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Article from a local paper discussing some motorcycle deaths,0,7418527.story?coll=sfla-news-florida

As Florida's easy riders age, more die in motorcycle crashes

By Jean Heller
St. Petersburg Times
Posted June 20 2005

They all died on motorcycles.

Tom Fitzgerald, the University of Tampa's highly regarded soccer coach, was killed in a collison with a Lincoln Navigator. He was 53. Walter John Kashtan of Dunedin died in an accident with a car. He was 55. Leslie Chissus of Tarpon Springs died in a collision with a Toyota SUV. Chissus was 47. Merle Bush of Brooksville was killed in an accident with an SUV in San Antonio. He was 63.

In a pastime that is increasingly graying, they join a grim, growing roster of older riders killed at what used to be largely a young person's hobby.

The latest state statistics show that in the five years between 1999 and 2003, the number of accidents involving riders over 40 has increased by 60 percent. The number of riders over 40 who were injured has increased by 59 percent.

And the number of over-40 fatalities has increased by 100 percent. "We're definitely seeing an elevated population of motorcyclists over 50," said Dr. Lewis Flint, medical director of regional trauma services at Tampa General Hospital.

Flint's own wife is a motorcyclist, and he acknowledges it can be difficult to have a biker and a trauma specialist living under the same roof. "I keep reminding her she can't ride when I'm on call," Flint said.

Robert "EZ" Taylor of St. Petersburg said he understands that his reflexes aren't what they were when he was 30.

"We take precautions," said Taylor, 59. "We wear helmets, even though the law says we don't have to. We drive defensively. We leave ourselves room to react to the unexpected because we recognize that our reflexes might not be as sharp as they used to be."

Still, Taylor was in an accident in February and managed to escape with superficial injuries. "We were just in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said. "No reflexes would have prevented it."

Safety experts agree that, just as in cars, some motorcycle accidents are unavoidable. But the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, which runs motorcycle and motor scooter training sessions nationwide, says there are five steps riders can take to increase their safety odds: Get training and licensing, never assume you know everything, wear proper gear, stay free of drugs and alcohol and ride within your limits.

David Hough, author of two books on proficient motorcycling, says older bikers sometimes outsmart themselves.

"Maybe somebody's never ridden before or rode when they were younger and then gave it up to raise a family and is coming back to it years later and has some money to spend," Hough said. "They start with the biggest, most powerful Harley-Davidson they can find without the least clue about the risks -- or the fact that any risks exist.

"Some people would say excessive speed kills. I would say excessive stupidity."
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