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Learning Permit Driver Kills Motorcyclist in Left Turn Crash

A collision between a pickup truck and a motorcycle in Pender County, North County (NC), left the motorcyclist dead. The fatal wreck happened at around 7:30 pm on August 11, 2017.



According to Highway Patrol investigators, the motorcycle rider was traveling straight through the intersection of U.S. 117 and NC 210 in the town of Rocky Point when the pickup turned left in front of him. The motorcyclist, identified as a 50-year-old resident of Burgaw, died at the scene.

News reports indicate that a 15-year-old who had just received his learner’s permit was driving the pickup. The intersection is controlled by stoplights in all directions, but law enforcement officials could not immediately determine whether the pickup or the motorcycle had right of way.

Section 20-153(b) of the North Carolina Code of Laws makes it clear that a driver attempting to turn left must yield to oncoming traffic in almost all circumstances when a stop light shows anything other than a green arrow, Violating the motorcycle rider’s right of way would make the pickup driver negligent and responsible for settling wrongful death insurance claims filed by the deceased man’s family.

Many drivers have difficulty spotting and judging the distance and speed of motorcycles. This is often as much of a physics problem as anything else, but experienced drivers will know to double-check traffic and to make an extra effort to pick out motorcycles and bicycles before turning. A young teen with his first learner’s permit could understandably make an error that results in tragedy.

Driver’s education in North Carolina does include messages on sharing the road safely and respectfully with motorcycle riders. A summary of those reminders published by the state’s Department of Transportation includes


  • Stay alert and be aware that motorcycles can be easily hidden in a car's blind spot, so take an extra moment to thoroughly check traffic when changing lanes, especially at intersections.
  • Always signal when changing lanes or merging with traffic.
  • Be cautious, as not all turn signals on a motorcycle are self-canceling, thus some riders sometimes forget to turn them off after a turn or lane change.
  • Never drive distracted or impaired.

My Carolina wrongful death law firm colleagues and I know of too many instances in which inattentive or careless drivers inflicted irreversible harm on motorcycle riders. Most collisions can be avoided by exercising patience and keeping one’s eyes and mind on the road ahead.


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