Number of Florida motorcycle fatalities increasing

With rising rider death rates from motorcycle crashes since repealing its helmet law 14 years ago, Florida is quickly becoming a poster child for the dangers that can happen when motorcyclists are no longer required to wear helmets. According to reports, the three years prior to the helmet law repeal averaged 160 deaths per year in Florida motorcycle riders. In 2001, however, the number of deaths went up to 246. The number of deaths in the state reached its highest point in 2006 at 550 and in recent years has dropped just slightly, coming in at 382, 452 and 457 for the 2010, 2011 and 2012 years respectively.

Florida’s motorcycle statistics also appear to show that the death rates are climbing among older riders, possibly pointing to slower reflexes and declining eyesight as causes for some of the crashes, according to a motorcycle instructor in Clearwater. Florida’s motorcycle statistics are being used in other states to show the consequences that can happen when state’s repeal or relax their mandatory helmet laws. Insurance companies, health care providers and organizations like AAA are all arguing against the changes.

Opponents of the mandatory helmet laws, however, are challenging the numbers, claiming that the increase in motorcycle fatalities may also be attributed to an increase in the number of riders. A lobbyist with American Bikers Aimed Toward Education argued that the number of rider deaths increased because there was a jump in registrations when the helmet law was repealed.

The reason for the increase in deaths is likely to continue to be a source of debate, but everyone can agree that a helmet does provide an added measure of protection in the case of a motorcycle crash. An inattentive driver may not see a motorcycle before it is too late, and these types of crashes often result in serious injuries to the rider. If the other driver is found at fault, the rider may be able to file suit for compensation for medical expenses or loss of income.

Source: The Globe and Mail, “Florida’s motorcycle statistics make a strong case for helmet laws” Mike Brassfield, Apr. 26, 2014

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