A Sarasota mother who has seen two of her children injured in separate crashes is pleading for drivers to watch for motorcyclists and others on two wheels on the road.
A motorcycle-involved crash Wednesday on 14th Street West in Bradenton near 58th Avenue West injured 28-year-old Mlak “Angel” Ramahi, according to her mother, Houda Younis.
Younis said she was behind her daughter when Ramahi was in the middle lane and a vehicle pulled out from a plaza across the street and struck Ramahi on her motorcycle. Ramahi was wearing a helmet at the time.
“I was right there. I saw it all. I can’t believe it just happened,” Younis said.
Witnesses at the scene told the Bradenton Herald the driver of a white Ford F-150 left the parking lot of a nearby Winn-Dixie, crossed three lanes of traffic and struck the motorcycle, which was stationary in the middle northbound lane of 14th Street West.
Ramahi had just picked up her motorcycle from Just In Tyme Cycles, a motorcycle repair shop on 58th Avenue West, and her mother was following her after dropping her off to pick up the motorcycle, her daughter’s only form of transportation.
Surveillance footage captured at Just In Tyme Cycles shows the truck collide with the motorcycle.
Ramahi is recovering from her injuries.
“She’s OK. She’s banged up, bruised. Thankfully nothing broke or anything like that, but she’s in a lot of pain,” Younis said.
Younis also cared for her son when he was struck by a vehicle while riding a bicycle in 2005. He was 13 years old when the crash occurred. His mother said he landed on his head and was in a coma for two months.
“Still today he’s affected because of it,” Younis said.
After the two crashes, Younis worries about those riding on the roads on two wheels and wants drivers to be more aware.
“Anybody on two wheels. ... People don’t even acknowledge them. They don’t look for them,” Younis said. “They’re looking for cars.”
Younis worries motorists see motorcyclists as “reckless” and said her daughter is a responsible rider.
“What a lot of people don’t understand is not every bike rider is a reckless bike driver. Sadly, people look at bike drivers as ‘bad’ or they’re reckless but that’s not the case,” Younis said.
In approximately the last month, there have been several motorcycle crashes in Manatee County that resulted in death or injury.
Of five crashes previously reported by the Bradenton Herald, four were fatal.
Also, in November, a Lakewood Ranch man’s body was found in a Pinellas County ditch near pieces of a motorcycle 10 days after he was reported missing. Jimmy Butler’s body was found on Nov. 28 by two workers cleaning up trash on the side of Interstate 275 near 54th Avenue South.
Safety on the road is important for everyone, especially now that the winter months are in full-swing, bringing more drivers on the road as vacationers and part-time residents flock to the area.
As of Jan 1, 2018, there were more than 286,000 licensed drivers in Manatee County, according to the annual licensed drivers report from the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
In 2017, there 9,707 motorcycle crashes in Florida, according to traffic crash statistics from FLHSMV. The number of crashes decreased 6 percent from 2016.
There were 515 motorcycle fatalities in 2017 and 37 motorcycle passenger fatalities across the state.
In Manatee County, there were 166 motorcycle crashes resulting in seven fatalities and 148 injuries in 2017, according to FLHSMV reports.
Manatee County saw 62 fatal traffic crashes in which 65 people died in 2018, according to the Florida Integrated Report Exchange System (FIRES). The FIRES report did not specify motorcycle crashes.
Matthew Morrison, co-founder of the 941 Riderz group on Facebook, said what he sees are riders who live in the area year round, then when season comes, traffic floods what are usually open lanes and vehicles are gridlocked, but no one is slowing down.
“You have to be 100 percent alert and aware of your surroundings and you have to always assume nobody is doing the same,” Morrison said.
One of the problems, Morrison said, is when people drive in a familiar area, they sometimes don’t pay attention when they look at the road.
The saying common among motorcycle safety is, “Look twice to save a life,” but sometimes that’s not enough, he noted.
He and members of the 941 Riderz group already do motorcycle awareness events but they hope to educate drivers still taking driver’s education courses by changes some of the pages to teach young drivers about what it takes to maneuver a motorcycle.
The 941 Riderz Facebook group has more than 1,000 members, and Morrison said they are more than a group of motorcycle riders.
“941 Riderz isn’t even a club. It’s a Facebook page,” Morrison said. “We’re a family and we take care of one another.”
He said they encourage each other to wear all the safety gear — helmet, jacket, pants, gloves and boots — all of the time, every ride. He credits his gear for keeping him from being injured when his bike went down while going 85 miles an hour recently.
“The motto here is I would rather sweat than bleed,” Morrison said.
Here are a few things all drivers can do to ensure motorcycle safety on the roads:
Safety tips for drivers/motorists
Look carefully before entering an intersection or changing lanes and check for motorcycles.
Predict an approaching motorcycle is closer than it appears, it can be difficult to judge a motorcycle’s speed.
Maintain a four-foot buffer zone between vehicles and motorcycles — don’t follow too close behind a motorcycle and give the, plenty of space when passing, as wind gusts can cause motorcyclists to loose control.
Don’t speed up if a motorcycle passes your vehicle.
Never try to share a lane with a motorcycle.
Safety tips for motorcyclists
By law, motorcyclists are required to wear eye protection and a U.S. Department of Transportation-compliant helmet or other head gear. If a motorcyclist has the proper insurance coverage and is older than 21 years old, they can ride a motorcycle without a helmet.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation recommends wearing a helmet, eye protection, a jacket, think pants, gloves and boots- preferably brightly colored clothing.
Motorcycles and mopeds cannot be driven on bicycle or foot paths.
The Florida Motorcycle Handbook is available online.
Motorcyclists can learn more about safety courses, licenses and endorsements by visiting the Florida Rider Training Program’s website.
May is National Motorcycle Awareness Month.