Motorcyclists Feel Unsafe And Unseen On Florida Roadways

Florida Leads The Nation In Motorcycle Crash Fatalities

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released statistics showing Florida has the most motorcycle crash fatalities in the nation.

In 2015, there were 606 motorcycle crash fatalities and 9.045 injury related crashes in the state. According to the data, fatalities rose 30% from 2014 to 2015.

This data doesn’t come as a shock to some motorcyclists.

Max Baer of Lakeland has been riding motorcycles for seven years. Three of his motorcycles were used as daily transportation.

“It comes with the nature of a bike, people just don’t see you,” Baer said.  “I don’t think it’s the highways. It’s in the cities where it’s too congested, too many people not paying attention and on their phones.”

According to the data the top counties for motorcycle deaths in Florida were:

1. Miami-Dade – 67 deaths
2. Hillsborough – 48 deaths
3. Broward – 42 deaths
4. Palm Beach – 34 deaths
5. Pinellas – 27 deaths

Pasco County tied for 9th with 22 deaths and Polk tied for 11th with 21 deaths.

“There’s a fine line when you ride a motorcycle, you don’t worry about seeing people instead you have to worry about them seeing you,” Baer said.

Rashad Mark, 39, is a motorcyclist that has been riding for about 20 years. He also believes these crashes are partially due to cars being unaware of their surroundings.

“I think it’s more caused by cars being unaware. People pay way less attention than they used to while driving,” Mark said. “And motorcycles have less visibility, so naturally they’re prone to getting overlooked. Motorcycle accidents are usually more dangerous than car accidents, where car drivers are more likely to walk away clean.”

The NHTSA urges drivers to respect motorcycles and to leave ample room. The NHTSA also urges motorcyclists to wear proper safety gear, such as a helmet. But for some riders even a helmet doesn’t make them feel safe on their bike anymore.

Brian Knouff, 53, has been riding motorcycles for a majority of his life.

“Everyone tells me I should ride my bike to work everyday, but I am more stressed when I ride it, it is not enjoyable,” Knouff said.

Brian Knouff and his motorcycle. Facebook.

“I feel safer in the car, people drive too fast and are not paying attention,” Knouff said. “50 miles each way from driveway to driveway. Would be great, but major roads are not safe. I am seriously considering selling it.”

The data shows that 72% of motorcyclists believe they should be required to wear a helmet while riding their bike. But is a helmet enough to protect them from a fatal crash?

“I’ve personally been in three accidents,” said Baer. “I’ve been hit by two cars and have wiped out in sand around a turn. Two were minor injuries, but this last one I had road rash all over my body.”

Despite safety tips and warnings, Baer feels motorcycle accidents may not see a decrease until people have first-hand dealt with a death or serious injury due to a motorcycle accident.

“I’m not sure too much can be done,” he lamented. “There will always be the people that don’t look for motorcycles and there will also be the few on motorcycles that drive crazy.”

While these accidents and stressful rides might sway some riders from enjoying a Sunday afternoon motorcycle ride, others don’t feel the same. In fact, some riders feel a connection when riding their bike.

“When you love riding there’s nothing that can take it away from you,” Baer explained. “I lost my best friend to an accident and when I ride I feel like I spend time with him like he’s riding next to me again.”

Mark on the other hand believes there is something to be done.

“While I think there is something to be done to prevent accidents, I don’t think people are going to follow it,” Mark explained. “Drivers altogether need to pay more attention on the road,  especially while merging.”

The NHTSA warns car drivers to avoid distracted driving and to always keep their eyes on the road. Motorcyclists are urged to wear safety gear and use sound judgement when riding.

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Allison Leslie is a University of South Florida graduate with a bachelors degree in Mass Communications. She joined Genesis in 2016. With a passion for sports, Allison has interned with 620 WDAE, Pewter Report, Trifecta Team: St. Petersburg Bowl, Bullscast, and many other publications. Being a native to the Bay Area, she has followed and supported Tampa Bay teams her whole life.