The State reported last year that a 25-year-old South Carolina sheriff's deputy died in a motorcycle accident in Aiken County. She had been reported missing that afternoon, and was discovered several hours later in a wooded area near an intersection.
The tragic accident reveals that even the most careful motorcyclists may be at risk of suffering injury or death in a motorcycle crash.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that in a single recent year in South Carolina, 170 people died in motorcycle accidents. Preventing these incidents of course involves educating all motorists, as many of these crashes involve other drivers who weren't sober or paying attention. However, it also involves teaching motorcyclists to drive defensively. Even if a Hilton Head motorcycle accident isn't avoidable, reducing the severity of injuries or the risk of death may be.
Riding Right in South Carolina
Lowering the odds of a serious motorcycle accident starts even before you get on the bike.
Per South Carolina Code of Laws Section 56‐5‐3610, motorcyclists in this state are granted all rights and shall be subject to all applicable duties as the driver of any other motor vehicle - except only for special regulations or other provisions which by their nature would not apply.
Some of those duties include:
- Ride no more than one person to a bike unless the bike is specifically designed to safely accommodate a passenger.
- Ride facing forward, with one leg on each side of the bike.
- Do not ride carrying a package or bundle.
- Do not ride with the bike attached to another motor vehicle.
- Do not ride more than two motorcycles abreast to a single lane.
- Helmets must be worn by all riders under the age of 21 (though they are recommended for all riders to reduce the odds of serious injuries or death). The NHTSA reports helmets saved the lives of nearly 1,775 motorcyclists just in 2015.
- Wear eye goggles or other eye protection. DOT-approved helmets come equipped standard with these.
- Avoid bad weather. When road conditions are slippery or windy, or otherwise treacherous, use extreme caution and consider pulling over until it's safe to continue.
- Ride sober and well-rested. You must have all your faculties to safely operate a motorcycle, especially considering that you do not have the same protections, such as seat belts and air bags, that riders in passenger vehicles have. Also note that if you have been awake for 18 hours or more, your impairment level is at least that of someone with a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08.
Collecting Damages in a South Carolina Motorcycle Accident
If you are injured in a motorcycle accident, you may have several avenues through which you may pursue recovery. South Carolina is a "tort" state when it comes to auto insurance. What this means is you are entitled to pursue damages against the at-fault driver without first tapping your own personal injury protection insurance.
You should also know that even if you are partially to blame, you may still be entitled to collect damages because South Carolina courts follow what is known as a modified comparative fault model of liability. This means you can collect damages so long as you are no more than half responsible for the crash. In other words, your own negligence can't exceed that of the defense. However, the damages to which you are entitled will be proportionately reduced.