The greater Jacksonville area has had a rash of tragic motorcycle accidents causing fatalities during the last ten days. Four of these accidents involved a vehicle that failed to yield to the motorcyclist when making a left turn. In at least two of these motorcycle accidents, the person operating the motorcycle was not wearing a helmet. Four of the accidents happened in Duval County, one in Flagler County and two in Clay County.
Left turn accidents are the second most common type of accident our lawyers encounter, with rear-end collisions being the most common. Left turn accidents are especially tragic for motorcyclists who typically hit the turning car head-on. Further compounding the problem is that motorcycles, with their much smaller profile, are harder to see than larger vehicles. With texting and the other driver distractions that are so common these days, the failure to appreciate that a motorcycle is approaching becomes all the more likely.
Most motorcyclists are trained to drive defensively and to be on the lookout for drivers that do not see them; however, drivers turning left across their path of travel often offer no opportunity to avoid impact.
Defensive driving tactics for motorcyclists include:
– wearing a helmet;
– having a working headlight on at all times;
– operating within the speed limit;
– not driving in the blind spots of other vehicles;
– not sharing a single lane with other motorcyclists;
– riding a safe distance behind the vehicle in front of you; and
– watching for drivers trying to turn left across your path of travel, especially when their light is yellow;
– leaving yourself an “out” in case something unexpected happens;
– never drive when drowsy, under the effects of medication, alcohol or illegal substances; and
– take a motorcycle driving course.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in 2013, motorcyclists were twenty-six times more likely to die in an accident than occupants of four wheeled vehicles. Motorcyclists account for approximately fourteen percent of traffic deaths despite representing only a tiny fraction of the number of vehicles on the road.
Florida law requires that motorcycle operators under the age of twenty-one wear helmets. Operators who are at least twenty-one years of age are required to carry at least $10,000.00 in insurance to cover them for injuries they might suffer. This law is designed to ease the burden on the state and public to pay for the increased injuries that can result from the failure to wear a helmet.
Florida law also requires that drivers under the age of twenty-one must take a course in motorcycle operation. Drivers twenty-one and over can take a skills test instead of taking the course.