The Whidbey News-Times is reporting on a tragic motorcycle accident on the Island yesterday, in which a 68-year-old man was killed and his wife was injured and transported to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. As a Seattle motorcycle accident attorney, I see far too many accidents involving some of the least protected vehicles on the road. Gale Tappe and his wife were driving south on Highway 525 behind another vehicle. When that vehicle passed by a pick-up truck that was waiting to make a left turn out of the Highway 525 northbound lane, the truck made the turn, not seeing the Tappes on their motorcycle, and crashed into them. Drugs and alcohol are not believed to be involved in the accident, the state patrol has said that inattention was the cause of the accident.
Motorcyclists are much less protected on the road than occupants of cars and trucks. Without the basic safety features of a car, motorcycle riders are much much more likely to be struck directly by other vehicles, and the resulting injuries are far more likely to be serious or even fatal. Based on data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, well over ten percent of all traffic fatalities in Washington State are motorcyclists, yet motorcycles represent only about 2% of all registered vehicles. Certainly, there can be more than one explanation for this discrepancy between the percentage of vehicles that motorcycles represent and the percentage of fatalities that they represent, but one obvious factor is the fact that motorcyclists are much more vulnerable on their bikes than passenger vehicle occupants. With no metal body, no safety devices like seat belts and airbags, and no mechanical safety features like anti-lock brakes, motorcyclists are much more likely to be seriously injured in a crash.
While we can’t change the inherent vulnerability of motorcyclists, there are things that you can do while riding a motorcycle in order to be as safe as possible. The starting point is to always wear your helmet and riding leathers. Rider safety courses are available in a number of locations, to help develop skill and riding ability in order to try to avoid accidents altogether. Unfortunately, what you can never control, as in this tragedy on Whidbey Island, are the actions of the other drivers with whom you share the road. At this time, my thoughts and sympathy go out to the entire family of Gale Tappe.