As reported in 2017 by The Post and Courier, South Carolina is one of the deadliest states in the southeast for motorcyclists. While many different reasons account for this deadly ranking, both motorcyclists and state officials are unsure of how to reduce the state’s death rates. Consider the following statewide accident statistics for more information.
The Post and Courier article notes that South Carolina’s average annual death rate for motorcyclists from 2011 to 2015 was 10 deaths for every 10,000 motorcycles, which placed the state second only to Mississippi in a comparison of the motorcyclist fatality rates across nine southeastern states. Mississippi has the least number of motorcycles of all of the nine states included in the study, which may explain that state’s high average.
Below we discuss some more statistics provided by the South Carolina Department of Public Safety using 2017 data:
- South Carolina experienced 116 fatal motorcycle accidents in 2017, a decrease of 23 accidents from the year before, after two years of increases. Sadly, these accidents resulted in 117 deaths.
- During 2017, South Carolina experienced 1,693 motorcycle accidents that involved injuries, with a total of 1,996 injured individuals.
- In a five-year time from 2013 to 2017, South Carolina experienced 597 fatal motorcycle collisions and 8,247 motorcycle accidents that involved injuries. The deadliest year during that time period was 2016, with 148 deaths in 139 fatal collisions.
- Men accounted for nearly 86 percent of all motorcyclists involved in accidents in 2017. Female motorcyclists only accounted for 9 of the 117 fatal motorcycle accidents during the same year.
- Actions by the motorcyclists contributed to more than 54 percent of the fatalities, injuries, and property damage that occurred in motorcycle accidents in 2017, including in 81 fatal accidents. Other factors unrelated to the motorcyclists’ actions caused 41 of the fatal accidents.
- In 2017, South Carolina had 115,143 registered motorcycles—down slightly from the year before. The motorcycle collision rate for registered motorcycles was 2 accidents out of every 100 registered motorcycles.
- In a ten-year time frame from 2008 to 2017, there were only three years that had less than one hundred fatal motorcycle collisions; there were 95 fatal motorcycle collisions in 2009, 84 in 2010, and 89 in 2014.
- 2014 featured the lowest fatality rate for motorcyclists in the past five years, with a rate of slightly less than eight fatal motorcycle accidents for every 10,000 registered motorcycles.
- In 2017, the most motorcycle accidents occurred on secondary roads, with 778 total collisions occurring on such roads, including 45 fatal accidents and 580 injury collisions.
State Laws Involving Motorcyclists
The Post and Courier article included a discussion of these unique characteristics of South Carolina laws that pertain to motorcyclists:
- South Carolina law only requires motorcyclists that are 20 years old or younger to wear helmets. Research suggests that if the law required motorcyclists of all ages to wear helmets, the state’s death rate could potentially drop by as much as 42 percent. Laws in the 19 states and the District of Columbia require the use of a helmet while riding a motorcycle; in these places, motorcyclist death rates are 20 to 40 percent lower when compared to states without such laws.
- The state allows motorcyclists to obtain licenses without any formal training and little proof of road proficiency. The state’s motorcycle laws only require written and vision tests, along with the choice of either proof of a safety education course or a road skills test that the individual takes on a closed course at speeds of around 15 miles per hour.
Time of Day and Year
The time and date often play a role in motorcycle accidents. According to the South Carolina Department of Public Safety:
- May was 2017’s most dangerous month, with 322 total motorcycle collisions, including 12 accidents with fatalities, 250 with injuries, and 60 with just property damage. 297 individuals sustained injuries in motorcycle accidents in May.
- September was the deadliest month of 2017, with 17 fatal motorcycle accidents resulting in the deaths of 17 people.
December was the safest month of 2017 for motorcyclists, with 80 total collisions that involved 3 fatal accidents and 65 accidents with injuries, resulting in injuries to 82 people.
- 490 of the state’s motorcycle accidents occurred on a Saturday, making that the single most dangerous day for motorcyclists. Saturdays were also the deadliest day of the week, with 33 fatal collisions happening on Saturdays in 2017. Saturday accidents accounted for injuries to 463 people.
- The safest day of the week for motorcyclists in 2017 was Monday; however, 228 total collisions, including 9 fatal accidents and 177 injury accidents, still occurred on Mondays.
- In 2017, the most dangerous time of day for motorcyclists in terms of being involved in an accident was the late afternoon to evening hours of 3 to 6 pm. During that time of day, there were 594 total collisions, including 21 fatal accidents and 447 accidents that involved injuries.
- Nighttime hours between 6 p.m. and midnight represented the deadliest time of day for motorcyclists, with 33 fatal accidents occurring between 6 and 9 p.m. and another 27 between 9 p.m. and midnight.
- Daytime hours with clear or cloudy conditions and no rain represented the most common light and weather conditions for an accident to occur, with 1,438 motorcycle accidents occurring in these conditions during 2017.
- Dark hours with clear or cloudy conditions and no rain were the deadliest conditions for motorcyclists, with 64 fatal collisions occurring under these conditions.
- 77 individuals involved in fatal South Carolina motorcycle accidents in 2017 failed to wear helmets; whereas 34 fatal accidents involved riders who were wearing helmets.
- The age group most frequently killed or injured in motorcycle accidents while not wearing helmets was riders over the age of 45. Fatalities and injuries were also common for riders between the ages of 25 to 34 who were not wearing helmets.
- Riders failed to wear helmets in 66 percent of the state’s fatal motorcycle accidents in 2017.
- Nearly 60 percent of South Carolina’s motorcycle accidents that involved non-fatal injuries featured riders who weren’t wearing helmets.
- Riders wearing helmets accounted for 29 percent of the state’s fatal accidents and 35 percent of its injury accidents.
Reasons for a High Death Rate
The Post and Courier report cites the following reasons for the state’s high motorcycle accident death rate:
- Lack of helmet use
- Risky behavior by untrained or reckless motorcyclists, such as weaving in and out of traffic and popping wheelies at high speeds
- Lack of visibility for drivers of other vehicles
- Cell phone use and distracted driving by other drivers
- Hazardous road conditions, such as potholes and gravel
If you or a loved one were injured in a motorcycle accident, we want to discuss your case. Hughey Law Firm attorneys have represented clients in the Charleston metro region and in communities throughout South Carolina. We’re also licensed in North Carolina and Georgia. Our attorneys handle cases on a contingency basis, meaning we don’t collect a fee until we resolve your claim.
Give us a call at (843) 881-8644 or complete our online contact form. We’ll schedule a free consultation to determine if we can help you.
When a claim involves catastrophic injuries, an insurance company may choose to defend a case when settling is the reasonable option. When an insurance company allows litigation to proceed, it’s often an effort to encourage a lower settlement. Continued litigation forces a plaintiff to incur ongoing court costs and fees. Insurers and/or defendants may use several common strategies to reduce or discharge liability for a plaintiff’s injuries, including:
- No negligence – If a vehicle driver convinces a jury that he wasn’t negligent, the jury might decide that the plaintiff shouldn’t receive damages.
- Comparative negligence: If a defendant driver convinces a jury that the injured motorcyclist was also negligent, South Carolina’s Modified Comparative Fault statute allows a damage reduction based on the negligence percentage. If a plaintiff is 51 percent at fault or greater, he recovers no damages.
- No defect – A motorcycle or motorcycle helmet manufacturer may plead no defect to allegations that their product contributed to or caused an accident. Maintenance and repair companies use the same strategy in convincing a jury that they didn’t perform defective repairs or maintenance.
- Damage dispute – An insurance company may reduce the potential damage amount if they convince a jury that their insured didn’t cause some or any of the damages.
Our lawyers have dealt with many defendants and their insurance companies, and we understand their tactics. We address courtroom defenses by documenting the evidence and resolving legal and liability issues early on. Our attention to detail has helped us overcome typical insurance company strategies and achieve positive outcomes for many of our clients.
Our clients’ injury settlements can include economic damages and general damages. Courts also occasionally award punitive damages based on the individual facts of the case. We determine our clients’ economic damages by totaling their out-of-pocket expenses. As motorcyclists often sustain injuries that require long-term medical care, we require an economist’s projections to determine future costs. Economic damages may include the following:
- Current and future income losses;
- Diminished earning capacity;
- Current and future treatment and pharmacy costs;
- Ramps and mobility aids;
- Physical, emotional, and occupational therapy;
- Medical transportation;
- Household assistance; and
- Funeral and burial costs.
Evaluating general damages isn’t as simple as totaling bills and lost wages. They include financial damages for emotional, psychological, and lifestyle issues. General damages include these and other subjective considerations:
- Pain and suffering;
- Emotional distress;
- Spousal and relationship issues;
- Loss of bodily functions;
- Temporary and permanent disabilities;
- Scars; and
- In some cases, a jury may award punitive damages under South Carolina 15-32-510. For a successful punitive damage award, the plaintiff must demonstrate “clear and convincing evidence” of the defendant’s “willful, wanton, or reckless conduct.”