By Marcus Fernandez
It’s outstanding weather throughout most of the year in Florida. Because of this, Florida is an ideal place to ride a motorcycle. Just look around on any given day and notice how many motorcycles are on the road. Florida is home to 651,185 registered motorcycles, but it doesn’t stop there. The state’s outstanding year-round weather makes it a prime destination for out-of-state motorcyclists to visit.
Motorcycle enthusiasts talk about the freedom, exhilaration, and fun of riding. While this may be true, riding a motorcycle also exposes riders and passengers to a greater risk of injury and death than occupants of other types of vehicles. “Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month” seems like a good time to look at some of the misconceptions that people, including motorcycle riders, have about motorcycle accidents.
Misconception 1: Based on accident numbers, motorcycles are safer
While it’s true that accident data shows fewer accidents involving motorcycles than it does for other types of motor vehicles, it is important to keep in mind the disproportionate number of other types of vehicles on the road compared to motorcycles. For example, there are more than 19 million cars, trucks, and buses registered in the Sunshine State. In comparison, there are only 681,185 motorcycles registered in Florida.
Instead of looking at the number of accidents involving motorcycles, we should look at the higher rate. Someone riding a motorcycle is 28 times more likely than someone riding in another type of vehicle to be killed in a crash. The risk of being injured is also four times more likely for someone on a motorcycle.
Misconception 2: Local streets are safer than interstates for motorcyclists
Logic may have you believe that the lower speed limits of local streets in Tampa make it safer for motorcyclists than the 70 mph speed limit on I-75. This is one instance when logic does not match the results of government studies. The information below shows more than half of motorcycle accidents happen on urban streets.
Vehicles may travel faster on highways, but the following factors contribute to making local roads riskier for motorcycles:
- Drivers fail to yield by turning into the path of oncoming motorcycles.
- Vehicle occupants opening doors into the path of a motorcyclist.
- Vehicles making sudden stops because of traffic congestion or changing traffic signals.
- Other vehicles turning from or into driveways and parking lot entrances.
- Pedestrians stepping into the path of a motorcycle.
- Pavement that is uneven or in disrepair may make it difficult for a rider to control a motorcycle.
Wider lanes to give motorcycles room away from cars or trucks in adjoining lanes, no pedestrians or intersections to contend with, and a generally smoother flow of traffic, make highway riding safer than urban streets.
Misconception 3: Motorcycle helmets do not save lives
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wearing a properly fitting motorcycle helmet can prevent deaths and injuries in a crash. Helmets reduce head injury risk in crashes by 69% and deaths by 37%.
Some states have mandatory helmet laws for all riders, but Florida takes a different approach. Helmet use and eye protection are mandatory for riders who are younger than 21 years of age. Riders ages 21 and older have the option of not wearing a helmet. But, they must wear eye protection and have medical benefits insurance in the minimum coverage amount of $10,000.
The insurance provides coverage for payment of an injured rider’s medical expenses. Florida requires motorists to have Personal Injury Protection or no-fault insurance coverage, but it does not apply to motorcycle riders or their passengers.
Misconception 4: Wearing a helmet impairs your vision and hearing
If you purchase a motorcycle helmet with a sticker on the back proving that it meets all federal safety standards and adjusting it for a proper fit, it will not impair your ability to see or hear. In fact, your ability to hear actually improves with a helmet.
Federal standards require helmets to permit a person’s peripheral vision to remain within normal range while wearing it. Riders with helmets retain the ability to detect potential dangers ahead and to both sides. This allows them to react to and either avoid or lessen the consequences of a collision.
Some may believe helmets protecting the side of a rider’s head by extending over the ears impairs the ability to hear. This Is simply not true. The ability to hear is improved because the helmet reduces the effects of the wind.
The sound of the wind while riding a motorcycle makes it impossible for a person to hear. Helmets reduce the noise and improve the ability of a rider to hear other sounds, such as car horns and sirens.
Misconception 5: Helmets are made to last forever
The hard, outer shell of a motorcycle helmet is only one part of a complex system designed to protect your head against penetration, abrasion, and impact force in a crash. The outer shell protects your head from hard objects, such as rocks that may be tossed up by the wheels of other vehicles and from the pavement in a crash.
The inner liner of the shell collapses in a crash to absorb shock that would otherwise impact your skull. A rubber foam liner keeps the helmet comfortably positioned on your head while riding. The chinstrap prevents it from falling off in a crash.
It’s always a good idea to replace a helmet after an accident, even if the exterior shows only minor scratches and superficial damage. Damage to the inner liner of the shell, which collapses to absorb the force of an impact, may exist that would impair the protective abilities of the helmet in the future. You also should replace it when the foam liner shows signs of breaking down from heat and perspiration.
Misconception 6: You don’t need a personal injury lawyer after a motorcycle accident
Auto insurance companies and defense lawyers want you to believe that riding a motorcycle is an inherently dangerous activity. They also want you to believe any accident is probably the fault of the rider. This is a tactic to avoid paying the claims of motorcycle riders injured or killed in accidents caused by the negligence and carelessness of drivers.
If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a motorcycle accident, Florida laws give you the right to be compensated. Contact a KFB motorcycle accident attorney to learn more about your compensation rights and how to fight the unfair tactics of insurance adjusters and insurance company defense lawyers.