The month of May is both Bicycle Safety Month and Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. It is a time for cyclists to be extra cautious on the road – being focused and prepared – and for other drivers to share the road and be extra alert for those on two-wheeled vehicles.
Bicyclists and motorcyclists maintain a unique position on the road: they enjoy the freedom of their particular mode of transportation, but because they share the road with other vehicles, they are exposed to additional hazards. When a collision occurs between a motor vehicle and a bicycle or a motorcycle, it is the cyclist who is more likely to be injured. That is because of the partly because of the lack of protective barriers between a bike and the road, or a bike and a vehicle. It is also because motorists may have a difficult time seeing a cyclist or anticipating their traffic patterns.
Bicycle collisions can result in serious, or sometimes fatal, injuries. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, in 2014, 726 bicyclists were killed and another 50,000 were injured in motor vehicle collisions. Bicyclist deaths accounted for 2% of all motor vehicle traffic fatalities that year. In Georgia specifically, 19 of the 1164 fatal collisions in 2014 were bicyclists (Source: U.S. Department of Transportation).
In Georgia, a bicycle is legally classified as a vehicle (OCGA §40-1-1(75)), which means that a person operating a bicycle has to follow the general traffic laws which also apply to other motorized vehicles. Additionally, Georgia law also requires everyone 16 years and younger to have a helmet on while bicycling (OCGA §40-6-296(d)).
Motorcyclists also face significant safety risks on the roadway. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, in 2/3 of all collisions between a motorcycle and another vehicle, the driver of the other vehicle was at fault. Additionally, the fatality rate for motorcycle collisions has doubled since 1999 (Source: CDC). Motorcyclists are 26 times more likely to die in a crash and 5 times more likely to be injured than someone riding in a passenger car (Source: Insurance Information Institute). Common motorcycle injuries include burns, whiplash, torn muscles, broken bones, spinal cord damage, internal bleeding, brain trauma, and other organ damage.
Georgia is one of the 19 states requiring all motorcyclists to wear a helmet: “No person shall operate or ride upon a motorcycle unless he or she is wearing protective headgear which complies with standards established by the commissioner of public safety” (§40-6-315(a)). Additionally, Georgia requires motorcycle owners to carry a motorcycle insurance policy. At a minimum, that insurance must include: 1) at least $25,000 coverage for bodily injury or death of one person when a motorcycle crash occurs, 2) at least $50,000 for bodily injury or death of at least two people in a motorcycle crash, and 3) at least $25,000 for property damage as a result of the motorcycle crash. Motorcycle insurance typically also includes death and dismemberment as a standard part of the policy.
Personal injury lawsuits involving bicycle and motorcycle collisions are similar to automobile collision cases in that they can be complex and require in-depth analysis. If you or someone you know has been in a bike or motorcycle accident, an attorney can help negotiate with the insurance company or represent you in a potential lawsuit. Call Atlanta Personal Injury Law Group at (404) 436-1529 to schedule a free consultation.