I’ve been thinking about the following question lately. Well, actually, I’ve been thinking about it for several years. It just doesn’t seem right. So I’m going to ask you all to think about it and if it bothers you as much as it bothers me, perhaps you might consider writing, emailing, or texting your state congressman.
The question is simply this. Why do motorcycle riders in the state of Florida not have to wear a helmet?
Stop and think about it a second. Children have to wear helmets to ride bicycles these days. Automobile drivers and their front seat passengers must wear a seat belt or other restraint. Construction workers have to wear helmets. Why do motorcycle riders and their cling-on passengers get a pass. Are they afraid of helmet hair? Do they think that it is too hot in Florida for a helmet?
The problem as I see it is the potential for serious head injury in a motorcycle accident is at least as great as injury from an automobile accident at the same speed. Ever see what happens to a motorcycle rider in an accident in which the motorcycle flips and the rider goes flying over the handlebars flying like a circus performer, but with far less grace and far greater risk of injury?
I remember the day when I was still in junior high school when I was taking a short cut home through a hillside dirt path. I was going a bit too fast, but then most kids think they are indestructible. Anyway, as I was coming to the end of the path down the other side of the hill, I hit a ditch that cut across the path and the front wheel of my bike bit into the dirt stopping the bike, but my momentum carried me over the handlebars and into the gravel stones at the end of the path just where the roadway began. Fortunately I was not hurt badly. Just a couple of scrapes on my hands, elbows, shoulder, and knees. Enough to cause some bleeding, but not life threatening. Fortunately, I did not hit the ground on my head. I made it home and suffered through my Mom’s digging out the stones that had tried to bury themselves into my skin. Actually, that hurt more than the fall did. But it taught me a lesson that I never had to repeat.
Nearly every day I have to drive on I-4, one of the major roads that cut through Orlando and the only one that makes getting between work and home in a reasonable amount of time possible. And nearly everyday I see at least one motorcycle rider weaving between cars at a substantial amount over the posted speed limit. To be fair, it is not all motorcycle riders. In fact, I have noticed that most Harley riders are fairly safe in their riding. Furthermore, most of them have helmets, but not all. No, the real problem seems to be with the smaller, less expensive bikes. While I may say the riders of Suzuki bikes are the most numerous in this group, it is not limited to Suzuki bikes. Most of these riders speed along cutting between cars just to get a little further ahead with no regard to the danger they are placing themselves in if the drivers around them don’t see them speeding up behind them just to cut around them at the last minute. I’ve also seen them cut between two cars in adjacent lanes or even ride in the shoulder of the road. Now I don’t know what the road shoulders are like where you live, but here there is often everything from fine sand to gravel to rocks, not to mention the occasional bag of trash, tire fragment from a retread that disintegrated, and even the occasional suitcase, table, water jug, or other item that fell off a truck.
Unfortunately, if these people end up in an accident, they, along with the press will be the first to blame the automobile driver for not watching out for motorcycle riders. I believe they often get it backwards. The motorcycle rider needs to watch out for how they are driving and whether they are creating the unsafe condition in the first place. Just the other week, I saw two Suzuki riders pulling wheelies side by side as they raced down I-4 after passing an accident which probably held them up in the resulting traffic for several minutes. Neither of the riders had helmets on, but one did have a helmet strapped to the back of his bike for all the good it would do there.
Now there is no way to legislate against stupidity. But why can not we have a law that requires motorcycle riders and their cling-on passengers to wear helmets? Should insurance companies raise the rates of motorcycle riders who get into accidents without helmets? Should insurance companies of the automobile driver in an accident with a motorcycle reduce the amount it pays for any injury to the motorcycle rider if they were not wearing a helmet leaving it up to the motorcycle riders insurance to pay the majority of the bill no matter who was at fault? Should police more aggressively ticket motorcycle riders who behave irresponsibly on the road pulling wheelies, racing around cars, riding on the shoulder, etc. Hardly a night goes by, especially on Friday and Saturday nights that I do not hear the sound of motorcycles racing along the major road that is only about a block away. You can hear them rev their engines at the light, then take off down the highway shifting through their gears and perhaps stopping if they get a light a little further down the road.
I for one don’t want to pay their insurance bills. Insurance should not be to protect the irresponsible while the responsible pay for others mistakes. Accidents will still occur even when everyone tries to follow the rules and thus insurance is needed. So if we cannot teach people to be responsible, can we at least make it a law that they must wear a helmet? If safety restrains are so important in cars, why not helmets for motorcycles?
C’ya next time.