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Is Lane Splitting Dangerous?

A new California bill that defines and regulates lane splitting in the state has prompted other states, including North Carolina, to consider renewing attention to this debate.

Lane splitting – aka lane sharing or white-lining – is when a motorcyclist or scooter cuts between lanes of slower-moving traffic, or pulls in front of stopped traffic at a red light.

It is currently illegal to split lanes in North Carolina and in every other state except California. If you have ever driven on the Hollywood Freeway in Los Angeles or the Oakland Bridge in San Francisco, you can at least understand why California allows lane splitting. Nothing moves because these and many other California roadways are often idling bumper to bumper. Sitting on a hot bike in bumper-to-bumper traffic can be a miserable experience.

Lane splitting is deemed by some to be safe, if done by experienced and safety-minded motorcyclists. Others disagree, insisting that there is too much potential for catastrophe.

When Alex was in a motorcycle wreck he learned the hard way that the insurance company was not on his side. Read what led Alex to us, and to a settlement he was very happy with.1

Pros and Cons of Lane Splitting

A 2015 study by the University of California Berkeley found that the risks of lane splitting can be somewhat mitigated under certain circumstances. For example, the study found that splitting is safest at 50 mph and under and also if motorcyclists traveled at a speed difference no greater than 15 mph than surrounding traffic.

Advocates point out that lane-splitting can help prevent motorcycles from becoming a stationary target in the event of an accident, particularly rear end accidents. California does have slightly fewer fatalities from rear-end collisions per registered motorcycle than other states, although there is no research to support why.

Some say lane splitting can be good for drivers, too, because it can help to reduce traffic congestion and carbon emissions from idling in traffic.

Opponents, on the other hand, make some worthwhile points about the potential dangers inherent in this practice – most of these dangers originating from other drivers.

  • Unexpected doors opening
  • Sudden lane changes from other vehicles
  • Vision impairment around large trucks
  • Collisions with turning vehicles
  • Too high of speed differentials when splitting lanes.

There’s one caveat to the Berkeley study that opponents emphasize. It found that of the motorcyclists involved in nearly 6,000 collisions in California, 17% had been lane splitting.

Consequences of Lane Splitting in North Carolina

The motorcycle accident rate nationally is significant when compared to cars — motorcyclists are 29 times more likely to be killed in a wreck, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Still, the California bill, in combination with the potential benefits of easing traffic congestion, has made lawmakers in other states, including ours, open to considering this practice.

One of the primary challenges of legalizing lane splitting in North Carolina is that drivers may not be prepared for the change. This could lead to an upsurge of motorcycle accidents, which could result in even more injuries and fatalities – at least initially.

There are legitimate arguments for and against this practice. On a personal note, about the only time I could see myself even considering lane splitting would be if traffic were at a complete standstill. Regardless of where you fall in this discussion, I hope you have safe and enjoyable ride!

Get a Free Consultation From North Carolina Motorcycle Injury Lawyers

If you or someone you know has been injured in a motorcycle accident of any kind, contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin or call 1-866-900-7078 for a free and confidential case evaluation.

Why Are More Bikers Dying? 4 Main Reasons. And 4 Things You Can Do.

I love riding my motorcycle. Been riding for years. My dad had an old, ugly green Honda CB when I was a kid. My uncle airbrushed Harleys. Another uncle used to take me out jumping giant mounds of dirt on my grandfather’s tobacco farm down east. I was enthralled at a young age and got my first dirt bike, a Yamaha Mini Enduro, when I was only six years old. I got my first road bike as soon as I turned 16.

Attorney Mike Jordan riding his motorcycle.My current bike, shown here, is an 1800cc beast of a machine.

When my wife announced she wanted to start riding together (on a motorcycle of her own), I was a bit surprised – but definitely up for it.

She, as usual, did the smart thing and enrolled both of us in a motorcycle safety class.

While I have always tried to be careful and prudent while enjoying the freedom of the open road, I had not taken a motorcycle safety course in many years. I am thankful my wife gave me a reason to. What I learned was that the roads today are a far cry from when I first started riding more than 30 years ago. The recent accident and death rates are alarming – particularly for “older” riders. So much so, that I felt compelled to do some additional research of my own. I’d like to share reasons I found behind the rise in motorcycle fatalities, and offer ways each of us can try to keep motorcycle safety in mind.

By the way, even if you do not own a motorcycle, you should be aware of some of the ways you may be unintentionally contributing to an unsafe environment for motorcyclists.

Increase in North Carolina Motorcycle Accident Fatalities

I was surprised to learn that a primary reason for the rising death toll in all motor vehicle accidents both in North Carolina and nationwide is due to an increase in motorcycle fatalities. Motorcyclist deaths in 2015 accounted for 13% of all vehicle fatalities in North Carolina, and were the highest in seven years both nationwide and in our state.

It got me to thinking. Why the uptick? What has changed? And more importantly, how can each of us help keep motorcyclists – and each other – safer on North Carolina’s roadways?

4 Likely Reasons for Increased Motorcycle Fatalities

  1. Nationally, fewer riders are wearing helmets. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) declares that having universal helmet laws is the single most effective way for states to save the lives of motorcyclists. In North Carolina about 80 lives are saved for each 100,000 licensed motorcycle drivers, according to an article in North Carolina Health News. Helmets are about 37% effective in preventing motorcyclist deaths and about 67% effective in preventing brain injuries, reports the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In the 1970s, all but three states mandated helmets. Yet lobbying efforts by rider groups and “personal freedom” advocates slowly etched away at those mandates. By 2012, only 19 states still had mandatory helmet laws. North Carolina is one of them.
    Look, I get that most of us are on the road in part for the feeling of freedom that riding offers. But there are certain basics that increase safety. Airbags, seatbelts, staying sober, and using helmets all contribute to saving lives. I enjoy my freedom, and I encourage you to enjoy responsibly.
  2. Reduced gas prices means there are more cars and trucks crowding the roadways. Cars and trucks are larger and heavier than motorcycles. Common sense and the laws of physics dictate the motorcyclist is on the losing end in the event of a crash. The fatality rate for motorcycle riders is 26 times the rate of death for people in cars. This is partly because a motorcycle doesn’t provide the protection that a car would, such as seat belts, air bags, and a cage of metal armor.
  3. There is an alarming rise in distracted driving. According to the National Safety Council, 26% of car accidents are caused by cell phone use. In North Carolina more than 22% of accidents resulted from distracted driving. Distracted driving is not limited to texting while driving. It includes anything that distracts you from paying attention to the road.
  4. Alcohol and drug use has also been a factor in motorcyclist fatalities. This, sadly, is what the Governors Highway Safety Association reports. And more often than not, it was the biker who was drinking. Don’t be that biker.

4 Tips to Try to Keep Motorcyclists Safer – and Others Too

North Carolina offers so many scenic roadways, including the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is the longest scenic roadway in America. And don’t forget The Dragon, which attracts riders from all over the country. Many motorcyclists believe this drive is best experienced from a motorcycle. But safely. Here are some ways to maximize safety, whether you’re on a motorcycle or in a vehicle.

  1. Alcohol and drugs have no business being a part of any road trip – no matter what you are driving.
  2. Pay attention to the road. Especially when motorcycles are nearby. Look in both side mirrors if you hear a motorcycle. Be diligent. You are driving at least a two-ton vehicle. If you’re a motorcyclist, don’t serpentine between cars at the speed of light on the interstate. Many drivers will not being paying attention to their surroundings – and that includes you.
  3. If you’re a motorcyclist wear protective clothing and gear – the brighter the better. You want drivers to see you. As much as I believe in helmets, I also strongly believe in hi-viz. Only once do I recall getting a call from an injured motorcyclist who was wearing hi-viz clothing. I personally always wear a hi-viz helmet and jacket and follow the ATGATT rule: All The Gear, All The Time. You will always find me riding in boots, heavy-duty pants, leather or armored jacket, gloves, and a full-face helmet. And you’ll see me coming from a mile away.
  4. Helmet laws are mandatory in North Carolina. Wear them. We have represented too many motorcycle crash victims who did not obey this law. Some lived, some did not. Others’ lives were forever changed.

FREE Evaluation From Our North Carolina Motorcycle Injury Lawyers

If you or someone you know has been injured in a motorcycle accident, call a fellow biker. Contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin for a free and confidential case evaluation or call 1-866-900-7078.

How Does Mediation Work?

When injured in an accident that isn’t your fault, it’s probably safe to assume that you, like most people, simply want to be paid what’s fair. While obtaining fair payment may seem like a simple and straightforward process, it can quickly become complicated and confusing.

When negotiations with the insurance adjuster fail, then options exist to try to ensure that your compensation is fair and just. From offer to counteroffer, court filings, mediations, to trial, the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin has experienced professionals on staff to counsel you at all levels of civil litigation – including mediation.

Will My Case Require Me to Go to Mediation?

Mediation is not the same thing as settlement negotiations, which occur at the beginning of your case, and mediation is only undertaken after settlement negotiations fail and you file a lawsuit. After settlement negotiations fail, you would begin your lawsuit by filing your case in civil court.

Whether or not you proceed to mediation depends on whether you file in superior court or district court. For the purposes of this blog, the primary difference between superior court and district court is the amount of money you seek in your lawsuit.

If your case involves more than $25,000, you must file it in superior court, and mediation is required. Superior court rarely allows you to skip mediation and go straight to trial.

If your damages are $25,000 or less, then you must file in district court where mediation is not required.

What Happens in Mediation?

Let’s say you are headed to mediation. Here’s what it might look like.

Mediation takes place outside the court, typically at an office. There is no judge. No facts will be decided. The point of mediation is to reach a settlement. The people who attend mediation are:

  • The plaintiff (that’s you – the person filing a claim for damages). You must attend mediation, because you have final settlement authority. In other words, you are the only one who can determine if the terms the other party is offering are acceptable, and thereby end the mediation.
  • Your attorney, who will negotiate on your behalf.
  • The attorney from the defendant’s insurance company.
  • The mediator, who is a neutral third party.

The defendant doesn’t necessarily need to attend. Your lawyer has the option of excusing him or her.

Mediation vs. Trial

Mediation may potentially benefit you by eliminating the costs of going to court. For example, you will likely not have to pay an expert witness (such as an accident reconstructionist) to testify on your behalf. Moreover, going to court involves additional costs that can chip away at the final dollar amount you may receive.

Headed to Mediation?

The best advice when headed to mediation is to arm yourself with an experienced legal team who has researched your case, talked with you about the value of your case, and knows what your case may really be worth.

Combined, our attorneys at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin have handled countless mediations. We can prepare you for mediation, attend mediation with you, counsel you on the reasonableness of the defendant’s offers and counteroffers, and advise whether to accept your settlement or proceed to trial.

If you’ve been injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault, call us 24/7 at 1-866-900-7078 or contact us online for a free case evaluation.

North Carolina Motorcycle Accidents – Helmet Law Debated

A bill moving through the North Carolina legislature could affect the safety of all motorcycle riders. The legislation, House Bill 109, would make the use of a motorcycle helmet optional for adults, repealing North Carolina’s current mandatory helmet law. According to News 14 Carolina, the House Transportation Committee has already approved the bill, and the bill has moved forward to the House Judiciary Committee for debate and a vote.

Unfortunately, this law would increase the risk of serious head injuries to motorcycle riders and passengers in the event of an accident. Our motorcycle accident lawyers know that helmets can significantly reduce the chances of death or serious injury. North Carolina’s current helmet laws mandate helmet use and have made the state one of the safest in terms of motorcycle death and accidents. Opponents of House Bill 109 believe that this new law would jeopardize the safety of all riders. Supporters contend riding free is a right and wearing a helmet is a choice. Experienced injury attorneys understand victims are due compensation regardless of helmet use when someone’s negligence causes a serious or fatal collision.

A grey black motorcycle and a red helmetNew Motorcycle Helmet Law Considered

House Bill 109 proposes some very important changes to the current law. If the bill passes, the mandatory motorcycle helmet requirement will be repealed. Instead, helmet use will be optional if:

  • The rider is 21 years of age or older.
  • The rider has had a motorcycle license or an endorsement for a period of at least twelve months.
  • The rider has successfully completed a course in motorcycle safety.
  • The rider has insurance that provides at least $10,000 in coverage for medical benefits after a motorcycle accident.

 

Under these new requirements, a good portion of adult riders who are currently required to wear helmets would now have the choice.

The Risks of the New NC Helmet Law

Those who support changing the rules on helmet use believe that the issue is a matter of personal freedom. They believe that no adult should be required to wear a helmet if he or she does not want to. Those who want the helmet laws changed also argue that helmet mandates divert attention from other proven safety strategies such as awareness and education.

Opponents, however, are concerned that the risk of death will increase if the mandatory helmet law is repealed. Opponents argue that the current law is working well, and there is plenty of evidence to support the claim. The CDC, for example, indicates that North Carolina leads in the United States in terms of both money saved and lives saved as a result of the helmet law.

Further, opponents of the change to the helmet laws indicate that states that have relaxed their helmet laws have seen an increase in both deaths and brain injuries. This increases the Medicaid costs for the state, and of course also results in more people coping with serious injuries.

With the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reporting that the number of motorcycle accident fatalities has been on the rise nationwide for 14 of the past 15 years, there are strong arguments to be made that nothing should be done to reduce motorcycle safety. The GHSA data also shows that just this past year a nine percent increase in the number of fatalities was reported.

Regardless of what the law is, we want all riders to be safe.  But unfortunately, accidents happen all the time through no fault of your own.

If you’ve been injured in a motorcycle accident, contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin for a free and confidential case evaluation. Call 1-866-900-7078.

Top 5 Auto Insurance Myths

The rules governing your auto insurance policy can be complicated, and most consumers don’t take the time to thoroughly review their policies and ask questions to clarify their coverage. As a result, many drivers make certain assumptions about their insurance coverage. These assumptions are perpetuated as auto insurance myths.

Here are the top 5 auto insurance myths we hear when talking to clients:

I Have Comprehensive Coverage, so My Car is Covered for All Types of Damages

thief shattering the glass of a driver's side car windowDespite what its name suggests, comprehensive coverage only covers certain types of damages to your vehicle, including things like fire, hail storms, theft and vandalism. You must purchase additional insurance to cover other types of damages, such as collision coverage for damages caused in an accident or uninsured motorist coverage for damages caused in an accident with an uninsured driver.

Many drivers refer to “full coverage,” as well as comprehensive coverage, in claiming to be covered against all damages. However, there is no one type of insurance coverage that protects against all damages. It is very important to have a copy of your insurance declaration page when talking with a personal injury attorney about your coverage after you’ve been in an accident.

If Someone Else is Driving My Car and an Accident Happens, I’m Not Liable

Unfortunately, you could be responsible for any damages caused by your vehicle, even if you are not driving at the time. The car insurance you carry for your vehicle could be considered the primary insurance, which would be used to cover damages in the event of an accident. However, if the damages exceed your coverage limits, the insurance policy held by the person driving may then be used to cover the remaining costs.

I am Automatically Covered for a Rental Vehicle Under My Personal Insurance Policy

While your personal auto insurance policy may cover some damages when you are driving another vehicle, you should not count on it providing coverage for a rental vehicle. There is a lot of fine print regarding what is covered when you are behind the wheel of another vehicle and under what circumstances. It’s always best to purchase a policy that covers your rental car specifically when you pick it up.

Insurance Claims Will be Paid Fully and Promptly

If this were always the case, we wouldn’t be in business. Unfortunately, we have seen that insurance companies will try to dispute coverage and deny claims. That’s why it’s always a good idea to talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer after you’ve been in an accident. A qualified personal injury lawyer can advise you of your legal rights and try to ensure that you get the benefits to which you are entitled under the law.

My Insurance Company is Loyal to Me

Again, this is something that we’ve seen is not always true, unfortunately. Even your own insurance company can wrongfully deny your claim for coverage. It is important to talk with an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you fight for your rights and try to get the compensation that you may deserve for your injuries.

Make sure that you aren’t counting on unfounded insurance myths if you are in an accident. Protect yourself by reviewing your insurance policy thoroughly and asking questions about anything that is unclear. Consult with a personal injury lawyer to learn about your rights under the law if you have been injured in an accident. The North Carolina personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin may be able to help you if you have been injured in an accident. Call 1-866-900-7078 for a free evaluation of your case.

Rural Counties in North Carolina “Killing Grounds” for Automobile Accidents, AAA Says

AAA Carolinas released its annual report of the most dangerous roads in North Carolina, and it found that rural counties had the most fatal crashes, calling those places “killing grounds” for automobile accidents.

medical helicopter about to land near an ambulance and car accident sceneThe annual report is based on a comparison of miles driven and the number of deadly North Carolina car accidents that occur. The report also provides results for the types of vehicles driven, including motorcycles and tractor trailers.

Clay County was determined to be the most dangerous for fatal crashes. Rounding out the top five were Graham, Hyde, Robeson and Hertford counties.

Those five counties accounted for 5.4 percent of the state’s total fatal crashes, yet only accounted for 2 percent of the miles driven in the state.

Drivers in Graham County were determined to have the highest risk of being in an injurious crash. Rounding out the top five were New Hanover, Pitt, Wayne and Cumberland counties.

“Rural counties have roads that are generally narrower, with more curves, lower shoulders, faded or nonexistent road markings and less police presence than major highways,” said David E. Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas. “These roads are notorious for single-vehicle accidents involving speeding, drinking and younger drivers.”

Officials with the N.C. Highway Patrol said they were trying to increase patrols in areas known to be problematic and were working with the N.C. Department of Transportation to improve roads and lower speed limits in those areas.

This is the third straight year that rural counties have topped the list for having the most dangerous roads. However, the news was not all bad for rural counties: Some also topped the list for safest counties.

Swain County was determined to be the safest for total number of crashes and number of injurious crashes, and Yancey County was considered safest for fatal crashes.

North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers

If you or someone you love has been injured in an automobile accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin at 1-866-900-7078 for a free evaluation of your case and to find out if one of our North Carolina personal injury lawyers may be able to help you!

Texting and Other Distracted Driving May be Possible Factor in Increase in Traffic Fatalities, Data Shows

Last month, it was reported that the number of traffic fatalities had increased 13.5 percent in the first three months of the year over the first three months of last year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the American Automobile Association (AAA) both suggested that warmer-than average winter weather may have contributed to more people driving, increasing the number of accidents.

However, data from the NHTSA during the same time period also showed that distracted driving became more of a factor in accidents during that time, and a new study from Ohio State University reported on the dangers of texting while driving.

In the last several years, the number of accidents caused by distracted driving has risen significantly. According to the NHTSA, distracted driving rose from being a factor in only 10 percent of crashes in 2005 to 18 percent in 2010.

Some officials believe that distracted driving and texting may be a bigger factor in the rise in traffic fatalities than the warmer weather encouraging more people to be on the roads. Preliminary data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) showed that there was only a 1.4 percent increase in miles traveled for the first three months of 2012.

woman is distracted while by driving by applying dark red lipstickResearch shows that not only are more people getting in wrecks as a result of distracted driving, but that many people are overconfident in their abilities to multitask while driving, perhaps contributing to the increase in accidents.

“What is surprising is that our results also suggest that people may perceive that texting is not more dangerous – they may think they can do a good job at two visual tasks at one time,” said Zheng Wang, a lead author of the study at Ohio State University.

North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers

If you have been injured in an accident – whether it was the result of distracted driving or not – you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Call the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin at 1-866-900-7078 to get a free evaluation of your case and find out if one of our North Carolina personal injury attorneys may be able to help you!