Friday, April 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Legislature should require helmets for motorcyclists

It was clear when the Florida Legislature repealed mandatory motorcycle helmet laws that the decision would lead to more deaths and injuries. Now history shows that opponents of repeal were right. Fourteen years after relaxing its helmet laws, Florida has become a poster child for pro-helmet campaigns around the country. Motorcycle deaths have jumped dramatically from an average of 160 a year before the law was repealed to 457 in 2012 alone. Those numbers rank Florida among the top states for motorcycle fatalities and paint a grim picture of the cost of riding without a helmet. As Floridians enjoy the holiday weekend, drivers should particularly watch for motorcyclists — and motorcyclists should wear their helmets.

Motorcycle activists campaigned against requiring helmets for years. Most states had mandatory helmet laws by the mid 1960s, when Congress threatened to pull federal highway money if they didn't comply. When Congress changed its position, helmet laws began disappearing. Today only 19 states have mandatory helmet laws, and fierce battles are underway in many states to roll back those provisions. The debate heated up in Florida in 2000. Supporters of repealing helmet laws argued that helmets gave riders a false sense of security and endangered them because they blocked riders' sight lines and prevented them from hearing ambient noise, which made them less alert in traffic. Opponents of the repeal spoke of loved ones who died in motorcycle accidents while riding bareheaded. Others recalled suffering from debilitating injuries because they did not wear helmets or talked of walking away from accidents because helmets protected their skulls.

The Legislature repealed Florida's mandatory helmet law in 2000, allowing anyone over the age of 21 to ride without a helmet as long as they carry at least $10,000 in personal injury insurance coverage. Since then — except for a short period when the state required mandatory motorcycle training — there has been a steady increase in the number of injuries and fatalities among motorcycle riders. Ridership also has gone up, including among older riders who increasingly are involved in fatal accidents.

The vast majority of fatalities in motorcycle accidents occur among riders who do not wear helmets. Already, pro-helmet campaign leaders in Louisiana, Nebraska, Tennessee and Vermont have used Florida to dissuade voters from repealing helmet laws.

In this age of distracted automobile drivers, wearing a helmet when operating a motorcycle seems like common sense. It shouldn't take a law to enforce safety, but unfortunately it often does. Like seat belts in cars, helmets save lives.

Activists wary of losing the freedom to ride without a helmet should weigh that right against the costs of death or injury to the families who have lost loved ones in motorcycle accidents and to taxpayers who often pay when crashes result in visits to emergency rooms. The deadly results from repealing the helmet law are clear, and the Legislature should revisit the issue.

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Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

Editorial: Don’t fall for Constitution Revision Commission’s tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the state’s fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the Nove...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Redner’s court win on medical marijuana sends message

Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last week there is a price for that obstruction, finding t...
Published: 04/15/18
Updated: 04/16/18
Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Any movement on modernizing local transportation is welcome, even small steps like the million dollars the state recently approved to design a Tampa Bay regional transit plan.But the region won’t make any progress on transportation, its single most p...
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/18/18

Editorial: Fight harder on citrus greening

A new report by scientists advising the federal government finds no breakthrough discovery for managing citrus greening, a chronic disease killing Florida’s citrus industry. This should be a wake-up call to bring greater resources to the fight.The re...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18

Editorial: Floridians should focus more on health

A new snapshot of the nation’s health shows a mixed picture for Florida and the challenges that residents and the health care community face in improving the quality of life.Americans are living longer, exercising more and doing better at managing th...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18
Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Gov. Rick Scott kicked off his U.S. Senate campaign last week by reciting tired lines about career politicians and mischaracterizing himself as an outsider. That pitch may have worked during the tea party wave eight years ago, but now the Republican ...
Published: 04/10/18
Updated: 04/13/18