Motorcycle Safety (and Danger) in Florida
At the Law Offices of Aronberg & Aronberg, our dedicated personal injury lawyers represent individuals who have been harmed due to the negligence or wrongdoing of others. Often, our cases involve motor vehicle crashes. Sometimes, the motor vehicle crashes involve motorcycles. Obviously, motorcycle crashes can be incredibly dangerous if proper precautions are not taken. Very recently, for instance, a 51-year-old motorcyclist from Ft. Lauderdale died after crashing into a minivan in Coral Springs. No, it wasn’t late at night – it was in broad daylight at about 12:00 PM. Highlighting the danger of riding motorcycles (compared with the inherent safety of traveling in an enclosed car or truck), while the motorcyclist was killed in the crash, neither the driver nor any passenger in the minivan was even injured.
This crash was not an irregularity. Given that we call the Sunshine State our home, it is of particular concern that, according to a recent report from the NHTSA, Florida has more motorcycle accident-caused fatalities than any other state in the country. Using data from 2013, the NHTSA reported that Florida saw 467 motorcycle riders killed. Followed closely by Texas with 457. California came in third with 435 motorcycle riders killed. True, as our personal injury lawyers know, Florida does have a very large state population (in 2013 it was about 19.5 million). But California and Texas have far larger populations (38.3 million and 26.4 million respectively in 2013). This means that Florida’s motorcycle rider fatality number is disproportionately—and shockingly—high.
Let’s break down Florida’s 467 motorcycle deaths for a more in-depth look at the problem. First, alcohol clearly played a role. Of the 467 people who died in a motorcycle accident, 29% had a blood alcohol content (BAC) above the legal limit of 0.08. Further, 34% of them had at least some alcohol in their system (a BAC of at least 0.01). But what also clearly played a role in the high number of fatalities was the lack of use of helmets. Of the motorcycle riders who died in motorcycle accidents in Florida in 2013, 50% were known to have not been wearing a helmet. Clearly, while wearing a helmet does not absolutely prevent motorcycle deaths, it can be easily inferred that not wearing helmets makes death more likely. The fact is, as our Delray Beach personal injury lawyers know, helmets are effective. According to the NHTSA, in states without universal helmet laws, 50% of motorcyclists killed in 2013 weren’t wearing helmets, compared to 8% in states with universal helmet laws.
In Florida, state law requires that all riders younger than 21 years wear helmets, without exception. Those 21 years and older, however, may ride without helmets if they can show proof that they are covered by a medical insurance policy. Some people attribute to the increase in motorcycle crash-caused deaths in Florida to the relatively relaxed motorcycle helmet rules. According to a WCTV article published last year, Karen Morgan, a public policy manager at AA, stated that “[s]ince the repeal of the [more strict] helmet law in Florida, motorcycle fatalities have more than doubled.”
A 2016 AAA survey of Florida motorcycle riders proved insightful. The report showed that 68% of motorcycle owners felt that motorcycle riders should be required by law to wear a helmet (compared with 85% of the general population who felt the same way). Despite the relatively low number of motorcyclists who think the law should force them to wear helmets, 86% of motorcycle owners report wearing helmets when they ride their bikes.
If you are riding on Florida’s roads and highways, please be careful. Drivers, be on the lookout for motorcyclists. Motorcyclists, please wear helmets when you go out for a ride—doing so can be the difference between life and death.