Motorcycle Safety in Florida: Mix of Good News, Bad News

Orlando Motorcycle Accident

If you are a Florida motorcycle rider, a new safety report brings great news during Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month about the number of motorcycle accidents occurring in the state and across the country.

Crash-related fatalities are down 10 percent nationwide for the first nine months of 2013, as compared to 2012, and they are projected to plummet by 7 percent, according to a Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) report issued in early May. Total fatalities across the nation are expected to be 4,610 for 2013, compared to 4,957 in 2012, the report shows.

Florida was among 35 states that saw a decrease in the first three quarters of 2013 as its motorcycle fatalities fell by 7 percent, from 326 in 2012 to 303 in 2013.

Unfortunately, that good news is tempered by some bad.

Inclement weather for the first half of 2013 is likely the reason for fewer fatalities as rain and cold weather forced people to keep their bikes in the garage, the GHSA report states. The previous year brought good riding weather, producing greater likelihood for crashes.

Also, riding a motorcycle is no safer than it was 15 years ago, according to the report. Passenger vehicles were twice as safe in 2011 as they were in 1997, based on the number of occupant fatalities per vehicle. Motorcycle safety, on the other hand, stayed the same in that time frame.

The Need to Keep Safety in Mind

The report notes that, even though wearing a helmet is the best way to survive a motorcycle crash, helmet use dipped to 60 percent in 2012 from 66 percent in 2011. Florida state law does not require helmets for riders over age 21 as long as they have a minimum of $10,000 in medical insurance.

More than half of those killed in Florida motorcycle crashes from 2008 to 2012 were not wearing a helmet, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

NHTSA figures are worse than those in the GHSA report, showing 491 fatalities in the state in 2012 and 556 in 2008. Even more troubling, about 240 people are killed annually when they go un-helmeted.

Riding a motorcycle comes with inherent danger. Not only are motorcycles more difficult to control than a passenger vehicle, they don’t come equipped with metal sides to protect the rider in a crash. And despite safety consciousness of the typical rider, passenger cars often fail to pay attention and don’t see them because of their size.

That often results in preventable crashes, even though motorcycle riders have the same rights to the road as other motorists.

With that in mind, motorcycle activists encourage all drivers to share the road.

Allstate.com says motorcyclists should follow these tips when they hit the road this spring and summer:

  • Don’t ride without wearing a helmet and make sure it fits. Use one that has a DOT label showing it meets federal safety guidelines.
  • Know your motorcycle’s limits and follow speed-limit laws.
  • Don’t tailgate and always use your turn signals to let other motorists anticipate your moves.
  • Respect other drivers and don’t weave through traffic or ride on the shoulder.
  • Make sure drivers can see you by avoiding their blind spots. Always use headlights.
  • When braking, use both at the same time and squeeze them slowly and steadily.
  • Before you head out on the road this year, also consider buying some strong riding wear, including a sturdy jacket, jeans/motorcycle pants, gloves and boots.

Don’t let a beautiful day for riding be spoiled because others don’t share the road.