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South Florida motorcycle riders urged to wear helmets 10 years after helmet law repealed


From the Palm Beach Post www.pbpost.com 7/23/2009.

A man was thrown 50 feet from his motorcycle after being rear-ended Thursday.  Earlier last week, another man was killed when his motorcycle collided with a car. Increasingly, Palm Beach County roadways are dangerous for motorcyclists. In the past five years, the number of motorcycle fatalities in Palm Beach County had risen more than 60 percent, a trend that is mirrored throughout the state.

That's why in July 2008 the Florida Legislature began mandating that motorcycle riders attend a safety course to obtain a license and register their vehicles, a move that safety experts say will make the roadways safer for everyone.

"I've heard cases of people going to a dealership, buying a motorcycle, getting on it and injuring themselves or killing themselves on the way home because they don't know what they are doing," said Ray Vega, a motorcycle instructor and the Palm Beach County Safety Council.

In 2004, Palm Beach County had 21 motorcycle-related deaths, but that number has increased gradually to 34 in 2008, when Palm Beach County roadways became the third most dangerous in the state for motorcycle riders. Statewide motorcycle-related accidents accounted for 502 deaths in 2008, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Accidents involving motorcycles cause more injuries. Nearly 90 percent of motorcycle accidents result in injuries compared to about 60 percent of car accidents. Last year in Palm Beach County, 359 people were injured in motorcycle accidents. It's not clear if the new requirement is making an impact, and troopers are still seeing plenty of speeding motorcyclists and filling out reports for those involved in accidents. But law enforcement said the more educated drivers are the safer the roads will be.

"Most motorcycle enthusiasts that are out there are very well educated and they are good drivers," said Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Tim Frith. "The problem is the small number of inexperienced drivers, the ones we see every weekend driving in a reckless manner. That's the type of motorcyclist we are trying to target. Without this law, the numbers are certainly not going to improve."

Twice a month Vega and other instructors from the Safety Council of Palm Beach teach a three-day course on riding a motorcycle. The first day of class reviews the basics of the motorcycle. The two other days are spent riding them in the parking lots of Wellington and Boca High schools. Especially for novice riders who are used to driving a car and just got their bike, the class is crucial. About 360 students have taken the safety course this year. The course costs $250.

"It's a lot more involved than riding a car," Vega said. "In a car you sit, give it gas and steer. In a motorcycle you have to balance. Every part of your body is doing something different." Many veteran motorcyclists, though, roll their eyes at the prospect of "learning" how to ride a motorcycle. Vega was one of them. But after taking the course he, like many students, realize that they didn't know it all. "I get guys out there that have been riding for 50 years and they come with an attitude, but once they take the course, they tell me how much they learned." South Florida is particularly dangerous for motorcyclists. "We have so many elderly people and the bikes are hard to see anyhow," Vega said. "We have such an influx of different types of people from all over, and it makes it a little more difficult ... to survive."

Article above is from the Palm Beach Post and reporter Christina Denardo. Photos are by Gary Coronado.

 


Luz Gonzalez, center, of Lake Worth, takes the Basic Rider Course, for people with none or little riding experience, to get a motorcycle drivers licence offered by the Safety Council of Palm Beach County at Wellington High School in Wellington Saturday. The $250 course is 15-hours of instruction; five hours class time and 10-hours on the range.(Gary Coronado/The Palm Beach Post )

Luz Gonzalez, far right, of Lake Worth, Tina Bitondo, 19, center, of Jupiter, and Kay Cheney, left, of Lake Park, take the Basic Rider Course, for people with none or little riding experience, offered by the Safety Council of Palm Beach County at Wellington High School in Wellington Saturday. The $250 course is 15-hours of instruction; five hours class time and 10-hours on the range. (Gary Coronado/The Palm Beach Post )

West Palm Beach Police Department respond to an accident Tuesday afternoon involving a motorcycle near the intersection of S. Quadrille Blvd and Evernia St. The driver of the motorcycle was killed in the accident. (Brandon Kruse/The Palm Beach)

Police say Matthew Best, 24, was killed while riding his motorcycle at more than 80 mph at this spot on A1A, or the 500 block of S. Ocean Blvd. U.S. Postal mailwoman Crystal Barwis approaches his memorial on the side of the road Wednesday, July 23, 2008, "I know him. I've delivered his mail. It's upsetting. He was a sweet, young guy." Best was not wearing the helmet that was attached to the back of his bike. He had recently moved to Delray Beach from Washington state. (Chris Matula/ File Photo)


West Palm Beach Police Department respond to an accident Tuesday afternoon involving a motorcycle near the intersection of S. Quadrille Blvd and Evernia St. The driver of the motorcycle was killed in the accident. (Brandon Kruse/The Palm Beach)

 

 

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