A driver’s failure to yield right of way to a motorcycle rider in Durham, North Carolina (NC), cost the motorcyclist his life. The fatal collision happened at the intersection of S. Alston Avenue and Massey Avenue at around 11:40 am on July 17, 2017.
Police told reporters that the driver pulled into the path of the motorcycle rider while trying to turn left from Massey. A stop sign faces vehicles on Massey, while traffic on that stretch of Alston moves unimpeded.
The car’s driver now faces a preliminary charge of misdemeanor death by vehicle. Making the homicide-related allegation requires a determination that the driver committed some type of traffic offense. In this case, that would be failing to yield right of way. Section 20-158(b)(1) of the North Carolina Code stipulates that
When a stop sign has been erected or installed at an intersection, it shall be unlawful for the driver of any vehicle to fail to stop in obedience thereto and yield the right-of-way to vehicles operating on the designated main-traveled or through highway. When stop signs have been erected at three or more entrances to an intersection, the driver, after stopping in obedience thereto, may proceed with caution.
Pulling out into an intersection without taking sufficient precautions is a leading cause of crashes that leave motorcycle riders injured and dead. The problem of drivers simply not looking for motorcyclists is so pervasive and severe that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration issued model language for public service announcements on sharing the road safely and respectfully with motorcycles. Three messages that can never be repeated enough are
- Motorcycles are small and may be difficult to see. Motorcycles have a much smaller profile than vehicles, which can make it more difficult to judge the speed and distance of an approaching motorcycle.
- Remember that motorcyclists are often hidden in a vehicle’s blind spot or missed in a quick look due to their smaller size. Always make a visual check for motorcycles by checking mirrors and blind spots before entering or leaving a lane of traffic and at intersections
- Allow more following distance, three or four seconds, following a motorcycle so the motorcyclist has enough time to maneuver or stop in an emergency. In dry conditions motorcycles can stop more quickly than cars.
My Carolina wrongful death attorney colleagues and I hope all people will follow the lifesaving advice shared by NHTSA. Motorcycle riders have very little physical protection, so they rely on the caution and attention of drivers to complete their rides unharmed.