With Motorcycle Awareness Month around the corner and Distracted Driving this month, it’s an idea long overdue. However, that message as of today, has not been as successful as the “Don’t Drink & Drive” campaign and that is that we have social media to help push the message. Even worse, the penalties aren’t as strong either. The reality is it should be, since there are more distracted drivers than there are drunk drivers. Don’t believe me; go drive on the highway at at 9 am. How many drivers are texting and how many have been drinking?
While I’m glad there is a Motorcycle Awareness Month, I also think there should be a campaign titled “don’t drive like an a-hole month” since in reality, that is the issue. Yes, I’m serious. Definitely will catch the cagers attention more, but I know that won’t happen, so don’t hold your breath.
Now, awareness is one thing, but the reality is, it is not enough. Penalties are what work. If a motorcyclist gets hit by a car driver who is at fault, your attorney goes after the insurance company. If the car driver’s policy is a $10,000 limit, then that is all the biker gets, and trust me, it is even hard to get that. Unless the driver has substantial assets, chances are that is where it ends. Why bother doing more?
Sure, you can sue the driver of the vehicle, and then the driver can also file for bankruptcy and that takes care of that. Unfortunately, I have had that conversation with more clients than I care to think. Read “The Visit” to get a better understanding of what it is like for a client.
The legislature could continue to take steps such as not allowing bankruptcy protection, just like they do for damages arising out of DUI. Higher policy limits is also a step in the right direction. I believe Texas has a minimum of $30,000 on insurance policy limits. Higher policy limits help, but the reality is the medical bills are usually astronomical anyway and bankruptcy ends up being the only remaining choice for victims of motorcycle accidents.
BI or bodily injury policies should be mandatory, not just PIP (Personal Injury Protection). While the legislature has been able to reduce the amount of lawsuits by having PIP, when it comes to motorcycles, most bikers don’t have insurance which even if they did, it is not enough anyway to pay all their bills.
Just like DUI’s, even without enhanced penalties such as jail time, you could make the car drivers participate in similar programs such as a Victim Impact Panel and community service hours. Not only does the community benefit from community service, but if a driver has to do 50 hours of community service, trust me, they will be more cautious next time.
Victim Impact Panels will also send a strong message to the drivers. Imagining sitting across the table from a mother that is re-telling her story how her child died because someone did the same thing you did.
There should also be a fund for drivers that are used to help pay medical bills. The monies is simply collected from the traffic tickets issued to drivers. For example, add $20 to the careless driving citation.
I know awareness is important, that is why I have created MSAR, (Motorcycle Awareness & Safety Riders), but I am not naive enough to think that is the solution to everything. I once got a speeding ticket in Georgia. The attorney’s fees was $750 and the ticket was also several hundred dollars. A friend of mine was issued a speeding ticket years ago, I believe in Virginia. The fine was over $500. Trust me, we both learned our lesson.
In addition, laws should be on “distracted driving” not “texting & driving” like in Florida. In Florida, I can text all I want while driving and there is no violation of traffic infraction laws. However, if I commit another infraction, then I can be cited for both infractions. But the law only applies to texting and that is virtually impossible to prove. The driver just has to say I was making a call, not texting. There aren’t even points accessed against your license. I could be playing with the GPS, my radio, applying makeup to my girlfriend, reading the newspaper, doing my taxes, and even cooking a steak while driving and I have yet to violate a traffic law!
Another option is to use technology to our advantage. For example, cell phones cannot be dialed if moving at a certain speed. Sure, the driver can stop the vehicle, make the call, then proceed to drive, but talking on the cell phone is less dangerous than actually scrolling through your contact list looking for the person you are going to call.
Please, don’t drive distracted. It could save your life, or someone else’s. You don’t want to have the guilt of causing serious bodily injuries or even a death because you were driving distracted. It is never worth it!