Wednesday, October 17, 2007
I heard then-sheriff Steve Oelrich once say, “Nothing good happens after midnight.” These words were certainly true in the case of the tragic deaths of two University of Florida students, Michael Guilford and Ashley Slonina. Both were killed shortly after midnight last Friday while riding a motocycle on a city street.
Mike, a sophomore, was 19. Ashley, a junior, was 20. Neither was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident, when the motorcycle apparently was travelling at about twice the speed limit allowed on Old Archer Road, according to police.
I have read a number of stories about the accident and about the accomplishments of Mike and Ashley. So far, I have read no story or editorial about why this accident should never have happened, or why, if did happen, it should not have been fatal.
Is there a lesson that the friends of Mike and Ashley could learn from this tragedy? One has a choice about riding a motorcycle without a helmet, in excess of the speed limit. One has a choice about riding with someone who does not make good choices. After all, when you are aboard a motorcycle you are sitting atop a powerful motor, riding a vehicle that gives you very little protection in the case of an accident. There are no restraining belts, no airbags.
And what are the lessons to be learned by our state legislators, of whom Steve Oelrich is now one? It was our State Legislature a few years ago that eliminated – I repeat, eliminated – the requirement that all motorcycle riders wear helmets. Since that terrible decision by our legislators (and Steve Oelrich was not in the Legislature at that tme), the number of deaths in motorcycle accidents in the State of Florida has doubled. I repeat, doubled.
In our grief over the loss of these two young students, we should draw certain conclusions. Motorcycles are dangerous. Motor scooters are dangerous. Why in heaven’s name do we have laws demanding seat belt restraints for people in an automobile surrounded by steel, but no protection for people aboard a powerful motor surrounded by air.
Will Steve Oelrich conclude from the deaths of Mike and Ashley that we need to restore a law that requires motorcycle and motor scooter helmets? Will we hear some statement along those lines from the presidents of our universities and from editorial writers throughout the state? I wonder. We are absolutely great at grieving about the needless deaths of young people who were once in our midst. We are absolutely deficient about doing something basic and simple that will save the lives of other people we love who are now living.
This is Radio Ralph with a comment at midweek for AM850.