Thought this was interesting - here is the link to the Orlando Sentinel article. I do not know how long articles are left on the web so here is also the text.
Biker deaths debunk myths - Orlando Sentinel : State News Biker deaths debunk myths - Orlando Sentinel : State News
Records show riders at fault 70% of the time 8 of the 15 Volusia County fatalities in 2006 occurred in March during Bike Week. Of those 8, 1 was 23 years old. The rest were 44 to 65.
Henry Pierson Curtis, Sentinel Staff Writer
April 29, 2007
76% of Orange County fatalities in 2006 involved sport bikes.
Only 1 in 10 of the riders who died was older than 45.
In Orange County, most who died were on sport bikes, uninsured, younger than 45 and the only vehicle involved.
In Volusia County, according to FHP figures, most who died were on cruisers, uninsured, older than 45 and collided with another vehicle.
The lore suggests most of those who die in motorcycle crashes are young riders with a need for outrageous speed on high-performance sport bikes.
But preliminary figures of motorcycling deaths in Florida's largest urban areas last year show that sport bikers account for a little more than half of the fatalities. The other half come from the growing number of aging "renaissance riders" who take to the road on their cruisers, often without proper training.
And contrary to the notion that careless automobile drivers cause most accidents involving motorcycles, last year's deadly crashes were caused by the bikers themselves more than two-thirds of the time.
The state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will release comprehensive statewide data in June, but the Sentinel was able to review the data from Central Florida, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, Palm Beach and Tampa. An analysis of the 119 fatal crashes investigated by FHP in those areas shows:
64 of the dead were sport-bike riders; 55 rode some other form of motorcycle.
Eight in 10 riders who died did not have insurance.
70 percent were at fault.
41 percent were not wearing helmets; Florida has no mandatory helmet law for riders older than 21.
A quarter of them did not have a license to drive a motorcycle in Florida.
At least one in five was drunk or under the influence of drugs, according to autopsy reports after the crashes.
The crash data have prompted at least one Florida lawmaker to raise questions about how the state regulates its deadliest form of transportation. Florida and Washington remain the only states in which motorcyclists can legally ride without insurance. Safety advocates say the exemption supports motorcycle sales by freeing riders from paying $1,000 a year or more for coverage.
Sen. Lee Constantine, R-Altamonte Springs, who sits on the Senate Transportation Committee, unsuccessfully proposed a bill this year that would require have required motorcyclists who ride without helmets to carry at least $50,000 in health-insurance coverage. He said the state needs to work with insurers to keep policies from being prohibitively expensive for motorcyclists.
"It's clear motorcycles are more risky, and if you get hurt it's going to cost more, and a large part will be paid by the public," Constantine said. "I think I'm looking out for their best interests as well as the state of Florida."
The 119 deaths investigated by the Florida Highway Patrol in those urban areas do not include fatal crashes investigated by local police departments and sheriff's offices. They represent a tiny proportion of the state's nearly 600,000 riders. Motorcycling deaths have increased steadily in Florida since 2000, when the mandatory helmet law was repealed for riders older than 21. Overall, motorcyclists are 34 times more likely to die and eight times more likely to be injured in crashes than passenger-car occupants, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The increasing number of biker deaths did not surprise Doc Reichenbach, president of the Florida chapter of American Bikers Aiming Toward Education, or ABATE. He said riding today is much different and more dangerous than 20 to 30 years ago. There's more traffic, more construction, more distraction and threats of every kind.
"New riders have no clue," Reichenbach said of challenges as basic as confronting grooved pavement or cars drifting across lanes. "Educating all the public is the thing -- not just us, but car drivers, truck drivers and any other vehicles on the road. We're doing everything we can, and we're still dying."
Biker tastes vary by age
Although sport bikes make up about a quarter of motorcycles sales nationwide, they accounted for 54 percent of the Florida deaths the Sentinel examined. Capable of reaching speeds of almost 200 mph, they are wildly popular with young riders but leave many motorists shaking their heads in dismay when they pass in a dangerous blur on highways.
Characteristics of Florida motorcyclists vary widely by age.
Riders in Reichenbach's over-40 age bracket overwhelmingly choose cruisers -- comfortable road bikes in the 1,000 cc engine range, such as Harley-Davidson, BMW and many other brands. Those types of bikes account for half of all U.S. sales, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council.
Less likely to race recklessly in traffic, these renaissance riders -- baby boomers who take up motorcycling or begin riding again after decades away from it -- still accounted for nearly half of the 119 fatalities the Sentinel looked at.
Motorcycling groups and police say as more older riders take to the road, the number of fatalities in that age group will inevitably increase.
Consider Volusia County, where eight of the 15 motorcycle fatalities last year happened during Bike Week in March, when a half-million bikers visit Daytona Beach. Of those deaths, one rider was 23 years old; the rest were 44 to 65.
"Training and experience on a motorcycle is what saves you," said FHP Sgt. Robert Blackwell, who supervises fatal-crash investigations in Central Florida.
Stephen Crisson, one of the 119 Central Florida riders who died, was riding too fast on East Colonial Drive last September when traffic stopped in front of him. The 48-year-old braked and tried to swerve but struck the rear of a pickup, records show. He did not have a license to drive, or insurance for, his 2005 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy, records show.
Motorcycles 'more risky'
The high incidence of at-fault deaths for young and older riders alike means inadequate training and experience are most likely to blame, according to the national Motorcycle Safety Foundation.
The belief that most bikers die in collisions with automobiles in which drivers are at fault is based on a 25-year-old study, the most recent nationwide examination of motorcycle crashes, said Ray Ochs, MSF head of training.
"We have seen the number of single-vehicle crashes go up," Ochs said. "There are so many variables. . . . We don't know how many people crash who are riding a bike too large for them," for example.
MSF, an industry-funded group, instructs new riders and offers classes for experienced riders on how to read traffic, how aging affects reaction time and the dangers posed by fatigue, drugs and alcohol. Unlike some European countries, the U.S. does not require graduated licensing mandating that riders prove their proficiency on motorcycles with smaller engines before moving up to larger, faster models such as sport bikes.
Of the fatal crashes examined by the Sentinel, only five of the 64 sport bikers had insurance. And all but 10 of those crashes involved careless or reckless operation at up to three times the posted speed limits, according to the FHP reports.
"It's a dilemma for us. The riders come in and demand the product," said Winn Peeples, a lobbyist in Tallahassee for the Florida Motorcycle Dealers Association and a former dealer.
Consider the death of Thomas Perry on his 23rd birthday last year.
"The cause of this crash is strictly due to driver error," FHP Cpl. Shaun Lattinville wrote after the Nov. 16 crash.
The Lake County resident struck a mail box at 130 mph when he lost control of his 2006 Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6 in Lady Lake. Crash investigators noted the 45 mph zone was straight and dry on a clear afternoon.
Laws can go only so far
Some strides have already been made to strengthen Florida's motorcycle laws.
New legislation requiring red license plates for riders 21 and younger took effect Jan. 1 to make it easier for police to spot riders who must wear helmets.
Starting July 1, 2008, anyone applying for a motorcycle endorsement to legally ride in Florida must first pass a rider-safety course.
Motorcycle dealers also will not be allowed to issue temporary tags to new owners who do not hold a valid drivers license and motorcycle endorsement. For years, dealers sold motorcycles to unlicensed riders, saying they did not have a legal -- or ethical -- obligation to stop the sales.
Still, once the bikes are off the lot, common sense is one thing instructors can't teach, said Ochs of MSF.
"A lot of people don't respect a motorcycle. It's still a toy to them," Ochs said. "If someone has that attitude, it's part of living in a free country and being able to make wrong decisions."