Recent Crashes Serve as a Reminder of the Importance of Motorcycle Safety

Spring weather means many residents of our area opt to ride rather than drive, using motorcycles for both transportation and fun. Panama City motorcycle accidents are, however, a very real danger. This danger was brought to the forefront of local news on Friday when 2 serious accidents involving motorcycles impacted our region on a single day. Our Panama City accident law firm is following both stories as details continue to emerge.

The first accident, reported by WJHG occurred in the early morning hours of Friday, April 27. Robert Lambert, age 68 from Louisiana, was driving a 2000 Suzuki motorcycle with Michelle Lynn Mackee-Kitahara of Fort Walton Beach riding aboard as his passenger. The motorcycle was headed north on Eglin Parkway and was just north of Walter Main Road when Lambert slowed, apparently preparing to make a left turn.

The motorcycle was hit from behind by a car driven by 22- year-old Billy Joe Legune of Fort Walton Beach. Both Lambert and Mackee-Kitahara were thrown from the motorcycle. Lambert was treated and released from Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, but Mackee-Kitahara was pronounced dead at the scene. Neither individual was wearing a helmet. Fort Walton Beach Police officials are investigating the crash – charges were still pending at the time of the report.

As the News Herald reported, later that same day, Joe Landers of Arkansas was riding his motorcycle on Quarts Street in Panama City Beach. At approximately 8:35 P.M., Jimmy John Cristo Jr. turned his car off of Thomas Drive and into Landers' path. Landers was ejected from his motorcycle and suffered serious injuries. He was taken to Bay Medical for treatment. Cristo fled the scene but was later located by police and arrested on charges that included leaving the scene of an accident involving serious injury, as well as possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia.

Circumstances surrounding both of Friday's crashes are still being investigated, but the accidents are a harsh reminder that motorcycles can be dangerous. We hope these stories remind both riders and drivers that they share the responsibility of making the roads safe for all of our residents and visitors.

A study by the Center for Disease Control found that more than 34,000 motorcyclists were killed nationwide between 2001 and 2008. In that same period, emergency departments in U.S. hospitals reported treating an estimated 1.2 million individuals for non-fatal injuries related to motorcycles.

Fatality rates for riders actually increased between 2001 and 2008, rising from 1.12 per 100,000 to 1.74 per 100,000, a jump of 55%. Emergency rooms also reported an increase in the number of non-fatal injuries in the same time period, rising from just under 120,000 to 175,000 reported injuries. Both death and injury rates were highest for individuals between 20-24 years.

A quick reminder -- As of July 2008, Florida requires that new applicants seeking a motorcycle license take and pass a Basic Rider course. Motorcyclists under age 21 are required to wear helmets. Riders over age 21 may be eligible for a helmet exemption (i.e. not required to wear a helmet) if they have a minimum of $10,000 in medical insurance coverage.

If you or someone you love was involved in a motorcycle accident in Panama City, please contact us. Our Panama City injury lawyer offers a free consultation to discuss the unique circumstances of your accident.

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