Who needs insurance?

Published: Wednesday, January 5, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 4, 2005 at 10:35 p.m.
Just a half dozen states allow motorcyclists to ride without crash insurance. Florida -- where the number of motorcycles on the road has increased 50 percent in the past four years -- is one of them.
And that explains why 70 percent of the 24,100-plus riders in Florida injured in the past four years had no crash insurance. As a comparison, less than 6 percent of auto drivers fail to carry insurance as required by law.
"Seventy percent? Wow! That's a staggering number," Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, told the Orlando Sentinel. Ross, chairman of the House Insurance Committee. He said he wasn't sure why the Legislature hadn't looked into it. "I'm sure there are arguments both ways -- I'm not familiar with either one -- but I tell you this: I will become familiar with them."
"The insurance issue with motorcycles is common sense," Rep. Irving Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, told the Sentinel. "This issue is one of the ones we're going to address because it's just common sense."
Cost is the main reason motorcyclists don't opt to buy insurance. The newspaper reported that an 18-year-old ticket-free motorcycle owner (most purchasers of high-performance sport bikes are younger than 25) can save between $374 and $3,558 a year, based on coverage. Cost of insurance for motorcyclists increase substantially after the first ticket.
Florida requires motorists to carry personal-injury protection and property-damage liability for vehicles with four or more wheels. "There are no exemptions in the law," the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles points out on its Web site.
Failure to carry coverage may results in suspension of the vehicle's tag and the owner's license to drive for as long as three years.
But Florida's 386,000 motorcyclists don't need it. (Riders who are 21 or older, and do not wear a helmet, are required to carry at least $10,000 of motorcycle medical insurance.) J.D. Morgan's 82-year-old stepfather has been in Orlando Regional Lucerne Hospital for six weeks after being hit by an uninsured motorcyclist. He owes nearly $250,000 in medical bills.
"What's your option?" he asked the Sentinel. "Do you sue your legislator for passing such a stupid law? I don't understand in these days how if you lose your auto insurance, you lose your license. But you can buy a motorcycle without any insurance, and nobody cares."
As Slosberg noted, motorcycle insurance is just common sense -something that's been lacking in Tallahassee when it comes to dealing with some problems.

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