Is there anyone else tired of hearing this excuse? Using anecdotal evidence only, basically what we all know from hearing it a thousand times or more, we know that the most dangerous moment for anybody on a motorcycle in the State of Arizona is when they are entering an intersection and someone else in a car may turn left in front of them. On that alone, is it time for us to start taking more action and holding people who turn left at intersections more accountable? And I’m not just talking about a traffic ticket based upon ARS § 28-772. The number of times that motorcyclists have their lives changed due to injuries where the negligent party walks away with a traffic ticket (and a few hours in traffic school at that) is getting to the point where it is frustrating for all of us.
And to make matters worse, it is not just anecdotal evidence. Virtually every study out there demonstrates that the vast majority of collisions with motorcycles occur as the result of a collision not with another motorcyclist but with a vehicle. And in the significant majority of those cases, it is the passenger car that turns into the right of way of the motorcyclist. In plain English, going all the way back to the Hurt study we now have more than 30 years of evidence that all tell us the same thing – left turns kill.
Well, the problem is well known. It has been well known for a generation. What are the solutions? How are we going to keep people from suffering life-altering injuries by people who turn left in front of them only to claim that the motorcycle “came out of nowhere.” As if some how motorcycles fall out of the sky or are invisible right up until the moment before a collision.
First, I suggest we control those things we can control. Everybody who has been riding for many years is convinced that training will not help them. But the statistics and the studies suggest otherwise. Training does help. Even for an experienced rider a little additional expert training can save a life.
Are you really going to trust the people who text, while putting on their makeup, while eating a cheeseburger, while talking to someone in the back seat to be aware of you? Probably not. And the numbers are scary. There are times where a vehicle can encroach into your lane of traffic in under 2 seconds.
Why is that so scary? Because your typical perception/reaction time according to many studies may be around 1.5 seconds. While that number can vary depending on a number of factors, someone turning left in front of you may leave you with a fraction of a second to try to react and avoid the collision. Every bit of training you can get may help.
Second, it would be nice to see our laws enforced. Causing serious injuries through negligence can be prosecuted. But how often do we see it prosecuted? I have seen it happen on behalf of my clients who were hurt. But I am not certain I have seen it happen in nearly enough cases. If the law exists it is possible that a few prosecutions may spread the word to actually “look twice for motorcycles.” The reality – as we all know – is that all of our attempts to teach people to “look twice” has been unsuccessful. And maybe that is for a simple reason – people only care about what affects them. Since most people never get on a motorcycle they may pay less attention to anything that is not a threat to them. But when they start hearing stories of people being prosecuted for badly injuring a motorcyclist maybe that will get the work out better than all of our efforts through bumper stickers, shirts, and so forth. Organizations like AMSAF (Arizona Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Foundation) are tremendous in helping to provide cost-efficient training for motorcyclists in getting the work out. But perhaps prosecuting some of the motorists who fail to admit responsibility and instead claim a motorcycle “came out of nowhere” would go just as far if not further to make people think before they turn left.
And, finally, let’s do our best to be observed out on the roadways. While there are conflicting views of different experts in regards to the value of modulating headlights, there is virtually no disagreement in regards to wearing gear and clothing that increases the chance of being noticed. So whether it is a modulating headlight, bright colors, or anything else you can do to attract the attention of people who spend half their time looking at their phone and only half the time looking at the road – let’s do everything we can to make Arizona a safer place to ride.
AMSAF Board Member – The Husband and Wife Law Team