A turning driver’s failure to yield right of way to an oncoming motorcycle rider resulted in a nearly fatal collision. While this particular crash happened in Lynchburg, Virginia (VA), on St. Patrick’s Day 2022, similar scenarios play out frequently all across the commonwealth.
According to Lynchburg police, the driver and motorcyclist were traveling along Rivermont Avenue in opposite directions. The driver attempted to turn left onto Norfolk Avenue but, instead, struck the motorcycle rider. The collision happened shortly before 4:30 pm, and bystanders performed CPR on the motorcyclist until emergency medical personnel arrived.
- The High Costs of Motorcycle Crashes
- How Is Fault for a Crash Involving a Car and a Motorcycle Determined?
- Tips for Avoiding Crashes While Making Left-Hand Turns
On the day following the crash, officials at Lynchburg General Hospital listed the 42-year-old motorcycle rider in critical condition. Police filed a preliminary charge of reckless driving against the 23-year-old man in the turning car. Additional charges may follow as investigators collect more evidence.
A Failure of Vision and Visibility
Rivermont Avenue curves sharply at the point where it intersects Norfolk Avenue. This makes it difficult for drivers and motorcyclists on Rivermont to see approaching vehicles. With several businesses also nearby and a large number of pedestrians due to the proximity of Randolph College, conditions are often unsafe.
Another and more pervasive problem is that people behind the wheels of cars, trucks and SUVs simply never spot approaching motorcycles.
Researchers explored the phenomenon of “invisible” motorcycles in a visual perception experiment described in an article titled “Why Drivers Don’t See Motorcycles in Plain Sight.” Volunteers looked through a series of photographs of the same intersection taken at different times and were asked to rate the safety of making a left turn when facing the pictured scene from the driver’s seat. A majority of the participants said turning would be safe even when looking at a photo that included a motorcycle.
The explanation for this boils down to drivers not seeing motorcycles because they were not thinking about motorcycles. The fact that many participants also failed to spot a taxi further highlighted the long-recognized phenomenon of people not looking closely at places they have seen multiple times.
Avoiding a crash while turning left can be as simple as adhering to section 46.2-825 of the Virginia Code. That law states “The driver of a vehicle, intending to turn left within an intersection or into an alley, private road, or driveway shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction if it is so close as to constitute a hazard.”
Still, intending to yield right of right of way stops well short of actually allowing a motorcycle rider, another vehicle or a pedestrian to clear an intersection. Drivers must think to think about the presence of all potential crash victims before starting to turn left.