Skip to comments.Motorcycle helmet law advocates say rising Florida deaths prove need
Posted on 04/26/2014 2:51:15 PM PDT by Decombobulator
Mandatory motorcycle helmet laws are at the end of the road in Florida, despite a sharp rise in cycling deaths. Florida repealed its helmet law in 2000, and virtually no one in Tallahassee is talking about bringing it back.
But beyond its borders, Florida is emerging as a national poster child for mandatory helmet laws.
Safety advocates recently used Florida's example to help beat back attempts to repeal helmet laws in Louisiana, Nebraska, Tennessee and Vermont. The same legislative fight is raging in five other states.
"The first time I looked at Florida's data, it was hard to believe. That's a lot of deaths," said Karen Morgan, who oversees lobbyists in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee as the public policy manager for AAA Auto Club South. "That's our main argument against repealing helmet laws in these other places. It's helpful to show that eliminating these laws will have consequences."
In the three years before Florida relaxed its helmet law, the state averaged 160 motorcycle deaths per year.
In 2001 after the law changed, helmet use plummeted, motorcycle registrations rose and the annual death toll jumped to 246.
By 2006, it had reached an all-time high of 550.
After Florida enacted a mandatory motorcycle training law, deaths dropped for three straight years from 2008 to 2010. (Registrations also dipped when the economy soured.)
Now fatalities are creeping back up, according to data compiled by the state. In 2010, 2011 and 2012, Florida motorcycle deaths totaled 382, 452 and 457, respectively.
Meanwhile, Florida statistics show a disturbing new trend: Older motorcycle riders are getting back in the saddle and dying in increasing numbers.
"When you make safety optional, people won't take steps to protect themselves. That's human nature," said Lynne McChristian of the Insurance Information Institute in Tampa.
Florida allows riders who are 21 or older to go without helmets if they have $10,000 of personal injury insurance coverage.
Across the country, the tide is turning against stricter universal helmet laws.
Beginning in the mid 1960s, all but three states passed such laws after Congress threatened to take away their federal highway money if they didn't.
Congress changed its position a decade later. One by one, states began repealing their laws.
By 1997, 26 states had universal helmet laws. Today only 19 do. This year, nine of them have been considering weakening those laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
In recent weeks, helmet laws survived challenges in four states. The fight is ongoing in Massachusetts, Maryland, Missouri, New York and Washington.
Motorcycle activists are lobbying legislators, squaring off against trauma doctors and insurance groups who are arguing the other side. Safety advocates point to rising death rates in Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan, which relaxed helmet laws in 2000, 2003 and 2012, respectively.
"All those states that repealed their helmet laws had an increase in injuries and fatalities. There are larger numbers in Florida, where there's a longer riding season," said Heather Drake, who oversees lobbyists for AAA in 13 states. "We drive home the safety argument: You don't need to repeat their mistakes."
Motorcycle groups like ABATE, American Bikers Aimed Toward Education, fought to get rid of Florida's universal helmet law for eight years before succeeding. ABATE lobbyist James "Doc" Reichenbach led the effort.
"Deaths went up because registrations went up. Motorcycle registrations jumped when I got that thing passed," Reichenbach said. "If you get 20,000 more motorcycles, you get more deaths."
Others will debate that point. Andreas Muller, a University of Arkansas professor who studied the effect of relaxing Florida's helmet law, found that it resulted in more deaths even after adjusting for a rise in registrations.
The vast majority of riders escape harm. In Pinellas, Pasco, Hillsborough and Hernando counties, a quarter-million people have motorcycle endorsements on their licenses, meaning they've passed a training course.
In 2012 in that four-county area, 1,680 motorcycle crashes resulted in 1,564 injuries and 78 deaths, according to the state.
Young men account for most of those. But Chanyoung Lee, a researcher at the University of South Florida's Center for Urban Transportation Research, found that as baby boomers retire and take up motorcycling as a hobby, more older riders are dying.
Between 2005 and 2007, bikers 55 to 64 accounted for 10.3 percent of Florida motorcycle deaths. Between 2009 and 2011, that number was 16.6 percent. For bikers ages 45 to 54, the percentage rose from 17.8 to 19.9.
"We call them 'born again bikers.' The kids are out of the house and the wife says, 'You can have that motorcycle you've always wanted,' " said Lane Craven, a motorcycle instructor for the Suncoast Safety Council in St. Petersburg and Clearwater.
"Seasoned riders don't take as many risks," he said. "But the reflexes go, the eyesight goes."
It’s ironic that the next later thread than this one is about Ann Coulter relating a death due to Obamacare. If identifiable deaths indicate the need for a change in law, than Obamacare should go. On the other hand, if Obamacare shouldn’t go, because somehow those deaths don’t count, then there shouldn’t be a helmet law. But, perhaps the real difference is that deaths due to person freedom count, and demand increased government power, while deaths due to diminished freedom do *not* count, and do *not* demand decreased government power.
My personal risk/safety decisions are NOT the business of government! My use or lack of a helmet does NOTHING to endanger the welfare or rights of others, thus government rules are not required (nor welcome). As we allow more of this nanny-state garbage to continue, they will start telling us how to eat, where to travel, and when to work. The effeminization of America continues to lead it down the path of security-over-liberty... leading to less of both in all cases.
If knuckleheads are so reckless as to ignore basic safety, that is their choice.
Keep the FL law as is.
I always ride with a helmet. Seems every other time I ride, something bounces off it, usually a rock. It’s really easy to imagine losing control from a painful enough hit or even a bug in the eye. That being said, it is a drag to wear one when the temp is above 80. Still, safety and control are non negotiable to me.
That being said...I have no problem with states that don't have helmet laws *****if***** those states stipulate that not a *penny* of government $$$ will be spent for the care of those who wind up on a respirator for 10 years because they weren't wearing a helmet.Also,the law would have to stipulate that no private insurance company would be required to cover a penny for such care and no hospital would be required to treat such a person once "brain death" is established.
The article studiously avoids the RATE of deaths. If the number of motorcycle miles quadrupled, triple the deaths would be an improvement - but in pursuit of their nanny state goals they want to make sure we’re kept in the dark.
The number of busy body, nanny staters is on the rise in this country. Now that the majority of people in this country no longer have to work for a living thanks to ObamaCare, they spend all of their free time sticking their big noses in everybody else’s business.
I notice Harley riders don’t usually need helmets like the guys who ride “ricers”. They do wear bandanas to help keep the skull fragments together. :)
Ride safe friend.
Kinda reverse of Darwin’s survival of the fittest at work, if one is stupid enough to ride a motorcycle w/o a helmet. I ALWAYS had a full face top-of-the-line Bell helmet.
Controlled for registrations, the raw count overstates the helmet law repeal impact by more than double.
IF cyclists want to drive around without helmets, let em. I just hope they don’t expect that the rest of us pick up their enormous medical tabs trying to save them. I think if no helmet, and you cave your head in, we don’t do extraordinary steps to save your life. It obviously wasn’t important enough to the cyclist to use a safety device. Why we all have to spend hundreds of thousands on a person who wouldn’t even put on a $100 helmet as a preventative measure, is beyond me.
They didn’t value their life. Why must all the rest pay for a life they didn’t care enough about?
The cyclists around me drive like maniacs going faster than the flow, weaving in and out of lanes like they’re some piece of hot sh1t. and they don’t care if the cars behind them have to break b/c of it. many don’t give two craps about what they are doing to others on the road b/c they believe they’re always right and if there’s an accident they’re always right on a bike.
I used to live in Tampa back in the late 80’s early 90’s, before they changed the law. It was funny to see the “Bikers” riding their hogs with German Kaiser helmets.
Oh yea, that’s safe.
Sure I know a lot of them are into the whole Nazi thing. But still, they met the letter of the law by wearing a steel helmet from 100 years ago with a metal spike sticking out the top.
I ride. Have since 1980. 99% of the time I wear a helmet, a very nice and expensive Simpson. But there’s that 1% of the time where I like the freedom to go without. My head, my life, my choice. I know the risks, and I don’t get crazy when I’m sans helmet. It’s usually a cool down cruise after finishing up yard work, or a lazy ride through the hood on a pleasant afternoon or evening.
What's weird is the Harley riders will have a bandana on their head, but full leathers and good boots. The squids are running around with $500 full-face helmets, paired with gym shorts and tennis shoes.
I repeat...I have no trouble with states that have no helmet laws.But these states *must* assure that knuckleheads who don't wear them get *nothing* from government,private insurance companies or free care from hospitals.Oh,and I forgot to mention...not a nickel from lawsuits against other drivers,motorcycle makers,tire makers,etc,etc,etc.
If you want to wear a helmet in Florida you may. No one is stopping you. You will not be stopped and ticketed for wearing a helmet. Now, what’s the b!tch?
So to keep everyone safe, then also mandatory helmets for all athletes, mandatory knee and shoulder pads for all ballet dancers, etc. etc.
After all, if I can not make my own decisions regarding my own personal safety, then neither can they.
Good thing men like Orville and Wilbur Wright didn’t take chances with their personal safety to do something they loved.
Living in Florida I find it strange I can get a seatbeat violation for not bhckling up, but can ride a bike without a helmet....
Spilt the baby....must wear a helmet until you have ridden for two years or more...
That is very important. A car vs. a motorcycle accidents are not that rare. If a rider is well equipped, he may get some road rash, or a broken bone; if he has no helmet he may die. The car driver will be in far deeper trouble if that happens; it's no longer an accidental injury where everyone lives - it's now an involuntary homicide. If the police wants, they will be investigating every action of the driver, and if they discover that he tuned the radio a few seconds before the accident, or that his phone rang, he may become a murderer.
In other words, it's indeed up to the motorbike rider to live or to die; in a free country this should be nobody's else concern. However it becomes someone else's concern when this rider chooses a random driver as an instrument of his death.
After a long ride in the country, my helmet visor is covered with hundreds of dead mosquitoes and bugs. I’ve always wondered what happens if you’re not wearing a full face helmet, do those bugs just bounce off your face, or stick to it, or what?
You can get a skull fracture just moving your bike in a parking lot.
In 1994 I left Lyons, Colorado to ride to Cheyenne, Wyoming to meet a bunch of friends riding to Sturgis. (27 hawgs and 1 duck). Just north of Longmont on I25 I passed an 18-wheeler and his tires kicked up a pretty good sized rock.
It was just like a scene fro Victory at Sea as I could track the rock looping toward me. Bounced off my right hand (thankfully gloved) caromed off and hit the front of the Shoei.
Left a pretty good groove. If that had been my unprotected head I’m sure I would have laid myself and the bike down at 80MPH.
Now, having said that, I think one is an idiot not to ride without a helmet. However, if one wants to, do it.
Just don’t come crying if it doesn’t go well.
I get the occasional bug in the eye when I’m riding my mountain bike. That’s bad enough, but at least I’m not going over 50 MPH on a bike that weights 500+ lbs.
“Seasoned riders don’t take as many risks,” he said. “But the reflexes go, the eyesight goes.”
I actually agree with this, because I’m one of these guys. My first vehicle was a motorcycle, I’ve had maybe 5 to 8 of them throughout my life. But i sold my last one about 24 years ago and had not ridden since. Until last year when I bought the bike I’ve always wanted, a BMW R1200RT. I’m the proud owner of a shiny new motorcycle and a shiny new Medicare card, so you see where I stand. My skills are certainly not what they used to be but they are improving daily. The biggest difference is the younger me rode without any safety equipment at all. The older me doesn’t get on the bike without full gear, armored pants and armored HiViz jacket, boots, gloves, and a superb full face helmet. it’s called ATGATT - all the gear all the time. Oh yeah, and a MCSF rider course. I know its a risk, but I have almost 6000 hours in Navy aircraft of various types and this ain’t nothing compared to that! and its almost as fun. In other words, understand that risk and mitigate it to the best of you ability. and leave riders alone to do what they want. OFF SOAPBOX.
I ride. I wear a helmet. It’s as natural as putting on a seatbelt for me.
I think you are crazy if you don’t wear a helmet.
But, it’s not my call. Nor is it a public safety issue. If you want to ride naked...go for it.
The missed point is that riders unfamiliar with a new or borrowed motorcycle are significantly more likely to be involved in an accident than riders who have been riding the same bike for over 6 months. New riders are also at greater risk. Those new registrations were likely all in the group most likely to be involved in accidents.
The other question is one of how many more attended Daytona Bike Week because the laws were relaxed, and how much of an effect that had.
Daytona, for those who do not know, it the East Coast equivalent of Sturgis.
Why indeed. Why do you have to pay, or care, what another person does or doesn't do? Because there is a law that hospitals have to treat anyone who comes into the emergency room.
A hospital is a business, but our legislators, in their effete wisdom, have decided to interfere with business and free choices to enlist people like you can aid them in their goal of running everyones' life but their own. Please, don't get down on our fellow Americans who are actually living their lives and having fun. It is called being responsible for your own actions, not your fellow man's.
I love the guy on the Ninja with a $300.0 full face bucket on his head, wearing a tank top, shorts and sandals.
Brain intact so he can feel every moment of the skin debriding as he lays in the burn ward for a month with ‘road rash’.
PPE is an ensemble, not just one item. That having been said, grown ups are responsible for their own decisions and their consequences. The gubmint needs to stay out of it.
The only time i go without a helmet is when I am literally going around the block to just give the bike some turnover - seems it sits there for weeks without being used.
Otherwise always a full helmet for noise reduction ( serious issue right there ) and bugs. They sting and one embedded itself in my neck - had to extract it like a tick - that was the last straw. Florida has insect aviators all year round.
WHY do motorcyclist crash?
How do we stop that?
This is no game and you need to hear how we are crashed and killed new, like the first time.
Let’s fix that and see what the numbers are.
The failure of (STUPID cage drivers) motorists to detect and recognize motorcycles in traffic is the predominating cause of motorcycle accidents.
Is the predominating cause of motorcycle accidents. Let’s not put the cart before the horse.
The driver of the other vehicle involved in collision with the motorcycle did not see the motorcycle before the collision, or did not see the motorcycle until too late to avoid the collision. oops.
The most frequent accident configuration is the motorcycle proceeding straight then the automobile makes a left turn in front of the oncoming motorcycle. oops.
Intersections are the most likely place for the motorcycle accident, with the other vehicle violating the motorcycle right-of-way, and often violating traffic controls.
When car drivers do the above, only taking 1 second, HELMET or not y’all tear us to pieces and kills us and get off scot free.
If we started getting you car drivers locked up for attempted murder for killing motorcycle riders we could make y’all pay better attention on the road. That would cut the kill ratio down a lot to.
Using 1000’s of pounds of metal cars as a weapon.
You know what the last words of the news cast always is???
The report said the motorcycle ride was not wearing a helmet, even if a tractor trailer ran over us......twice.
I swear if I ever get hit a third time and am able to get my hands on the driver at the scene I will do a little house cleaning of my own. I only missed getting to the second guy by a mere few feet before I was stopped. His lucky day.
MC riding nearly 50 years.
2 MC total loss by bad car drivers. Insurance paid
1 was fined 25 dollar fine didn’t hear why just 25.00,
1 for 35 dollars for speeding to fast for conditions but I totaled his dam car out.
2 best MC friends killed by bad car drivers their fault.
It wasn’t the not wearing a helmet that killed them. It was being torn apart or rib cage crushed.
Nothing touch the head.
When a ton car rides over you with your 900 pound motorcycle still firmly attached, you die, helmet or not.
my 2 cents
True. I've seen folks die from very slow accidents that produced head injuries, but I agree that it's their right to take that chance. What I find ironic is that many who don't wear helmets still wear leathers to protect the rest of their bodies.
Of course, i really cringe when I see a motorcycle being driven by a person with flip-flops, shorts and a wife-beater shirt - when I rode, I had a desire to stay in one piece.
Didn’t use to wear a helmet when I ride then I came upon a guy who was showing off a pocket rocket he’d actually sold when he pulled a wheelie, lost it and cracked his skull open like a kasaba melon and died.
I wear one ALL the time now.
But still it is simply the legislature kissing up to insurance companies on this helmet law as well as the seat belt law.
Of course it would be best if All folks did both but is it the job of the nanny state to force you?