Cindy Speaker: Good afternoon and welcome to Facebook Live! My name is Cindy Speaker, I have with me today attorney David Daggett of Daggett Shuler, Attorneys at Law and we’re going to talk today about motorcycle safety, it’s national motorcycle safety month. David, thanks for being here.
David Daggett: Thank you, Cindy, thanks for having me.
Cindy Speaker: Well, David, your eye, I just can’t help but ask what happened?
David Daggett: Yeah, I got a little bit of a shiner here. As you know and a lot of the people listening know, I’ve raced triathlons for 36 years. I raced this past weekend and just caught a breaststroke kick to my eye at about the start of the swim. You know, it’s one of those things. It doesn’t really hurt, I don’t know how …
Cindy Speaker: Doesn’t hurt, that’s good.
David Daggett: I don’t know how obvious it is on this video but if anybody wonders, that’s what that is.
Cindy Speaker: It depends how you turn. In certain light, it’s very obviously, in other … That’s obvious, when you do that.
David Daggett: I’ll give the profile, how’s that?
Cindy Speaker: There you go, that’s good, that’s good. Well, let’s talk a little bit about motorcycle safety month. What are the most common causes of motorcycle accidents and is that something that you deal with on a regular basis?
David Daggett: Sure. So May is a good time to highlight this topic because it is motorcycle safety month. The weather’s getting nice and more people are out riding motorcycles, which means the motorcycle riders need to reinforce some safety measures and other motorists need to be aware of safety measures also.
So first, with motorcycles, there’s some real interesting statistics. Most motorcycle accidents occur … contact accidents, because I’m going to differentiate that. Contact with another vehicle. Occur when a car turns left in front of a motorcycle. Interesting, very similar for bicyclists. The most common accident is a car turning left in front of them causing the collision. Statistically about 42% of all contact accidents occur in that way.
Now it’s interesting that I keep saying “contact accidents,” because motorcycle accidents, just by the very nature of being unprotected, you’re much more vulnerable than being in a car, so you’re much more likely to suffer severe injuries or death. In fact, you’re more than 30 times more likely to die in a motorcycle crash than a car crash.
Cindy Speaker: Wow!
David Daggett: Getting back to the contact accidents, unfortunately in the death cases, approaching 50% of all motorcycle deaths occur in non-contact situations.
Cindy Speaker: Oh, really?
David Daggett: Yeah. So that’s …
Cindy Speaker: That’s surprising.
David Daggett: Well, it is and it isn’t. Of that percentage, a very large percentage of those are due to excessive speed, particularly going into corners, losing control, sliding out, and crashing into something, and a very high percentage of those deaths are alcohol related. Okay? So speed and alcohol, if there’s any lesson at all with motorcycles, speed and alcohol are a deadly combination on motorcycles.
Cindy Speaker: Let me cut back to what you said, with contact. When there’s contact accidents and the left turn in front of them. Is that mostly a visibility issue? What is the issue there?
David Daggett: Well, yeah, motorcycles are just less visible than other vehicles. So you look at both sides of that equation, for the motorcyclist, you have to be aware that you’re less visible. In fact, I heard one motorcycle safety instructor say, “You have to pretend and drive as if you’re invisible and nobody can see you.” That’s how cautious you have to be.
Cindy Speaker: That’s good advice.
David Daggett: From the driver’s point of view, although you’re required to have your headlights on, in North Carolina, when riding a motorcycle, you’re still a smaller object and therefore you’re less visible. The other thing is because you’re a smaller object, a motorist has a more difficult time judging speed and distance. That’s why that left turn is the most common way that accidents occur. It’s hard to judge a motorcycle.
Cindy Speaker: Yeah, you know, I was thinking of something yesterday. I have a cousin, she’s actually recovering in the hospital, but we were talking about the issue of distracted driving. One of the things that came up was when you go into a tunnel, how you’re just … I don’t know about you, but when I go into a tunnel, I put both hands on the wheel, I sit up as straight as I can and I am on high alert. In some ways, I feel like as drivers, we should kind of be on high alert when we see motorcycles.
David Daggett: No, that’s right, we do. We have some tunnels here in the North Carolina Mountains, and you’re exactly right. You’re on high alert for that period of time and on a motorcycle particularly, you just have to be on high alert all the time. It’s much more dangerous than riding in a car, riders have to realize that, they need to prepare for that, and they just need to be on full alert the entire time.
Cindy Speaker: Yeah, yeah. David, I don’t know if you know this, but in my early days, I actually rode a motorcycle. It was a little one, just because I enjoyed the summer breeze, but I remember the day that I was in a … It’s so silly, I was in a parking lot, I was behind a car, he stopped fast, it was a little rainy, and the bike slid out from under me and my leg got caught on the grill. I mean, literally I was probably going two miles an hour, but it was a very painful injury.
David Daggett: That’s another thing, with a motorcycle … We all know when driving a car in bad weather that you need more stopping distance and visibility goes down and all those sort of things. Well take that and multiply it times 10 for a motorcycle. They’re really effected by adverse weather conditions more than a car would be.
Cindy Speaker: Yeah, yeah. Any other precautions you can recommend for either car drivers or motorcycle drivers?
David Daggett: Sure. Well, I mean, there’s more than we would want to do for the length of a Facebook Live presentation, but avoiding high speeds, avoiding alcohol are two biggies. Safety equipment for motorcyclists. We all know a good helmet, eye protection, you know, you’ve had a stone flip up and crack your car windshield. That same stone could flip up and come toward your eye or your face, so eye protection. Not just sunglasses, either goggles or a helmet with a face shield.
And then also, we don’t think about it so much and I cringe when I see a motorcycle rider or passenger out with shorts and a T-shirt and flip flops. You want to have more substantial clothing than that. Because again, just … you’re more subject to debris when you’re on a motorcycle. I’ve hit a stick before on my bicycle and that’s a much lower speed and that flips up and hits you and it can really sting or hurt.
Cindy Speaker: I bet.
David Daggett: So yeah, you know, some people recommend going as far as full leather protective jackets, pants, gloves, high top boots or shoes if you’re doing a lot of riding because that road debris, just like the rock that hits your windshield, it hits your body or your face. It can do some damage. But for certain, a good quality approved helmet is very, very important.
Cindy Speaker: Yes. Do you have a helmet law in North Carolina?
David Daggett: We do have a helmet law in North Carolina. Also, in North Carolina, you have to have an endorsement for motorcycles on your driver’s license, which requires a separate written test and a separate motorcycle riding test.
Cindy Speaker: That’s good.
David Daggett: They go through maneuvers and turns and stopping and things like that. But that’s the minimal requirement. Really, ongoing safety awareness and education for motorcyclists is very important.
Cindy Speaker: We’ve got training programs.
David Daggett: Well, training programs, we have a number of local resources. Here in town, the largest dealership is Smokin’ Harley Davidson, they run safety courses through their dealership, they take that very seriously, do a very good job. They go over apparel, helmets, and basic riding and maneuvering. Forsyth Tech Community College offers motorcycle safety programs.
And then Bike Safe North Carolina, which is put together by the North Carolina Highway Patrol and coordinated with local law enforcement, arranges motorcycle training days. There’s a couple coming up in cooperation with the Winston-Salem Police Department, several of the motorcycle officers with the Winston-Salem Police Department. It’s a Saturday, they do classroom work in the morning …
Cindy Speaker: Excellent.
David Daggett: … they take a lunch break, they go out on the road in the afternoon and they review motorcycle safety. Those are great programs and great courses, even for an experienced motorcycle rider, to stay up to date with safety.
The other big thing in the awareness is … well, we have a lot of motorcycle riders are old guys like me who rode a motorcycle when they were younger, get to be my age, kids leave the house, and it’s a social thing to do with other guys. Interestingly, motorcycle riding crowd is a relatively highly educated crowd.
Cindy Speaker: Oh, that’s interesting.
David Daggett: So there’s a lot of business professionals, lawyers, accountants, dentists, doctors, who go back to motorcycle riding once they’re empty nesters.
Cindy Speaker: I see.
David Daggett: One of the things that’s changed though is engine technology has improved vastly and advanced vastly since I was a kid. So motorcycles are now lighter and faster than they were before. So me going out today, just because I rode a motorcycle 30 years ago, jumping on a motorcycle and thinking I got the skills and awareness to do this might not be correct.
Because the motorcycle today is much more powerful and you know, it’s almost like riding a horse that’s too fast for you and bucks too much. You have to be prepared for that and a lot of motorcycle accidents occur because people are on a motorcycle that is way ahead of their personal learning curve.
Cindy Speaker: I see.
David Daggett: Does that make sense?
Cindy Speaker: Yeah, it really does make sense. And also, I think what you’re talking about when you talk about the difference in engineering and things like that is another reason that no matter what stage you’re at, to take the safety precaution courses, learn about things, make sure you’re well educated.
David Daggett: And go back for refreshers.
Cindy Speaker: There’s just too much at risk not to do that.
David Daggett: Absolutely. The odds are against you, as we talked about in the earlier statistics, so you need to do everything possible to even the odds.
On the flip side is cars need to realize that motorcycles have the same right to the roads that cars do and that they need to be aware, they need to give motorcycles the full lane, just like you would give any other vehicle. Just because a motorcycle’s smaller doesn’t mean take half their lane when you pass or things like that.
And North Carolina has some specific statues regarding motorcycles, that you have to give them proper room and there are heightened fines and penalties for things such as encroaching on a motorcycle’s lane and if they have to take evasive action or whatever to avoid an impact.
Cindy Speaker: Interesting.
David Daggett: So drivers need to be aware that they need to be on the lookout and have a heightened responsibility also. The number of motorcycles on the road nationwide, relatively small. I think it’s a little less than 3% of all vehicles on the road, but it’s a high enough percentage that we’re all going to encounter motorcycles when we go out. So we need to be on the lookout for them and they need to be on the lookout for us. Doesn’t matter who’s the them and who’s the us, we both need to be on the lookout for each other.
Cindy Speaker: Yeah, yeah. David, what about insurance issues? Are they different for motorcyclists than they are for automobile drivers?
David Daggett: For the most part, they aren’t different. Now, I think that what the motorcyclist needs to be aware of is if the adverse event happens, you get in an accident, even if it’s somebody else’s fault, that the likelihood of incurring more medical expenses is much more likely. And as we all know, in today’s day and time, medical expenses, you can get up 10, 20, 30, $50,000 or more in medical expenses very very quickly.
So a prudent motorcyclist, I believe, should have good health insurance. They should also look at their insurance coverages for uninsured motorist coverage and under-insured motorist coverage, particularly the under-insured motorist coverage. In North Carolina, the law only requires a motor vehicle to have $30,000 of insurance coverage.
Well, if you’re riding a motorcycle, your medical expenses could exceed that very quickly. Add in your lost wages and other damages, your under-insured coverage that you have on your own motorcycle policy steps in above that $30,000 to cover additional damages. My recommendation would be to have at least $100,000 of under-insured coverage on your motorcycle, probably even more than that because medical expenses can go up very significantly.
Cindy Speaker: Oh yeah, yeah.
David Daggett: The insurance and insurance coverages are the same for cars and motorcycles, I just think on motorcycles, need to pay a little bit more attention to make sure you have proper health insurance and under-insured motorist coverage.
Cindy Speaker: Yeah, that makes sense.
David Daggett: All right.
Cindy Speaker: Well, what about if someone is in a crash? I know that you deal with these types of issues, that’s part of why you know so much about them. But how can you advise people, someone that is in a crash, has a loved one in a crash, how can a lawyer step in and be helpful?
David Daggett: A lawyer who’s familiar with motorcycle crashes can get involved quickly. We’ve done reconstructions on accidents before, to show that the motorcyclist was not at fault and the other driver was, so that we could get our client’s damages fully covered. Sometimes those issues, because the … I don’t want to get into a whole lot of technical stuff, but in reconstructing a motorcycle accident, speed and distance calculations are much different than they are for a car. So we need somebody who’s familiar with those differences, has the resources to calculate that information, to be in the best position possible to obtain a fair recovery in the advent an adverse situation occurs.
Cindy Speaker: Yes. That’s a great point, that the weight and things would be … Of course that would all be different, which makes the speed and all of the … I mean, that’s a lot of technical stuff there, but you handle those kinds of things.
David Daggett: Yeah. You have to be aware of that. It was real interesting, I was involved in a case … I’ll try to make this short, that was denied, that we ended up being successful on and what it dealt with, it was the claim that the motorcycle rider was speeding. On everybody’s calculations, the reconstruction of the speed, doing time and distance studies, they based it all on the motorcycle having a spoked front wheel. The motorcycle had a solid disc front wheel, which changes the energy absorption, which means the time and distance calculations were different. I was the one that picked up on that, noticed it, redid the calculations, allowing us to prevail on the case.
Cindy Speaker: Wow, that is amazing.
David Daggett: If somebody’s not attuned to look for those type of issues, rights can be affected and a case can be lost.
Cindy Speaker: Wow, yeah. And David, if someone wants to reach you, relative to an accident like this, how can they do that?
David Daggett: DaggettShulerLaw.com, I think we can show that on the screen.
Cindy Speaker: Yes.
David Daggett: Or at our office, 336-724-1234. We give lots of free advice and if there’s any questions, more than happy to help.
Cindy Speaker: I forgot to mention, one more thing. Don’t you have a billboard right now?
David Daggett: Oh, we do, yeah.
Cindy Speaker: Yes!
David Daggett: It’s kind of a fun one. Of course, I’m an avid bicycle rider and bicyclists and motorcyclists are in a fairly similar situation. Now, motorcycles are going faster so there’s some of those things we talked about earlier, but yeah. We have a billboard up for motorcycle safety month, which is also bicycle safety month, and the billboard is “Watch out for bikers.” It’s in a prominent place in downtown Winston-Salem. We’ve got a number of comments about that, people get a kick out of it.
Cindy Speaker: Oh yeah, that’s neat.
David Daggett: Yeah, just a little public service to raise everybody’s awareness about the issue.
Cindy Speaker: That’s good, that’s good. Well, I hope that your eye heals, and you don’t end up with any permanent scarring or anything.
David Daggett: No, I’ll be fine, I’ll be fine.
Cindy Speaker: Okay. Well, David, thanks so much for your time today.
David Daggett: Thank you so much, Cindy, take care.
Cindy Speaker: Okay. Those of you watching, if you have questions, comments you want to make, do it right on this page in the comments section and we’ll be sure to get them answered for you. Thanks, everybody, have a great day.