As I have mentioned before on this blog, fatal motorcycle accidents are rising in Florida (and across the United States), even as fatal traffic accidents as a whole are decreasing. That issue got some mainstream national attention in early January when MSNBC picked up a story from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The article starts with the tragic story of Scott Stevens, a Sarasota man who was killed by a hit-and-run driver who swerved into his lane. Stevens was commuting by motorcycle to save money — the cost of buying, fueling and insuring a bike is substantially lower than it would be for a car. The article suggests that many other drivers are turning to motorbikes for the same reason.
Unfortunately, the spike in the number of riders on Florida roads has led to a spike in the number of deaths in motorcycle wrecks. The article says motorcycle registrations are up by 60% in Sarasota and Manatee Counties since 2002, and new motorcycle purchases nationwide went up by 29% over the five years between 2001 and 2006. Meanwhile, deaths nationally have risen sharply: The pure number of U.S. motorcycle fatalities more than doubled between 1997 and 2006, and the rate per vehicle miles traveled almost doubled. In Florida, the article says, 1999 saw 155 motorcycle crash deaths, while 2007 saw 517.
Florida’s new law making training mandatory for all new motorcyclists — regardless of age — is one solution. However, I believe that the sheer number of bikers on the road may be another solution, one that does not require any new laws at all. As a Florida motorcycle accident attorney, I have read a lot of research on crashes. This research frequently says that drivers run into motorcyclists because they’re not looking for motorcycles — and thus, they “don’t see” bikes coming, even when the bikes are easily visible. Motorcyclists have been relatively rare on U.S. roads over the past 30 years, but if the increased interest in motorcycling holds, they may become common. And if they do, drivers (at least new drivers) may naturally learn to look for motorcycles on the roads.
Of course, this process would take a long time, and Florida motorcyclists need protection from careless drivers now. For the sake of both my own family (my wife and I both ride) and my clients, I hope they get it. As the MSNBC article said, motorcyclists don’t have the protection of a steel cage, airbags or seatbelts in a crash, which makes them much more vulnerable in a crash. That means motorcycle accidents in Florida frequently lead to wrongful deaths, brain injuries, paralysis or other life-changing injuries. And unfortunately, studies show that the majority of multi-car motorcycle wrecks are caused by the other motorist — usually a car, truck or SUV.
If you or someone you love was seriously hurt in a motorcycle accident caused by another person’s negligence, you have the right to hold that person legally responsible. My firm, Cohn, Smith & Cohn, can help. To learn more about your legal rights and our experience as South Florida motorcycle accident lawyers, please contact us online for a free consultation.