VIRGINIA BEACH – Motorcycles are a fun way to get around town, but when they’re involved in a traffic crash they present a greater risk of injury and even death for the operator.
Last year in Virginia Beach, crashes involving motorcycles led to six fatalities. That’s an increase of six over 2016, when no motorcycle fatalities were recorded in the city.
Virginia Beach followed a regional trend last year, when fatal motorcycle crashes increased by nearly 300 percent in Hampton Roads — up to 25 from just nine in 2016.
So far this year there have been just two fatal motorcycle crashes in Virginia Beach and 11 across Hampton Roads.
There were a total of 134 motorcycle crashes in the city in 2017 (up from 120 in 2016) and 134 injuries (126 in 2016).
Of the six fatalities, three involved speed and two involved alcohol. Neither mixes well with a two-wheeled vehicle.
The local numbers also mirror statewide statistics.
“Last year Virginia recorded the highest number of motorcyclist fatalities in a decade,” said Brandy Brubaker, public relations and media liaison with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. “We are drilling into crash data and doing a targeted analysis of each fatality to determine if a pattern emerges.”
Interestingly, none of the six fatalities in Virginia Beach occurred on the interstate. All of them happened on city streets: General Booth Boulevard, Muddy Creek Road, Witchduck Road, Kempsville Road, Wolfsnare Road, and Miami Road.
The two fatalities this year were also on city streets: West Neck Road and Independence Boulevard.
Brubaker said there are currently 11,846 motorcycles registered in Virginia Beach, while statewide there are about 209,774.
“Across Virginia, speeding and failure to maintain control of the motorcycle year after year contribute to a high percentage of motorcyclists’ deaths,” she said. “So does alcohol use. Forty percent of all single-vehicle motorcyclist fatalities in 2017 involved a motorcyclist with a blood alcohol content above the legal limit.”
Brubaker said they encourage motorcyclists of all skill levels to take advantage of the Virginia Rider Training Program, which offers statewide motorcycle classes for both novice and experienced riders. In Virginia Beach, Tidewater Community College offers a motorcycle safety course.
Motorcycle riders in Virginia are, by law, required to wear a helmet. A rider without a helmet, she said, is 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury than a rider wearing a helmet.