Motorcycle riders are hard for other drivers to notice to begin with. With texting, we’ve become almost invisible. Honestly, I think texting has quadrupled the danger associated with riding on the street. I don’t have any statistics to prove that particular notion, but according to this website:
- Text messaging makes a vehicular crash up to 23 times more likely
- Texting while driving is about 6 times more likely to cause an accident than driving intoxicated
- 13% of drivers age 18-20 involved in car wrecks admitted to texting or talking on their cells when the wrecks occurred
The percentage on this last point seems low to me. (Then again, it reflects only those who “admitted” to the behavior.) A guy I met at NOLA Motorsports Park personally told me about a texting “18-20 year old” who crashed into him. This man, named John Cook, was at the track donating his time, bikes, and money to raise funds for another rider who’d been injured in an accident. I struck up a friendship with him, and he told me about his accident which happened in 2009.
John, used to live in the Gulf South and moved to north Georgia after Katrina. On a beautiful fall day there, he decided to ride his brand new (at the time) 2010 Harley Davidson Screaming Eagle CVO Street Glide to a local Hooter’s for Bike Night. In own his words:
“I was riding southbound on a divided well-lit highway at the speed limit of 55 mph and wearing full gear—3/4 helmet, gloves, boots, and leathers. As I approached an intersection wired with traffic lights and turn signals, I had the green light. I still looked all ways to make sure the intersection was safe. There was only one compact car that was stopped facing north in the left-turn lane. Seeing all was clear, I gave my bike some gas and continued southbound. As I entered the intersection the stopped car suddenly accelerated, turning left directly in front of me. I had zero time to react. I struck her passenger rear door at 55 mph and was thrown over the car.”
The next thing John became aware of was paramedics all over him trying to bring him to consciousness. He was in incredible pain, confused and disoriented, and struggling to breathe. John was airlifted via helicopter to a trauma center in Atlanta. Here is a list of his injuries:
- broken left ankle
- broken left leg
- pelvis fractures
- fractured sternum
- 7 ribs broken in 11 different places
- both lungs collapsed
- broken left arm
- broken left wrist
- broken left clavicle
- broken left scapula
- slight bleed in the brain that led to a minor stroke
John was eventually discharged in a wheelchair with a huge hospital bill in his hand. Months of extensive rehab followed.
And who was the person who caused the accident?
It was an 18-year-old girl who had been texting while she waited for the light to change. She said she confused the green light telling traffic to proceed forward with her lane’s left-turn light. Her light had remained red, but in her confusion brought on by texting distractions, she turned anyway. After all was said and done after the accident, she ended up only paying a few small fines, maybe about $200 total.
At MotoJustice, our attorneys always request copies of cell phone and text records to determine if someone was using their mobile device at the time of an accident. But even when a person can be held truly accountable for an accident they caused, any motorcycle rider will tell you that their injuries are not worth a payout. Laws restricting cell phone usage when driving exist, but they’re not often followed or enforced.
Riders need to be aware that only they can protect themselves from an accident:
- Be vigilant – Simply assume that other drivers are using their phones and are not watching out for riders. Keep an eye out for cars driving erratically or weaving between lanes. Then stay away!
- Watch out for intersections – Intersections are the worst. People get bored waiting for the light to change and they start to text. Then they gun it when the light turns green without looking around.
- Cover that hand brake – Always be prepared to stop suddenly.
- Head on a swivel – Look around at all times.
- Wear protective gear – Your gear will lessen injuries. As severe as John Cook’s injuries were, if he hadn’t been wearing his helmet and leathers, things would have been much worse.
- Keep the speed down – Especially when not on the highway. If you are speeding through an intersection, you are just asking for trouble.
Spread the word to watch for motorcycles, and tell people that their texts can wait. Take the It Can Wait pledge and encourage people you know to do the same. It won’t happen overnight, but as a longer-term strategy, we need to make texting and driving socially unacceptable.
Be careful out there!
Image credit: Stefano Cavoretto, Shutterstock.com