Summer is slowly creeping towards us, and with it are all the traditional summer activities that Floridians tend to enjoy. Some of those activities may involve motorcycle riding. The speed and agility of riding a bike in the Florida sun can be quite an allure, but if precautions are not taken, the thrill ride can lead to serious personal injuries.
Motorcycle Laws In Florida
Motorcycle laws in Florida have gone back and forth over the years. Mandatory use of helmets was repealed in 2000 for riders 21 and older, only to see the number of motorcycle deaths spike the very next year. Florida then passed a mandatory training law for motorcyclists, which then stemmed the tide of motorcycle related deaths. In the past few years, the number of deaths has continued to rise.
Who is at Fault?
Although we tend to think of motorcycle users as engaging in an inherently dangerous activity, there is in fact much debate on who is most at fault for motorcycle accidents—the motorcyclists, or other vehicles on the road.
A 2013 study by the University of South Florida found that automobile drivers are at fault 60% of the time when there is a car-on-cycle accident. That figure may be deceptive because the same study found that the rate of single vehicle accidents was almost double with motorcyclists than it was with cars.
When the study isolated for very severe or deadly accidents, 50% of the motorcycle accidents with that level of injury involved only the motorcyclist and no other vehicle.
Cyclists may look to the number of drivers distracted over cellphones and other gadgets, while automobile drivers will often cite to motorcyclists veering in and out of lanes at high rates of speed. Visually, cars may be less likely to yield to motorcyclists, which may be perceived as less of a threat because of their smaller size.
Although the law does not require them, every expert recommends wearing helmets. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that drivers without a helmet are 40% more likely to suffer a fatal head injury than those who use helmets. Make sure that you are choosing the right helmet for you; they are not “one size fits all.” Use of goggles or protective eyewear also can avoid debris from flying into drivers’ eyes, and thus obscuring vision.
Experts advise that cyclists should wear bright colored clothing to try to stick out in car drivers’ visual fields. Many jackets have reflective gear, which is crucial to being seen at night. Baggy clothing should be avoided, as it can entangle in a kickstand or other motorcycle gear. Baggy shirts can lead to air going into sleeves and pulling clothing up, thus obstructing vision.
Gloves can also be worn to avoid catastrophic injury to hands when drivers try to brace themselves for a fall. Experts recommend boots, or at least shoes that cover the ankle. Sandals or open-toed shoes should be avoided, and laces should be tied tight to avoid getting tangled with the cycle’s mechanics.
As for the cycle itself, remember that the law requires it to have daytime running lights, so make sure that yours does and that they work. Cycles can also be fitted with modulators that cause your headlights to dim and shine intermittently, thus making you more conspicuous to other drivers.
When it comes to actual driving, the advice is usually common sense. When driving on a two lane highway, it is best to take the right lane, except for passing. But on larger highways, the right lane can be a mess with cars merging in and off of the freeway, often without looking into the lane they are merging into. In those cases, a middle or left lane may be the best option.
Make sure to slow down on curves. Many accidents happen when curves are taken too quickly, causing the cycle to turn over—or worse, careen over the rides of roads and overpasses.
It is always best to think ahead, so that you can plan for an emergency. Be aware of how much space you have on the shoulder in case you need to use it to avoid an accident. Leave space between you and the car in front of you, so you can quickly accelerate if needed to avert a crash. Always be mindful of other drivers’ blind spots, and try to stay out of them.
Do not be a daredevil or a showoff. Many motorcycle deaths are completely avoidable, but are caused by people “showing off.” When drag racing or riding at high speeds, with reckless maneuvers, even a helmet is likely to have no effect on survival rate.
Personal Injury Cases and Safety
Much of this advice is not just good for safety, but can have legal ramifications. Should a negligent driver injure you, his or her first line of defense will usually be to accuse you of not taking precautions that would have otherwise avoided, or at least lessened, your injury.
At any trial, an exhaustive list of the safety precautions you took or did not take will be front and center. This is even if the law does not require you take them. For example, although the law does not require you wear a helmet, a negligent driver can still assert at trial that had you worn a helmet, your injuries would have been much less than they are, and that you were negligent for not wearing one.
You can certainly have fun on the Florida sun, and enjoy the weather on your motorcycle. Just make sure to take common sense precautions to keep yourself safe when you are out there.
If you are injured in a car or motorcycle accident, make sure you have attorneys that understand the obligations that other drivers have to you to drive safely and free of negligence. Contact the personal injury attorneys of Brill & Rinaldi today for a free consultation about your case.