CONCERN FOR MOTORCYCLE SAFETY
In the three years following Florida's 2000 repeal of its mandatory helmet law for riders over 21, the number of motorcyclists killed in Florida went up 81 percent over the number killed from 1997 to 1999, according to a study released in August by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) would like all motorcyclists to take a safety course in an effort to reduce deaths.
During the recent Cabinet meeting, there was agreement that the agency -- which is overseen by the governor and Cabinet -- should push next year to change state law to require riders to take the safety course. Currently, people under 21 have to take it to get a motorcycle license, but no one else is required.
Highway Safety Executive Director Fred Dickinson told the Cabinet that in the last two years, not one of the 150,000 people who have taken the course, which includes riders over the age of 21, has died in a crash. The people who have taken the classes are the only ones on the positive side of statistics in motorcycle deaths in Florida.
In the last three years there were 933 bikers killed versus 515 in the three years before the repeal. Some studies have suggested the repeal of the helmet law is to blame for the increase, but Dickinson said it may have more to do with an increase in motorcycle riders in the past few years.
The DHSMV would like to ask lawmakers to increase the minimum requirement for medical insurance carried by motorcycle riders. Medical benefits of $10,000 are required now; the agency is considering an increase to $50,000.
The increase has been asked for by hospitals and state health officials, since $10,000 doesn't cover the medical care for most serious motorcycle crashes. Hospitals end up with the bill when the patients canít pay.
Gov. Bush and Cabinet members questioned moving ahead with the plan that would force motorcyclists to carry more health insurance if they ride without helmets.
State Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher expressed concern that it would be hard to find insurance companies who would write $50,000 motorcycle insurance policies.
Dickinson said the agency would continue to work on the issue.
The new courthouse in Indian River County, named for the scenic body of water running between the barrier islands and the mainland along Florida's Treasure Coast. America's first National Wildlife Refuge was established on Pelican Island in the Indian River by Theodore Roosevelt in 1903.