WJHG Channel 7 out of Panama City reports that a tragic accident occurred last Wednesday morning between a motorcycle and minivan which left the motor cycle driver in serious condition. At approximately 6:40 a.m., 25 year-old man was riding on his Harley Davidson east down Back Beach Road when Florida Highway Patrol officials say a minivan pulled out directly into his path. The driver of the minivan was attempting to turn left onto Back Beach from Allison Avenue. The collision caused the man to be ejected from his motorcycle and sent the minivan spinning across the road. The driver of the motorcycle was sent to Bay Medical for serious injuries. The driver of the minivan was charged with making an improper left turn.
Our thoughts and prayers are with those injured in this horrible accident.
This accident made me think of the article I recently read in the The Northwest Florida Daily News. The article addressed safety and motorcycles. As I’ve seen as I traverse Highway 98 numerous times in the past several years, motorcycles are everywhere. Northwest Florida has seen an increase in the use of the motorcycles in the past decade. Since national traffic deaths have jumped by 14 percent during the first half of 2015, it is easy to conclude that motorcycle injuries and fatalities are also more common. In Okaloosa County, motorcycle fatalities are also increasing. Since January 2015, there have been seven deaths, which is an increase from three in 2014 and three in 2013, according to data from the Florida Highway Patrol. In Walton County, there have been no motorcycle deaths this year compared to one in 2014 and one in 2013. Santa Rosa County has seen two fatalities this year, which is up from one in 2014 and down from six in 2013. There is no statistics given from Bay County.
From wet roads and sharp turns to traffic congestion and impaired motorists, the reasons behind motorcycle crashes are many, and Okaloosa County’s reasons vary. Lt. Charlie Nix of the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office said one reason is distracted motorists who are talking on cell phones and texting instead of paying attention to traffic. Another reason could be that motorcycle riding is growing in popularity. Nix teaches the state’s required Basic Rider Course at Northwest Florida State College and new riders often think those two days are all the preparation they need to hit the open road. (Click here to learn about the course: According to Nix, you need to practice more such as stopping, swerving and cornering. He encourages his students to earn their motorcycle endorsements for their driver’s licenses and then take the time to practice those critical skills off-road and out of heavy traffic.
But inexperienced riders aren’t the only ones at risk. People who return to motorcycle riding after years away often overestimate their skills, said Sam Engler, a longtime member of Sandollar Motorcycle Club. Sandollar, which logs thousands of miles a year, is so serious about safety it holds monthly skills sessions for its members. Without regular practice, a rider will never get back to the “muscle memory” it takes to safely brake, swerve and turn on a motorcycle, Engler said.
The Daily News interviewed several avid motorcyclists with years of experience. Here are a few of the safety tips they shared for riders (and drivers of cars, trucks and SUVs) at all skill levels:
Take responsibility for your own safety before you even get on the bike.
Complete the state’s required Basic Rider Course for getting a motorcycle endorsement on a driver’s license.
Practice continually, focusing on breaking, swerving and turning on the motorcycle.
Wear a helmet, gloves, glasses, long pants and long-sleeve shirt or jacket.
Avoid highly congested areas like U.S. Highway 98 or State Road 85 North, particularly if you’re a novice rider.
Wear bright clothing. Ask yourself, “Can the car in front of me and the car behind me see me?”
Don’t ride behind large trucks out of the view of oncoming traffic.
Stop driving on autopilot. Pay attention to what’s happening outside of your vehicle.
Put down the cell phone.
Don’t drink and drive.
Aggressively scan the area around you while riding, from side to side and front to back.
Watch for motorcyclists while driving.
For information on the state’s Basic Rider Course, call Northwest Florida State College at (850) 678-5111 or Emerald Coast Harley-Davidson at (850) 270-2794.