By Jared Richards, Full Throttle Law

Covid-19 and our society’s reaction to it have profoundly affected our culture. Political movements have developed and entrenched. Technology has evolved. The way many people work has changed.  Companies have risen and fallen. The economy has fundamentally changed. 

While society is trying to catch its breath after the shock of massive lockdowns, a trend seems to have emerged: the roads are more dangerous for riders.  The following are Nevada’s motorcycle fatality statistics for the last five years:

2017 – 54 fatalities

2018 – 58 fatalities

2019 – 56 fatalities

2020 – 55 fatalities

First Half of 2020 – 25 fatalities

First Half of 2021 – 33 fatalities

Rider fatalities are up 33% as compared to the first half of 2020. It is a small data set, making it easier to show correlation than causation, but the trends are disturbing. If 2021 continues at the same rate 2020 did with heavier fatalities in the second half of the year, we will likely see around 70 fatalities before the end of the year. Additionally, we see more hit-and-run accidents than ever before. Is it merely coincidence? Here are some commonsense connections.

First: People sped up during lockdown, and they never slowed down.

Police departments around the USA reported that the average speed AND total numbers of speeders increased dramatically during the lockdowns in 2020. Open roads and nearly zero traffic were too tempting for many people, and they put the pedal to the metal. The problem is that this speeding appears to have become its own epidemic. The number of speeders hasn’t gone down, and they continue to drive their cars faster than ever.

Faster cars mean when a wreck happens, it’s more likely to be fatal for a motorcycle rider. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that one-quarter of all fatal motorcycle crashes involve speeding passenger cars. That number is sure to go up as the number of speeding cars increases. 

Second: Car drivers aren’t paying as much attention.

Those empty streets of lockdown 2020 had another effect on car drivers: they felt safe to check their smartphones since nobody was on the road.

People got in the habit of texting and driving and continue to do so. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted drivers account for 10% of motorcycle fatalities. Who knows how many drivers cause non-fatal accidents because of being distracted? We may never know. But one thing we are sure of is that drivers have picked up some bad habits and are more distracted than ever.

Third: Empty streets meant faster riders, and some riders haven’t slowed down.

Let’s be honest: when we were in lockdown, there was no better therapy than getting on two wheels and enjoying those empty streets.  Speeding was easy and relatively safe (although not legal). With no traffic, city pavement seemed to many more like a closed course than public streets. But now traffic is back, and too many riders haven’t gone back to their pre-pandemic speeds. Given that traffic and speed are two of the most significant risk factors for riders, riders need to return to pre-pandemic speeds now that traffic is back.  

Fourth: People are driving with less insurance.

We have seen a HUGE increase in hit-and-run crashes. Why do people flee the scene so much more? We think it is because people have been ditching their insurance. During the pandemic, people had to cut down on expenses, and one expense they cut was car insurance. They probably thought, “it will never happen to me. I won’t get pulled over, so I won’t get in trouble.”

Without insurance, these drivers are terrified of getting caught, and so they run. Hit-and-run crashes have been coming into our office like crazy since 2020, and they haven’t slowed down.

What can you do?

We’ve been trying to help keep riders safe. We have organized, promoted, and sponsored multiple riding clinics, safety courses, first-aid classes, and seminars during the past year. If you feel you could use a little extra training to be a better rider, please visit our website and look for the calendar of events.

Beyond the seminars and training, be aware that people are driving aggressively out there more than usual. If you get into a wreck, we will help you hold the responsible driver accountable. But you need to do what you can to keep yourself safe.  Keep your head on a swivel and be in the moment. Slow down on surface streets. Take curves a little more cautiously. Wear proper gear. Use a full-face helmet.  Maintain your machine.

Finally, be sure to protect yourself with good insurance. That means having lots of MedPay and Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage. This will cover you in a hit-and-run or if the other driver has minimal insurance. If you’re not sure about your coverage, please come by the Full Throttle Law office, and we’d be happy to review your policies with you at no charge.