The basics: Virginia motorcycle accidents

Motorcycle accidents can result in serious injuries or deaths for riders and passengers in Virginia.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Administration (GHSA), nearly 5,000 motorcyclists were killed in accidents in 2013 alone; 64 of those were in Virginia. This averages out to a rate of about two fatal motorcycle accidents per week during the peak Virginia riding season (between January and September). Overall, the country's rate of motorcycle accident injuries and fatalities has shown signs of slowing since 2007, but that could change as more motorcyclists hit the road due to concerns over rising gas prices and the environmental impact of larger passenger vehicles, and as the next generation of retirees adopts a freer, open-road lifestyle.

The dangers

Obviously, motorcycle riders don't enjoy the same level of protection from their vehicles that other motorists do. There is no comparison between the little shielding offered by the body of a motorcycle and the encapsulating safety of the steel frame surrounding the passenger compartment of a car, SUV or commercial truck. Simply put, this means that, when the two collide, the motorcyclist is much more likely to suffer injuries. Some of the most common injuries in motorcycle crashes are:

  • Traumatic brain injuries (including concussions, closed head injuries, skull fractures, subdural hematomas, contrecoup injuries and more)
  • Broken bones
  • Crush injuries (from being pinned under the motorcycle when it lays down or between the motorcycle and a vehicle or stationary object)
  • Serious cuts, scrapes and lacerations (including "road rash" caused by friction when the rider's skin meets the pavement)
  • Internal organ damage
  • Paralysis/spinal cord injuries

Lessening the damage

Thankfully, some of the risks associated with being in a motorcycle accident can be alleviated by wearing proper motorcycle safety gear.

The NHTSA reports that helmets saved the lives of more than 1,600 motorcyclists in 2013, and an estimated 715 more deaths likely could have been prevented if helmets had been worn. That is partly why Virginia Code § 46.2-910 requires that riders - and passengers - wear well-fitting helmets that meet the safety guidelines set forth by the Snell Memorial Foundation, American National Standards Institute or U.S. Department of Transportation. Virginia law also mandates that riders either have a helmet with a face shield, that they wear protective eyewear or that the motorcycle itself is equipped with a windscreen/windshield.

In addition, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles recommends that additional safety measures be taken, including wearing leather boots, pants, a jacket and gloves made of a thick, durable material (like leather or synthetic leather) to protect from the road surface in the event of a crash. The DMV also suggests wearing some form of bright or reflective clothing or using reflective paint or tape on the motorcycle or helmet to increase visibility.

Unfortunately, as a motorcycle rider, there is only so much you can do to keep yourself safe. You can remain vigilant and attentive and follow all the rules of the road, only to end up in an accident due to circumstances beyond your control. If you or someone you love has been injured in a motorcycle accident caused by another driver or a negligent third party, you have legal rights. For more information, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at the Fairfax law office of Surovell Isaacs & Levy PLC. You can email the firm or call them at 703-648-8279.

Keywords: motorcycle accident, injury, personal injury, negligence, brain injury, broken bone, spinal cord injury, fatality, motorcyclist