TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The roar of nearly 100 motorcycles pierced the quiet at the State Capitol on Monday as the Legislative session's most unusual, colorful and deadly serious lobbyists roared into Tallahassee.
The bikers roared up U.S. Highway 27 and onto the Capitol grounds. They posted colors and raised an over-sized American flag. With each tolling of a bell, another name was read from the organization's membership who was killed in the last year.
As the names were read, Josh Bear was visibly upset. His brother, Jacob, was killed six months ago.
"An older lady pulled out in front of him, took a middle-left turn without an arrow and pulled right out in front of him and he passed away on impact," Bear said.
The bikers are on a campaign to increase penalties when someone dies.
"Right now, the fines run anywhere from $89 to $166 if you hit and hurt, injure or if you kill somebody," said Danny Fish, president of ABATE (American Bikers Aiming Toward Education) of Pensacola.
The bikers have been lobbying for stiffer penalties for several years. The response from lawmakers has been "accidents happen." ABATE's former president, Doc Reichenbach, reminded the group it has power by voting.
Two out of three times when a bikers are involved in accidents, it's not their fault.
"We're not just a bunch of dumb bikers," said Robert Russel Crans, a Naples machine shop owner. "We have families."
In previous years, these unusual lobbyists have won money for road safety, the elimination of the helmet law and even their own license plate.
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