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 Florida repealed its helmet law in 2000, and virtually no one in Tallahassee is talking about bringing it back.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...