Motorcyclists call for harsher penalties against those who hit bikers

TALLAHASSEE – Members of the motorcycle community were in the state capital on Monday, calling for more safety programs and stiffer penalties for those who hit bikers.

As more than 100 bikers approached the capitol, the silence in the courtyard was replaced by screaming engines. Bells were tolled as the names of bikers killed in the past year were read aloud.

Yvonne Waldron’s son was among the names called.

“The man who killed him only got a $70 ticket,” Waldron said.

Bikers with Abate of Florida come each year for the ceremony, bringing their message to lawmakers. 

Requests for stiffer penalties against those who hit and kill bikers have been made for years, but a bill has never gotten a hearing.

“They need to lose their license,” said Waldron. "It needs to be more punishment than just take your ticket and go on your happy way.”

In addition to stiffer penalties, motorcyclists also want more money for motorcycle safety campaigns.

A tax collected on motorcycle registrations is supposed to be spent on safety programs, but Abate President Doc Reichenbach said in 2018 the state spent only $400,000 out of the $1.5 million in the trust fund on safety.

“The money that's ours, that went into the trust fund designated only for motorcycles is now being used for anything they want. If they want to have a donut party, they can use our money,” said Reichenbach.

Abate Florida said a lawsuit could be on the horizon if lawmakers don’t fully fund motorcycle safety programs for 2019.

Some bikers at the rally also expressed support for legislation making its way through the House and Senate that would make distracted driving a primary offense.