Considering Helmet Laws in the Wake of Two Serious Motorcycle Crashes
Last week, we used this space to discuss the wide range of injuries that can happen when a car and motorcycle collide. Sadly, we find ourselves considering the threat of motorcycle accidents again as 2 separate motorcycle accidents dominated the headlines in the Florida panhandle. These accidents are a reminder of one of the most important safety tips that out Panama City motorcycle accident law firm can impart - helmets save lives.
Two Days, Two Tragic Motorcycle Accidents
On Monday night, a 47-year-old motorcycle rider lost his life in a collision on State Road 85. Northwest Florida Daily News reports that Tracy Jay Tate was riding his Yamaha motorcycle northbound and arrived at the intersection with Antioch Road at around 7:45 P.M. Police believe that Tate proceeded forward on a red light as Kiiya Sherre Dixon began to enter the intersection from the eastbound lane of Antioch Road as her light turned green. The vehicles collided, sending both into the grassy shoulder area. Dixon and her 12-year-old passenger were uninjured. Tate, who was not wearing a helmet at the time of the collision, was taken to North Okaloosa Medical Center and was pronounced dead as a result of injuries sustained in the crash.
U.S. 98 was the scene of another accident in the early hours of Tuesday May 14. According to the News Herald, Paul Mendyga of Panama City Beach was travelling west on U.S. 98. Officials and crash investigators believe Mendyga may have had difficulty negotiating a turn onto Hannah Avenue, causing him to lose control and separate from the motorcycle. He sustained head injuries in the accident and was taken to an area hospital in critical condition. The investigation remains ongoing. Panama City Police Department officials reported that Mendyga was not wearing a helmet.
NHTSA Study Examines Results of Florida's Repeal of the Universal Helmet Rule in 2000
In the summer of 2000, Florida law changed to eliminate the requirement that all motorcycle riders wear helmets, allowing those over 21 to ride without a helmet if they carry at least $10,000 of medical insurance. In 2005, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ("NHTSA") released a study evaluating the results of this change.
The study concluded that 81% more riders died in motorcycle accidents during the 2001-2003 span than in the 1997-1999 time period (compared to a 48% increase nationwide). Analyzing the data, the NHTSA concluded that, "[b]ased on the available evidence the increase in motorcycle fatalities that occurred after the Florida motorcycle helmet law was repealed is due in part to the reduced use of helmets." Hospital admissions also rose by 40%, with admissions for injuries to the head, brain, and skull rising by more than 80%.
Looking at the Florida data as well as data from other states, the NHTSA concluded that eliminating an all-rider requirement will lead to a marked drop in helmet use from nearly 100% use to closer to 50% daytime helmet use. In turn, the number of motorcycle fatalities can be expected to increase by 50 to 100% almost immediately following the repeal of the all-rider requirement.
While the number of registered motorcycles will likely rise, this is not the cause of the increased death rate, given that the number of fatalities per registered motorcycle will also increase. Additionally, the number of serious but non-fatal accidents will likely rise faster than the rate of lesser injuries. Although the data on injuries is less clear than the fatality data, this suggests failure to wear a helmet correlates with more serious injuries in the event of a crash.
Protecting Panama City's Motorcycle Riders
At The Pittman Firm, we are proud to serve as a law firm for Panama City motorcycle riders. We know that many motorcycle accidents are caused by the negligence or inattentiveness of automobile drivers, and we are committed to helping the victims of these collisions. While the failure to wear a helmet is never the direct cause of an accident, it can make the resulting injuries more severe or increase the chance of a fatality. Even if the law does not require it, we urge all riders to wear helmets.