Florida weather is perfect for plenty of recreational activities, from boating and biking to fishing and hunting. With many months of warm weather, residents can often enjoy their favorite activities year round. It’s no surprise then that Florida is a motorcyclist’s dream. With plenty of days of great weather a year, it’s easy to get your bike on the road. Along with this perfect motorcycle climate, however, comes an increased risk of motorcycle accidents.
In the interest of public safety and education, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles does an annual Motorcycle and Bicycle safety campaign. While the yearly focus may seem like too much, the truth is that we may need to focus on motorcycle safety even more frequently. Florida leads the nation in motorcycle fatalities (as of the most recent numbers released in 2017).
Currently, there are approximately 1,271,360 Floridians riding a motorcycle with a motorcycle endorsement or Class E license, and that doesn’t include visitors who come to the state to enjoy the scenery as they ride. That’s a lot of motorcyclists. And plenty of reason to focus on the safety of our friends and neighbors.
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FLHSMV Motorcycle Statistics
Fewer than 3% of traffic accidents in Hillsborough County in 2016 involved a motorcycle—but motorcycle accidents led to almost 22% of all traffic fatalities in the county that year.
According to the Florida Department of Highways Safety and Motor Vehicles, Hillsborough County experienced 741 motorcycle accidents in 2016 (that’s an average of just over 2 a day), which is actually a decrease over the previous year. While 2016 held 32 fewer crashes, there were four more fatalities than in 2015 and 19 more fatalities than in 2014.
While Hillsborough County saw a small decrease in motorcycle accidents in 2016, Florida as a whole saw a 1.27% increase, though fatalities were down by 5.68%.
Unfortunately, the Traffic Crash Facts Annual Report does not detail how these traffic accidents happened. While the report discusses the different weather and lighting conditions, ages of drivers, possible intoxication, and other variables that may affect car accident risk, it does not break down these variables for motorcyclists in particular. For example, the report states that 795 fatal accidents occurred because the motor vehicle was operated carelessly or negligently, but it does not differentiate between vehicle types. Hopefully, since so many Florida motorcyclists’ lives are at risk, the state will do another motorcycle report that highlights different factors affecting riders and endangering their safety.
NHTSA Report on Helmet Use
In May 2018, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration published a summary titled “Lives and Costs Saved by Motorcycle Helmets, 2016.” The statistics in the report reference injuries and fatalities of motorcyclists nationwide between 2011 and 2016 and compare the known injuries and fatalities of those wearing helmets and those not wearing helmets. To determine the efficacy of helmets, the ratio between injuries and fatalities are calculated for those who were helmeted and those who were not helmeted during their accidents. It is believed that this ratio provides an insight into the lives saved by helmet use. Therefore, if there is a higher ratio of injuries to fatalities, then it is assumed that more people were injured as opposed to killed. However, when the ratio is low, meaning that of all the possible accidents a higher percent resulted in death than the other group, it is assumed that the action (in this case, not wearing a helmet) led to an increase in fatalities.
In 2015, the last year that statistics are available for all states, the helmeted ratio was 18.56, while the unhelmeted ratio was 13.41.
This information is then extrapolated to come up with a number for how many lives could have been saved if more people had worn helmets. To do this, NHTSA uses the established “effectiveness” of helmets for preventing death, which is 37% for operators and 41% for passengers. In Florida, which leads the nation in motorcycle fatalities in 2016, it is estimated that 108 lives may have been saved that year had helmet use been at 100%.
Helmets are the most effective piece of safety gear for motorcyclists. Florida does not have a 100% helmet use law, exempting drivers and passengers who are 21 or over and have the necessary insurance. However, helmets are proven to save lives and reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury.
Safety Tips for Motorcyclists
Statistics like the ones above can help Floridians make more informed decisions when it comes to driving and operating a motorcycle. Here are few common sense tips for safely operating a motorcycle:
- Protect your noggin, wear a helmet. If you have the appropriate insurance coverage and are over 21, you can ride without a helmet, however, the benefits of wearing a helmet are clear.
- Be attentive at intersections. Many motorcycle accidents occur at intersections when another vehicle fails to see a motorcycle and turns into it.
- Ride defensively—note where other drivers are and pay attention to anyone driving erratically or merging without looking. Steer clear of these people.
- Never ride drunk. It’s never ok to operate any motor vehicle while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. Motorcycle accidents can be deadly or lead to traumatic injuries, don’t increase your chances of having an accident by drinking and driving.
Safety Tips for Sharing the Road with Motorcyclists
Whenever we are on the road, we have a responsibility to abide by traffic laws. A driver’s license is a privilege and in order to maintain it, we must follow the basic rules that come with it. Beyond that, it’s necessary to harken back to the golden rule and treat others like we would like to be treated—even (or perhaps especially) on the roadways. Here are a few safety tips for sharing the road with motorcyclists:
- Pay attention at intersections. Before turning left, check for oncoming traffic. If there’s a tree or bush blocking your view, wait a moment to ensure there isn’t a motorcycle or bicycle about to cross the intersection. Many accidents occur when a vehicle is turning left at an intersection and they fail to see an oncoming vehicle.
- Give motorcycles the space they deserve. Motorcycles are just like any other vehicle, they deserve an entire lane. It is not acceptable—or legal—to share a lane with a motorcycle. Doing so endangers the life of the motorcyclist. Plus, when you pass a motorcycle too closely, the gust of wind that your vehicle creates could throw the motorcyclist off balance.
- Never tailgate a motorcycle. A motorcycle, which weighs less than a car or other passenger vehicle, can stop more quickly, leaving you with insufficient time to stop. In addition, by easing up on the throttle, a motorcycle can easily slow down without using its brakes—meaning its brake lights won’t give you a warning that they are slowing down. A good rule of thumb is to give any motorcyclist a four-second buffer.
At Winters & Yonker, we aim to support our Tampa neighbors. We understand that accidents happen despite our best efforts. If you’ve been injured because of another driver’s actions, the civil court system may help you find the justice and compensation you deserve. An accident can sidetrack your life, leaving you with a mountain of bills, lost wages, and more. While you’re recovering, let us fight for you. If we believe you have a valid claim, we’ll help research your case and do our best to get you the compensation you need. Ready to get started? Contact us today.