Riding without helmets - June 21, 2006
THE number of unhelmeted bikers dying in crashes in Florida has multiplied elevenfold in the six years since Jeb Bush repealed the state's law that made it compulsory for motorcycle riders to wear helmets.
In 1999, when head protection was compulsory, 22 helmetless riders died in Florida.
In 2000, Mr Jeb Bush, the Florida governor and brother of United States President George Bush, repealed the law for bikers older than 20 years who had at least $10,000 in medical insurance, joining 29 other US states where helmet use is optional in some or all cases.
But by 2004, the latest year for which data is available, the number of unhelmeted fatalities had risen to 250, according to the Florida Today newspaper.
The debate over helmets has been receiving attention since the injury of Ben Roethlisberger, a quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers football team, last week.
Though he wore a helmet on the field, Roethlisberger supported helmet-free riding until Monday last week, when he collided with a car in Pittsburgh. He cracked his head and broke his nose, jaw and several teeth, later saying if he ever rode again "it certainly will be with a helmet".
Florida emergency room doctors reportedly took to calling helmetless bikers "organ donors".
But some argue that helmets cause a false sense of security and obstruct sound and vision.
"We want it to be left up to the individual," said Dave Carroll, the president of the Florida branch of Abate, a motorcycle rights organisation.
"I only wear a helmet when it's real cold or raining."
Overall motorbike fatalities in Florida rose by 67 per cent over the same period, but the rise in helmetless deaths represented an increase of well over 1000 per cent.
Is it weird in here, or is it just me?