Distracted Driving Causes Motorcycle Accidents in Florida
Motorcycle accident fatalities have risen sharply during the past couple decades. As recently as the late 1990s, motorcycle deaths in the United States were averaging less than 2,500 per year. In 2004, motorcycle accident fatalities topped 4,000 nationally for the first time since 1986. Since then, this number has stayed well above 4,000 each year, and there have been a handful of years (including 2016) when the number of fatalities has topped 5,000. In 2017, the last year we have full statistics on, the number dropped slightly to 4,990.
This national trend has been even more pronounced in Florida. According to a study by AAA, Florida leads the nation in motorcycle accident fatalities. And although motorcyclists only make up about 7% of Florida motorists, they account for nearly 20% of all the traffic fatalities throughout the state. Florida has also been ranked the second worst state in the nation for distracted driving, and many experts believe there is a correlation between these two statistics.
Numerous studies have shown that in about 60% of the cases, collisions between motor vehicles and motorcycles are the fault of the motor vehicle driver, and the most common explanation drivers have for colliding with a motorcycle is that they did not see them.
This, of course, is an inherent problem that has always existed because of the small profile motorcycles have. But the dramatic rise in motorcycle crash fatalities in recent years indicates that there is something new that was not happening 20 years ago. And the one activity that has become commonplace during the past couple decades is the heavy use of cell phones while behind the wheel.
Distracted Driving: A National Epidemic
Motorists have always had distractions, but today, the level of distractions on the road is unlike anything we have ever experienced before. In fact, things are so bad that and 2016, Fortune Magazine declared that distracted driving is now an epidemic in the United States.
This epidemic is largely driven by the widespread (and growing) use of smartphones. Texting while driving and other electronic activities while behind the wheel are especially dangerous, because they distract motorists in three ways; visually, manually, and cognitively. Most other distractions use only one or two of these facilities, and although any type of distraction in the wrong place and at the wrong time can create a hazard, few other activities approach the level of hazard caused by smartphone use.
Just to put into perspective how bad texting while driving is, imagine driving the entire length of a football field at 55 miles per hour while blindfolded. This is essentially what you are doing when you decide to send a five second text while driving on the highway.
Just how bad is the problem of distracted driving? In numerous surveys, the majority of American adults admit to having texted while driving, even though more than 90% of drivers know that this activity is dangerous. Among teens, texting while driving has now replaced drunk driving as the leading cause of death.
Cell phones are now a factor in more than a million and a half auto accidents in the U.S. each year, causing a half a million injuries and claiming over 6,000 lives. Approximately 40% of American teens say they have been in the car when someone has texted while driving in a dangerous way, and more than 3,000 teens are killed annually in accidents that are caused by a driver sending a text.
Distracted Driving and Motorcycle Accidents
Motorists who are distracted while driving make the road more hazardous for everyone, but especially for motorcyclists. Unlike car and truck drivers, bikers are not protected by a steel cage, and there is not much that separates them from hitting the pavement when they are involved in a collision. So, it comes as little surprise that motorcyclists are 28 times more likely to be killed in a collision (per mile driven) than occupants of other motor vehicles.
As mentioned earlier, motorists already have difficulty seeing motorcycles, and this is why we have had a “Start Seeing Motorcyclists” public awareness campaign in our country for many decades. Texting while driving makes the problem far worse, because it makes motorists even less attentive to their surroundings.
Going back to the analogy we used earlier about driving blindfolded for five seconds at a time (roughly the length of a football field), this is plenty of time for a motorcycle to enter a driver’s blind spot. And when a driver is unaware that a motorcycle is in their blind spot, the chances of a collision are far more likely when the driver decides to change lanes, make a turn, or just weaves out of their lane momentarily while sending another text.
Unfortunately for motorcyclists, the situation is not likely to improve in the near term. Eventually, there will be tougher texting while driving laws, more vehicles on the road with blind spot monitors, and other solutions implemented to reduce the number of distracted driving accidents. Until then, it is up to bikers to protect themselves from distracted drivers.
Here are some tips to help motorcyclists stay safe on the road:
- Make yourself visible by wearing bright or reflective clothing and keeping your lights on even during the day;
- Do not cross in front of a car or truck without first making eye contact with the driver;
- Watch carefully for signs of distracted driving, such as motorists who cannot stay in the same lane or who remain at a stoplight long after the light turns green;
- Refrain from engaging in distracted riding yourself.
Injured in a Distracted Driving Accident in Florida? Speak with the Skilled Pensacola Injury Attorneys at Whibbs Stone & Barnett
Even if you follow all the best safety practices, accidents with a distracted driver are sometimes unavoidable. If you or a loved one suffered injury in a distracted driving accident, you need strong legal counsel in your corner fighting hard for the full and fair compensation you deserve. At Whibbs Stone & Barnett, we are here to help. Call our office today at 1-888-219-4561 or message us online to schedule a free consultation. You may also stop by our Pensacola office in person at your convenience.