Panama City Beach's motorcycle week known as Thunder Beach has begun. Once more, the sound of motorcycles surrounds us. In the next few days, bikers from around the country will convene for bike and biking equipment displays, concerts, and fantastic Gulf Coast dining. It is time to think about the impending presence of more motorcycles than usual and our duty as drivers of cars and trucks to honor their legal right of way on the roads, just as we would for larger vehicles.
Road safety is a shared responsibility between bike riders and larger vehicles, enforced by our laws and courts. Since size is often tied to visual perception, we should also be more attentive. We must be sure the way is clear when we pull onto a road. Statistics show that 40% of biking accidents occur when the motorcycle is going straight and another vehicle's operator fails to see it. The failure of a car or truck driver to see a motorcycle often ends in a serious accident. As a result, the other sound we hear too much of at Panama City Beach during Thunder Beach is the wail of ambulance sirens on the way to crashes. That sound probably means that someone is very seriously injured or has just been killed.
Bikers, you have to do your part, too. Our Florida law changed in 2000 to permit you to ride without a helmet, but since then, bike fatalities have increased by 21%. Increase your safety by wearing a good helmet. Wearing reflective clothing, day or night, is also a must. Brightly colored helmets and reflective stickers on them are important to make you conspicuous to other drivers. Think about it. Your head is the highest point when you are on a bike. Bright and reflective colors focus other drivers' attention on your presence. We want you to be safe, have fun, and come back to our beaches. As always, safety is the goal.