Distracted Driving in Virginia: How Technology Impacts Motorcycle Safety


Technology has become deeply integrated into our daily lives. The convenience, efficiency, and connections it brings also introduce new hazards – especially for vulnerable road users like motorcyclists. As more tech enters vehicles promising comfort and accessibility, greater threats emerge by diverting driver attention from their core focus of operating motor vehicles safely. Distracted driving has been an increasing issue nationally and in Virginia, with extremely serious implications for motorcycle rider safety as navigation apps, touchscreens, and smartphone integration aim to maximize eyeballs in the very place where eyes need to be watching the road.

Distracted driving encompasses anything that takes a driver’s attention away from their duty to drive safely and attentively. This includes texting, phone calls, adjusting music, programming navigation, eating, and many other avoidable actions. An alarming number of drivers have admitted to voluntarily engaging with technology unrelated to driving while behind the wheel – creating a preventable risk for themselves and other motorists or cyclists sharing the roadways.

Prevalence of Distracted Driving in Virginia

In Virginia, the prevalence of distracted driving compounds the dangers for motorcyclists navigating the state’s roadways. An alarming number of drivers have admitted to engaging with technology behind the wheel:

  • A recent study found 26% of drivers admitted to texting on their phones while driving
  • 48% of passengers admitted to being in a vehicle while the driver used their phone.
  • Another study found that drivers who are texting look away from the road for 14 seconds in a 30 second period.

This frequent distracted driving compounds risk for motorcyclists navigating Virginia’s roadways. Though cars have more protections, motorcycle riders are left vulnerable by diverted driver attention.

Unique Dangers Posed to Motorcyclists

Compared to driving a car, riding a motorcycle demands much greater attention and skill. Unfortunately, distracted driving robbed riders of that attention from other drivers. Some unique motorcycle safety concerns include:

Limited Visibility – Motorcycles occupy significantly less space on the road compared to cars and trucks. They are easily obscured in blind spots and often overlooked by distracted drivers. Phone obsessed or otherwise negligent drivers may fail to properly check their surroundings before changing lanes or turning.

Unstable Vehicles – Balance and control are essential to safely operating a motorcycle, unlike bulkier four-wheel vehicles. If they are impacted by a distracted driver, it is extremely difficult for a motorcyclist to recover compared to a car driver. Survival often depends almost entirely on other vehicles stopping in time.

Increased Vulnerability – Unlike vehicle occupants, motorcycle riders lack reinforcements when crashes occur. Airbags, seatbelts, and chassis do not shield motorcycle operators. Riders thrown from bikes frequently suffer severe injuries or death when collided with by inattentive motorists.

Alarming Crash Data

The consequences of multitasking behind the wheel have been reflected in Virginia’s motorcycle crash data:

  • Between 2011 and 2016, distracted driving led to over 160,000 crashes and 951 fatalities.
  • Over 78% of distracted driving collisions happened at intersections.
  • People of all ages were found to be driving while distracted. Just 21% of crashes were attributed to young people aged 16-20.

The numbers indicate an undeniable problem. More must be done to target distracted driving and protect vulnerable road users amid increasing tech time behind the wheel.

Legislation and Efforts to Promote Motorcycle Safety

While public awareness campaigns help curb distracted driving, stronger legislative action and enforcement are necessary to create change. Virginia laws remain contradictory and difficult to enforce.

Current statutes prohibit reading or typing messages while driving. However, the use of hands-free calling and navigation systems is still permitted for adult drivers. Such legal loopholes do little to address direct driver distraction.

In 2019, Virginia’s governor signed a substantially modified “Hands-Free Law” after years of weakening amendments. It carried only secondary enforcement, still permitting phone handling for a variety of reasons. Many advocates were disappointed by the watered-down legislation. While tougher distracted driving laws have struggled to pass, technology-related accidents continue trending upwards.

Community groups like Virginia’s “Put it Down” driver safety organization offer motorcycle training programs to help riders take defensive action against distracted driving. Still, the root problem remains unchecked without comprehensive legal action targeting harmful phone use behind the wheel. There is hope that strengthened legislation may eventually prevail to enable better motorcycle safety enforcement.

More Comprehensive Solutions Needed

While rider training, visibility and defensive driving techniques certainly help, the burden of safety should not fall entirely to motorcyclists alone. Distracted driving endangers everyone sharing the roads, including drivers and their own passengers. Comprehensive solutions require accountability and action from law enforcement, policymakers, automakers, rideshare companies, and technology leaders seeking to capitalize on driver attention.

Organizations like the Motorcycle Safety Foundation advocate for broader protections – airbag mandates, roadway barriers, helmet laws, and vulnerability awareness campaigns. Combined efforts across transportation stakeholders can greatly accelerate risk reduction. However, distracted driving legislation remains the most direct method to deter reckless behavior, enforce attentive driving, and prevent needless motorcycle casualties statewide.

Stay Safe Out There

Staying alert is every rider’s best protection against distracted drivers. Avoid passing slow vehicles on the right. Conduct thorough traffic checks before changing position. Signal properly, wear high visibility gear, and maintain safe spacing around other cars.

If you are involved in an accident caused by a distracted driver, document all details onsite, seek medical assistance, and get in touch with the police. Also, contact an experienced Virginia motorcycle accident attorney to protect your rights. They can help investigate fault, handle negotiations with insurance companies, and pursue fair compensation in court if distracted driving caused your crash injuries. Don’t settle without an attorney – distracted driving cases can get complex, but compensation should cover pain, bills, losses, and damages.

Together, through legislation reform, education campaigns, driver accountability, and staying visible, we can make the roads safer for motorcyclists to responsibly enjoy riding without risk of harm by distracted drivers. It is an important issue for all road users, not just riders, as well as technology companies. Let’s advocate and take action toward responsible progress in the right direction.

If you’ve been in a motorcycle accident caused by a distracted driver, we can help. With offices in 32 locations across 19 states, including Virginia, Georgia, and Kansas, we cover much of the United States. Call us today for a free consultation on (888) 477-0597.

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