By Tamas Mondovics

The state of Florida is easily one of the top motorcycle touring destinations in the world. Annual events like Bike Week and Biketoberfest in Daytona or the Leesburg Bikefest all draw thousands of bikers and give testimony to the popularity of motorcycling statewide.

Unfortunately, a spike in motorcycle fatalities on Florida roadways has made recent headlines.

AAA-Auto Club Group recently reported that motorcycle fatalities rose from 449 to 554 in Florida between 2014 and 2015, a more than 23 percent increase, according to preliminary data from Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

In an online report the AAA officials said that motorcyclists accounted for one-fifth (19 percent) of motor vehicle fatalities in the state. Hillsborough County is no exemption even as the sad trend continues in 2016.

Since January 2014 (until the writing of this article) the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office reported a total of 14 motorcycle fatalities, including two deaths in May 2016, the month that has been dubbed “motorcycle safety month.”

The reasons for fatalities are as many as there are drivers and riders on the road, but a few of the biggies like wearing proper safety gear such as a DOT (Department of Transportation) approved helmet can make a huge difference.

“Since the repeal of the helmet law in Florida, motorcycle fatalities have more than doubled,” said Karen Morgan, Public Policy Manager, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “While helmet laws are a controversial issue, AAA strongly supports helmet laws, – bottom line helmets save lives.”  

The AAA Consumer Pulse survey also found that one-third (32 percent) of Florida motorcyclists do not think they should be required to wear a helmet when riding.

A study by the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) University of South Florida reportedly showed that last year over half (50.4 percent) of motorcyclists in Florida were observed not wearing a helmet while riding. Helmets have been proven to be 37 percent effective in preventing motorcycle fatalities in a crash, according the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 

“Bikers should do everything possible to make themselves visible to motorists while riding,” said Josh Carrasco, spokesman, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Motorists need to keep their attention on the task of driving and be alert for increased motorcycle traffic. Motorcyclists can increase their visibility by riding with their lights on or adding reflective gear to their bike.”

The AAA Consumer Pulse Survey was conducted online among motorcycle owners in Florida from January 29 to February 9, 2016. A total of 228 residents completed the survey. The survey has a margin of error of ± 6.5 percentage points.

For more information, visit, www.aaa.com.