In 2010, 4,502 motorcyclists were killed in traffic accidents in the U.S., a slight increase from the 4,469 in 2009. In addition, over 83,000 motorcyclists were injured. Many of these injuries and deaths could have been prevented if more motorcycle riders and their passengers wore helmets. Wearing a helmet lowers a motorcycle rider's risk of fatal injury by 37%. Despite the documented effectiveness of helmets, many motorcyclists choose not to wear them, especially when state laws don't require helmet use. Currently, only 20 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico require helmet use by riders of all ages. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that helmets saved the lives of 1,550 motorcyclists in 2010. And if all motorcyclists had worn helmets, an additional 706 lives could have been saved.
Per vehicle mile traveled in 2010, motorcyclists were about 30 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a motor vehicle traffic crash and 5 times more likely to be injured. While motorcycles made up no more than 3% of all registered vehicles in the U.S., motorcyclists account for 14% of total traffic deaths. In 2010, 35% of all motorcyclists involved in fatal crashes were speeding, compared to 23% for passenger car drivers, 19% for light-truck drivers, and 8% for large-truck drivers.
Under Virginia law, all motorists are required to drive at a speed that is reasonable or prudent within the speed limits posted, subject to a penalty of not less than five dollars for each mile per hour in excess of posted speed limits. Va. Code § 46.2-870. Also, any person who drives a vehicle on any highway recklessly or at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person shall be guilty of reckless driving. Va. Code § 46.2-852. Any speed in excess of the following speeds is evidence of unreasonable driving:
- 25 mph approaching a school crossing. Va. Code § 46.2-873.
- 25 mph in a business or residential district. Va. Code § 46.2-874.
- 55 mph in other locations, unless the director of highway traffic states otherwise. Va. Code § 46.2-870.
In most other locations the Department of Transportation department may determine and declare a prima facie speed limit of 60, 55, 50, 45, 40, 35, 30 or 25 miles per hour, whichever it deems most appropriate.