After Las Vegas recently suffered its fifth fatal motorcycle accident of 2012, media attention rushed to focus blame on the victims. Police reportedly claimed that the riders were at fault in every case, and drew attention to the stereotype of young male riders on "crotch rockets" capable of speeds approaching 200 miles per hour.
The more complicated truth of the matter is that every traffic fatality is an individual incident with many factors at play. All anecdotes aside, by one very important measure, motorcycle safety in Nevada is improving.
The most recent statistics released by the Nevada Department of Public Safety (DPS) show a decrease in motorcycle fatalities both statewide and in the Las Vegas Metro. Deaths to Nevada motorcycle riders decreased 13 percent from 45 in 2010 to 39 in 2011, and corresponding figures in Clark County fell from 30 to 23, a 23 percent decrease.
Traffic fatalities also fell in every other category except fatal pedestrian accidents, which increased on a statewide basis but fell by about 10 percent in Las Vegas. The total number of Nevada traffic deaths has fallen from an all-time high of 432 in 2006 to 243 in 2011.
A goal of zero fatalities: One death on Nevada streets and highways is too many
The Nevada Department of Transportation publicly launched the program Zero Fatalities in 2011 to encourage this downward trend. Aspects of the safety plan include enhanced traffic enforcement, passage of a statewide ban on handheld phones, centerline rumble strips, road safety audits and traffic light improvements.
The most difficult challenge in attaining that goal is the role of the negligent driver who fails to safely share the road with motorcycles. A comprehensive traffic study by Las Vegas Police Department found that motorcycle riders were at fault in only slightly more than half of all accidents, and the threats to their safety in a collision are much greater.
When protective gear, helmets and defensive driving fail to safeguard motorcycle riders, aggressive advocacy from a personal injury attorney can help to protect the future interests of injured riders and survivors of a wrongful death.