I thought this story from Sunday's Orlando Sentinel seemed unbelievable, but apparently, it's depressingly common:
Derrell Willis bought a motorcycle and took it for a spin without bothering to get a license.It's fortunate that Willis only killed himself, not other motorists that might have hit or swerved to avoid him.
There's nothing unusual about that in Florida, where the crime is treated as lightly as driving without prescription glasses.
Illegal riders crash here at a rate of five a day, 35 a week and about 1,800 a year. Most survive. Willis didn't.
First he stalled the high-performance Yamaha R6, which he didn't know how to ride. Then he managed to drive the motorcycle to the first stoplight on John Young Parkway, less than 100 feet from Cycle Sports Center in north Orlando, where he purchased the vehicle.
The engine died again.
Finally under way, the 37-year-old Orlando sanitation worker almost lost control. He swerved onto the grassy median. Standing as he rode, he veered back into traffic.
Exactly 1.4 miles later, Willis crashed on a gentle curve on Lee Road. The bike bounced and landed nose-down. It launched itself and Willis against a concrete utility pole, chipping away a quarter-inch-thick flake. His cracked helmet rolled 60 feet farther than his body, according to interviews and Orlando police reports.
Riding a motorcycle is reasonably safe if you know what you're doing. I took twelve hours of lessons to get my small-bike license here in Japan, and then seventeen more to get my unlimited-class license after riding a 400cc Kawasaki ZZR almost every day for a year. I'm still learning new things about how to handle my bike, and how to read other motorists' intentions. And despite all that, I still have the occasional close call. Yet this guy hops on board a powerful 600cc sportbike with absolutely zero training and heads out on the road.
Ultimately, Mr. Willis died as a result of his own poor judgement. But what was the dealer who sold him the bike thinking? And would it be asking too much for Florida to require someone to have a motorcycle license before he can buy a motorcycle? Currently, it doesn't.
Like I said, unbelievable.