Fatal Virginia Motorcycle Wreck Sparks Call for Change in the Law
Motorcyclists are some of the most vulnerable drivers on Virginia’s highways. They lack the protection of a steel frame and are particularly at-risk from careless drivers who fail to notice them when making left turns. A recent fatal Virginia motorcycle wreck has spurred a call to increase the legal punishment for drivers who cause accidents with motorcyclists.
In June, a driver turning left in a neighborhood in Ashburn in northern Virginia killed 27-year-old motorcyclist Damion Savon Robinson. The motorist was charged with reckless driving. The deceased rider’s girlfriend has branded the likely sentence too light, Loudon Now reported. She wants deaths by reckless driving to be felony offenses.
The dangers posed to motorcyclists by car and truck drivers who make a left turn was graphically illustrated in Hampton Roads recently when a motorcyclist and a passenger died in James City County. Police said a work truck turned in front of a motorcyclist onto Barnes Road. The rider was unable to avoid the truck.
Channel 13 News reported the motorcycle was traveling east on Old Stage Road. It hit the rear of the work truck and burst into flames, according to investigators. A 22-year-old rider from New Kent died at the crash scene and his passenger died later at a local hospital.
Suggested Change to the Law Following Deadly Motorcycle Accidents
This tragic incident has similarities to the fatal Virginia motorcycle wreck in Ashburn. Selena Drincic said her boyfriend Damion Savon Robinson was an experienced motorcyclist who followed the rules, drove below the speed limit, and wore a helmet and bright protective gear so as he was visible to other drivers.
Robinson was killed while driving his Kawasaki Ninja along Bles Park Drive. The driver of a Dodge Challenger turned left onto Rock Creek Terrace into Robinson’s right-of-way, Loudon Now reported. The Dodge driver was charged with reckless driving — a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and/or an up-to $2,500 fine if she is convicted.
Drincic wants the driver to be charged with a felony. In Virginia, a driver who causes a fatal wreck is typically convicted of a reckless driving misdemeanor. The driver cannot be convicted of a Class 6 felony unless he or she was driving “without a valid operator’s license due to a suspension or revocation for a moving violation.”
Drincic wants state legislators to introduce a bill in the 2021 General Assembly session to amend the sentencing law to make anyone who is convicted of reckless driving to be found guilty of a Class 6 felony even if they have a valid driver’s license. A Class 6 felony in Virginia carries a higher sentence of one to five years in prison and/or up to a $2,500 fine. Drincic collected more than 4,000 signatures on a petition to demonstrate wider community support for a change to the Virginia code.
Loudon Now reported on other fatal Virginia motorcycle wrecks caused by drivers making a left turn. In March 2020, a 40-year-old motorcyclist died when a driver turned left into his right of way while turning into a shopping center off Algonkian Parkway near Ashburn. The driver of the car was later charged with reckless driving. Many of these accidents occur in suburban intersections at low speeds. However, they can be deadly for motorcyclists who are vulnerable to brain damage if their heads hit the road.
How Dangerous Are Left Turns for Motorcyclists?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), left turn accidents account for about a third of the deaths of motorcyclists who lose their lives on the road. Per vehicle mile traveled, motorcyclists are 28 times more likely to be killed in a crash than people in passenger vehicles.
Virginia recorded 83 fatal motorcycle crashes in 2019, representing more than 10 percent of all traffic fatalities in the state. Left turns are particularly dangerous because they involve oncoming traffic. Drivers making left turns take them at a wider radius than right turns, which leads to higher speeds and greater dangers to other cars, motorcyclists, and pedestrians.
The driver’s visibility is often partially obscured by parked cars or other obstructions. While drivers may be looking out for larger vehicles, they often have a blind spot when it comes to motorcycles.
Some left turns in Hampton Roads are so dangerous, the intersections have been redesigned. A few years ago, Virginia Department of Transportation improved the busy intersection of Military Highway and Northampton Boulevard in Norfolk to remove a hazardous left turn. It has been replaced with a “continuous flow intersection” allowing vehicles to make left turns while traffic is going straight through the intersection. Engineers promised a lower crash rate and a 30 percent increase in capacity at the intersection.
Unfortunately, there is not enough money in the highways budget to improve most of Hampton Roads’ dangerous intersection. At Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers, our attorneys have represented many motorcyclists who suffered serious injuries due to the fault of a car, a bus or a truck driver. We have also represented the families of deceased riders. Read more about fatal Virginia motorcycle wrecks and injuries to riders on our website or call us for a free consultation.