Florida lawyer who opposed motorcycle helmet laws died in motorcycle crash while not wearing helmet

His girlfriend, who was also not wearing a helmet, also died in the crash.

Sulaiman Daud | October 28, 2022, 12:29 PM

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A lawyer in Florida, U.S., who opposed laws that mandated helmets for motorcycle riders, died in a motorcycle crash.

Ron Smith, of Pinellas County, was 66. His girlfriend Brenda Volpe, 62, also died in the crash. Neither were wearing helmets.

Aggressive advocate against motorcycle helmet laws

According to the Tampa Bay Times on Oct. 27, Smith was an "aggressive" advocate for changing the law in the 1990s, when riders in Florida were still required to wear helmets.

He was a member of a group that lobbied against the law, and represented clients who were charged for not wearing motorcycle helmets.

The requirement was changed in 2000 when the Florida state legislature passed a law that allowed motorcycle riders over the age of 21 to not wear helmets, as long as they had US$10,000 (S$14,000) in insurance coverage for injuries from motorcycle accidents.

On Aug. 20, Smith and Volpe crashed into a trailer attached to a pickup truck in another lane, after Smith lost control of his motorcycle while trying to slow down for traffic.

Impossible to say if helmets could have prevented deaths, but would have improved their odds of survival

Experts contacted by the Tampa Bay Times said it was impossible to say if wearing helmets would have prevented their deaths.

"It’s entirely possible that if they were wearing a helmet they might have survived, but again, we can’t say for sure. It certainly would have improved their odds," said Eric Teoh, who researched motorcycle safety for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety to the Times.

Autopsy reports seen by the Times indicated that blunt head trauma was the cause of Smith's death, while Volpe died of head trauma.

It added:

"Florida’s death rate increased by 25 per cent after its helmet law was repealed, according to one study, and the number of motorcyclists admitted to hospitals with head injuries jumped 82 per cent in the 30 months following the law change."

In Singapore, the Road Traffic Act 1961 states: "Every person who drives or is carried on a motor cycle must wear securely on his or her head a protective helmet of a type approved by the Deputy Commissioner of Police."

First time offenders may be fined up to S$1,000, imprisoned for up to three months, or both.

Top image from Unsplash.