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Virginia Highway Safety Office News Releases

Friday, May 20, 2016
Media Contact: Brandy Brubaker
Department of Motor Vehicles
(804) 367-6834

DMV Urges Caution as Summer Motorcycling Season Approaches
Majority of Fatal Motorcycle Crashes in Virginia Occur from May to August

RICHMOND – Nineteen motorcyclists have died on Virginia roadways so far this year, and as the summer season nears, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) urges motorcyclists – and motorists – to travel with caution.

Overall, motorcyclist fatalities decreased nine percent (77 to 70) last year in Virginia compared to 2014. However, since spring came early this year, the motorcycling season kicked off sooner than usual and fatalities drastically increased – from eight motorcyclist deaths from January-April 2015 to 18 in the same four months this year.

Statistically, May is the deadliest month of the year for motorcyclists. In 2015, the number of deaths in May alone doubled compared to 2014 – from eight to 16. This year, unseasonably cold and rainy weather likely played a role in a sharp decline in motorcyclist fatalities so far this May; one death has been reported in the first 19 days of the month, compared to 11 in the same time period in 2015.

However, warm weather is expected to return to Virginia in time for the Memorial Day weekend – the start of the summer travel season. Similar to years prior, a majority of motorcyclist fatalities in 2015 (44) occurred in the warm weather months of May through August.

“There seems to be a belief that nicer weather makes roads safer, which only leads to a false sense of security,” said DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb said, the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative. “No matter how safe you believe you are on your bike, there’s always room for improvement. The Virginia Rider Training Program is a great service DMV provides that will help strengthen the skills of all calibers of motorcyclists.”

A combination of failure to maintain control of the motorcycle and speeding contributed to a high percentage of deaths so far this year.

The Virginia Rider Training Program offers motorcycle classes for both beginning and experienced riders. Classes are taught by certified motorcycle and safety instructors and are offered throughout the state.

Motorcycle Safety Tips

  • Always wear safety equipment. Wear helmets and other protective clothing such as gloves, goggles and a riding jacket. Motorcyclists and their passengers must wear helmets in Virginia. A rider without a helmet is 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury than a rider wearing a helmet.
  • Remain alert day and night. Keep an eye on your surroundings at all times. A majority of this year’s motorcyclist fatalities occurred between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.
  • Travel at a safe speed. Always obey the posted speed limits and reduce your speed in inclement weather.

Tips for Other Motorists

  • Look for motorcyclists. In more than half of all crashes involving motorcycles and automobiles, the automobile driver didn’t see the motorcycle until it was too late.
  • Check your blind spots. Always check for motorcycles before you pull out, change lanes, turn, back up or proceed through an intersection.
  • Anticipate the motorcyclist’s movements. A slight change or debris on the road surface can be a major obstacle for motorcyclists so expect them to make sudden moves within their lane. Never tailgate a motorcycle or any other vehicle.
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