates a potentially deadly risk.