Two people were killed early Sunday in a motorcycle crash in northwest Hillsborough County.
According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the crash occurred just after 6 a.m. on a winding portion of Gunn Highway at Racetrack Road in the Keystone area.
Deputies believe a man and woman were riding the motorcycle southbound on Gunn Highway, when the driver failed to negotiate a curve, hit a road sign and both individuals were thrown from the bike.
They were pronounced dead at the scene.
A passerby, who happened to be a doctor, found the crash scene. He attempted to aid the injured man and woman and then called 911.
Deputies said it appears the motorcycle may have taken a curve too fast and went off the road. Officials said the driver and passenger were not wearing helmets.
Deputies closed Gunn Highway between Racetrack Road and Copeland Road for several hours Sunday morning.
The crash remains under investigation and authorities have not released any further information as of yet.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that in 2016, the use of motorcycle helmets saved an estimated 1,859 lives. An additional 802 lives could have been saved in 2016 if all motorcyclists had worn helmets. While the NHTSA supports universal helmet laws, Florida does not currently have such a law.
In 2010, Florida lawmakers amended section 316.11 of the Florida Statutes so that motorcyclists in Florida who are over 21 years of age can legally operate or ride on a motorcycle without wearing a helmet as long as they have a medical insurance policy with coverage of at least $10,000. With that said, anyone who does not meet these two requirements is not legally allowed to operate or ride on a motorcycle in Florida without a helmet.
In 2016, the state of Florida saw 586 total motorcycle accident fatalities. Of those, 288 motorcyclists were wearing helmets and another 283 were not. In 15 of these fatalities, the use of helmets is unknown. With 50.4% of these motorcycle accidents with riders wearing helmets, 175 lives were saved. It is estimated that if 100% of riders had worn helmets, then an additional 108 lives could have been saved.
This case brings up a good topic: does not wearing a helmet impact your injury or wrongful death claim? Although Florida’s current motorcycle helmet law does not require the majority of motorcyclists in our state to wear helmets, be advised that not wearing a helmet may still impact a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit filed by an injured motorcyclist or their surviving family members. Why? Courts that hear Florida injury and wrongful death claims based on motor vehicle accidents often find multiple parties to be partially liable for causing the accident.
Florida is a comparative negligence state, meaning that a personal injury plaintiff (the injured person who is suing) will have their recovery reduced by the percentage that they are found to be responsible for causing the accident. So, not wearing a helmet, even if you are not legally required, may very well result in some fault being assessed against the motorcyclist if it is proven that injuries/death would have been reduced if a helmet had been worn.
A 2017 AAA Consumer Pulse Survey that was recently published covering driver safety in all 50 states shows the following stats for motorcyclists in Florida:
- Nearly one out of every six motorcyclists in Florida did not have motorcycle insurance (16%).
- Approximately one out of seven (14%) of motorcyclists do not wear a safety helmet in Florida. Another one-third (approximately 32%) of the bikers in Florida do not think that they should be “mandated” to wear a safety helmet by law.
- The number of Florida motorcyclists wearing the the following safety gear:
- Face Shield or Glasses: 81%
- Boots: 64%
- Gloves: 63%
- Protective Jackets: 55%