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Florida Motorcycle Deaths: Increase in Deaths Since Repeal of Helmet Law
When operating heavy machinery, it’s often recommended that users wear some form of protective gear. Whether that’s safety goggles, gloves, or hard hats these types of items are recommended to ensure the user is as safe as possible.
The same ideology applies to riding a motorcycle. Operating at the same speeds as a car, motorcycles present the added risk of leaving the driver unprotected by a roof or seatbelt. One of the many reasons why motorcycle drivers are expected to wear a helmet is to prevent or decrease head injury if the motorcyclist becomes involved in a collision. However, data reveals that actual helmet usage is far lower than you might expect.
Florida, A Motorcycle Danger Zone
A recent report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) cited Florida as the state with the highest number of motorcycle deaths in the nation. A whopping 1/5, or 19%, of motor vehicle fatalities in the state involve motorcycles, despite the fact that only 7% of motorists ride motorcycles.
Statistics like these cannot be ignored, especially in light of Florida’s repeal of the helmet law in 2000. Karen Morgan, Public Policy Manager of AAA-The Auto Club Group explained, “Since the repeal of the helmet law in Florida, motorcycle fatalities have more than doubled.”
In other states across the nation, lobbyists have used Florida’s motorcycle fatality data to prevent a repeal of the helmet law in their own states. Though they may be a polarizing topic amongst riders, helmets clearly save lives.
Opponents of bringing back the helmet law, like James “Doc” Reichenbach of American Bikes Aimed Toward Education, say that fatalities went up “because registrations went up.” But others, like Andreas Muller, are not so sure.
Muller, a professor at the University of Arkansas, studied the effect of the helmet law repeal and discovered that deaths did indeed increase, even after adjusting data for motorcycle registration increase.
Safety Is a Priority, Not an Option
Riding a motorcycle can offer a sense of limitless possibility. Long-time rider, June Alford, says that riding a motorcycle, “gives you a lot of freedom.” She also cites a sense of exploration, saying, “You meet a lot of interesting people.”
And while this may be the case, this sort of adventure can only be maintained when proper safety measures are followed. After all, Florida State University Police Department officer Jason Harris explains that becoming involved in a motorcycle crash isn’t so much of an ‘if’ as a when.
With this in mind, the fact that 1 out of 7 motorcyclists do not wear helmets on the highway is startling. Luckily, there are ways that motorcyclists and motorists can both increase road safety. For motorcyclists, it all begins with a helmet and safety gear. Making yourself visible with headlights and taillights, using good judgment, and being properly trained are also great ways to let cars know that you are there.
For motorists, it’s important to keep an eye and ear out for approaching motorcycles, leaving room when following a motorcyclist, and being more aware of the surroundings (no driving while distracted). When drivers of all vehicles work together, our roads are much safer places to be.
If you are someone you know has been involved in a motorcycle accident, contact our Tampa motorcycle accident attorneys for a free consultation regarding your legal rights.