Last week, our Panama City injury attorney commented on two motorcycle crashes that impacted our community within a two-day period. The News Herald is continuing to cover these accidents and the investigation into what went wrong. Sadly, another fatal accident followed close on the heels of the crashes we reported previously.
On Sunday morning, Robert and Trannie Iddings, aged 29 and 31 years respectively, were riding on State 79 in Washington County. When a car stopped to turn onto Holmes Valley Road, the Iddings' cycle collided with the back of the automobile. The force ejected both riders from the cycle before a third vehicle struck the bike. Although both riders were wearing helmets, authorities pronounced Robert dead at the scene and transported Trannie to Bay Medical Center Sacred Heart Health Systems in critical condition. Both automobile drivers were uninjured.
While the accidents we've reported are among the most serious, they are not the only crashes to mar this year's Thunder Beach festivities. According to Chief Drew Whitman of the Panama City Beach Police, the department responded to a total of 23 vehicle crashes during the annual motorcycle event. Of the reported accidents, 12 involved motorcycles and 3 of those involved more than one motorcycle.
In March 2009, the Florida Department of Transportation supplemented a broader study identifying traffic safety priorities with a specific Motorcycle Strategic Safety Plan ("MSSP"). The study noted that between 1997 and 2007, the percentage of traffic fatalities involving motorcycles in the state increased from 5-16%. The study also emphasized that while fatalities are obviously a more severe outcome, the number of nonfatal motorcycle injuries was much higher than the number of deaths, with 17 times more emergency room visits involving nonfatal injuries than fatal ones.
The DOT study also looked at factors associated with crashes in order to help develop a plan for addressing the problem of motorcycle accidents. Overall, more fatal crashes occurred with riders in the 25 to 34 age group than any other. While our state is a popular tourist destination, the vast majority of motorcycle injuries in the state involved Florida residents. Another interesting statistic is that while only 10% of all motorcycle crashes in 2005 involved alcohol, 27% of fatal motorcycle crashes involved drinking (the 2006 numbers were 9% and 20% respectively). 44% percent of motorcycle fatalities occurred on the weekend.
The study also specifically examined the 18 months following the 2000 amendment of Florida law to allow riders over 21 to ride without a helmet if they carried at least $10,000 in medical insurance. In that period, the state saw a nearly 44% rise in fatal motorcycle injuries, and a nearly 21% increase in non-fatal injuries.
In a future post, we will look at the goals and strategies that grew out of the MSSP report. We hope the state continues to work to prevent motorcycle injuries and deaths. As always, if you or a loved one has suffered an injury in a Panama City motorcycle accident, please contact our office for a free consultation regarding your legal rights.