TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - Florida is the deadliest state for motorcycle riders. In 2017 alone, 515 bikers were killed in accidents across the state.
The motorcycle community was at the State Capitol Monday, calling for more safety programs and stiffer penalties for those who hit bikers.
As more than 100 bikers approached the Capitol, the silence in the courtyard was replaced by roaring engines, then the tolling of bells, as the names of bikers killed in the last year were read aloud.
Yvonne Waldron’s son was among the names called.
“The man who killed him only got a $70 ticket,” said Waldron.
Bikers with ABATE of Florida come each year for the ceremony and to bring their message to lawmakers. Stiffer penalties for those who hit and kill bikers has been a legislative ask for years, but the bill has never gotten a hearing.
“They need to lose their license,” said Waldron. "It needs to be more punishment than just take your ticket and go on your happy way.”
In addition to stiffer penalties, bikers also want more money for motorcycle safety campaigns.
A tax collected on motorcycle registrations is supposed to be spent on safety programs, but ABATE President Doc Reichenbach says last year, the state spent only $400,000 out of the $1.5 million in the trust fund on safety.
“The money that's ours, that went into the trust fund designated only for motorcycles is now being used for anything they want. If they want to have a donut party, they can use our money,” said Reichenbach.
ABATE of Florida officials say a lawsuit could be on the horizon if lawmakers don’t fully fund motorcycle safety programs for 2019.
Some bikers at the rally also expressed support for legislation making its way through the House and Senate this year that would make distracted driving a primary offense.