Motorcycle fatalities involving riders without helmets have soared in Florida in the nearly six years since Gov. Jeb Bush repealed the state's mandatory helmet law, a newspaper reported Sunday.
A Florida Today analysis of federal motorcycle crash statistics found "unhelmeted" deaths in Florida rose from 22 in 1998 and 1999, the years before the helmet law repeal, to 250 in 2004, the most recent year of available data.
Total motorcycle deaths in the state have increased 67 percent, from 259 in 2000 to 432 in 2004, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics.
Records, though, also show motorcycle registrations have increased 87 percent in Florida since Bush signed the helmet law repeal on July 1, 2000.
The debate over motorcycle helmet safety resurfaced last week when Pittsburgh Steelers football quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, an advocate of helmet-free riding, broke his jaw, nose and several teeth in an accident. He underwent seven hours of surgery.
Physicians and insurance companies say helmets are crucial safety gear.