OFF THE WIRE
Our take on: Motorcyclist-rights-group ABATE October 05, 2011Safety last
Legislators copped out Monday when they voted not to order a new audit of the motorcyclist-rights-group ABATE of Florida. It's needed. An earlier audit might have suggested that the group is spending cyclists' registration fees on safety promotional items, as intended, but it didn't address the effectiveness of the campaign.
That's partly why Republican Rep. Bryan Nelson of Apopka asked a joint legislative committee to approve a separate state audit of ABATE, to see if the group's spending of tens of thousands of dollars on trinkets — like key chains and refrigerator magnets promoting motorcycle safety — was accomplishing anything.
Nelson doubted that it did. So do we. So should anyone, save, perhaps, ABATE's lobbyist, James "Doc" Reichenbach, who insists the doodads are keeping bikers safe and points to a decline in deaths as proof.
Strange. ABATE launched the trinket program in 2005, but motorcycle crashes in Florida increased every year until 2009, when the number of accidents started decreasing. The drop in accidents also coincided with a recent leveling off nationally of motorcycle miles traveled.
If ABATE's really concerned about safety, it should call for the reinstatement of the helmet law, which ABATE pressured the Legislature to overturn. After its repeal, the cost of motorcycle accident care in emergency rooms rose by one-third. Half the victims of motorcycle crashes also don't have insurance. Floridians everywhere end up paying their bills.
It could be otherwise. Thanks to ABATE and the Legislature, it isn't.