Florida motorcycle fatalities rise 23% last year

AAA urges motorists to give motorcycles space, riders to wear helmets

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As the weather heats up and motorists enjoy some of the lowest summertime gas prices in over a decade, drivers should expect to see even more motorcycles on Florida's roadways.

Based on new statistics from Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, that likely will mean more deaths of motorcyclists.

Motorcycle fatalities rose from 449 to 554 in Florida between 2014 and 2015, a more than 23 percent increase, according to preliminary data from the state. Motorcyclists accounted for 19 percent of motor vehicle fatalities in the Florida, while only accounting for about 3 percent of registered vehicles.

According to a recent AAA Consumer Pulse™ survey, nearly one in six motorcyclists (16 percent) do not have motorcycle insurance. The estimated economic cost to society of each motorcycle fatality is $1.48 million, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Economic costs include lost productivity, medical, legal, court, emergency services and insurance costs, property damage, and workplace losses.

“Since the repeal of the helmet law in Florida, motorcycle fatalities have more than doubled,” said Karen Morgan, public policy manager for AAA. “While helmet laws are a controversial issue, AAA strongly supports helmet laws. Bottom line: helmets save lives.” 

The AAA Consumer Pulse™ survey also found that one-third of Florida motorcyclists do not think they should be required to wear a helmet when riding. Last year over half of motorcyclists in Florida were observed not wearing a helmet while riding, according to a study by the University of South Florida's Center for Urban Transportation Research. 

Helmets have been proven to be 37 percent effective in preventing motorcycle fatalities in a crash, according NHTSA. In other words, for every 100 motorcycle riders killed in crashes while not wearing a helmet, 37 of them could have been saved had all 100 worn helmets. 

"Bikers should do everything possible to make themselves visible to motorists while riding," said AAA spokesman Josh Carrasco. “Motorists need to keep their attention on the task of driving and be alert for increased motorcycle traffic. Motorcyclists can increase their visibility by riding with their lights on or adding reflective gear to their bike.”

May is motorcycle safety month. AAA recommends the following safety tips for both motorists and motorcycle riders.

Safety tips for drivers

  • Respect motorcycle riders. Motorcycles have the same privileges as an automobile, so be sure to give them ample room.
  • Look and Listen. Even if a motorcycle is loud, don’t expect to hear it. Actively look for motorcycles in traffic.
  • Leave Room. Leave plenty of room between your vehicle and a motorcycle. Uneven terrain, wet roads, and heavy traffic often require a motorcycle rider to react and maneuver differently than automobiles.
  • Be aware. Take extra caution when making a left-hand turn, because most automobile-versus-motorcycle crashes occur during left-hand turns.
  • Don't drive distracted. A driver who takes their eyes off the road for two seconds doubles their risk of getting into a crash.

Safety tips for motorcyclists

  • Wear safety gear. Helmets that meet a high protection standard, eye wear, closed-toe footwear and protective clothing reduce your risk of injury or death in a crash. Remember, the only thing between you and the ground is your protective gear
  • Be visible. Keep headlights, marker and taillights on at dusk and dark or rainy weather. Wear bright clothing or put reflective strips on your bike to be more visible to other motorists. Avoid being in the blind spots of cars and trucks by following three to four seconds behind the vehicle in front of you.
  • Use sound judgment. Avoid weaving between lanes while riding. Be sure to use your signals and stick to the speed limit.
  • Get proper training. Completing a motorcycle safety course can not only make you a better rider, but save you money on your motorcycle insurance.