http://www.news-press.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060319/NEWS0110/603190446/1085/NEWS0110 Local bikers gather to address safety concerns Group criticizes fines for vehicle drivers By Joan D. Laguardia Motorcyclists met in Fort Myers on Saturday to launch an education campaign and a protest against vehicle drivers who get what they say are insignificant fines for causing accidents that kill motorcycle riders. "We're concerned with why a motorcyclist is allowed to be killed by a driver who made a mistake and only get a ticket," said David "Surfer" Bowlby of Cape Coral. "There should be more than a $52 ticket for failure to yield the right of way," he said. "Is that what a life is worth?" About 40 people attended the regular meeting of local chapters of ABATE of Florida and other motorcycling groups at the American Legion Hall in downtown Fort Myers. Much of the meeting dealt with the growing danger for motorcyclists on Southwest Florida's roads. Six motorcyclists have been killed in Lee County this year, and 18 were killed in 2005. A record 20 motorcyclists associated with Bike Week in Daytona Beach were killed this month. Some of those deaths were caused by cyclist error, said Susan Huttman, a member of the Southwest Chapter of ABATE, but too many are caused by inattentive vehicle drivers. She said motorcycle groups should push for stiffer punishment for vehicle drivers who cause motorcycle accidents while also working to keep reckless cyclists off the roads. "To be taken seriously, we have to be serious," she said. "We have to learn to police ourselves." The issue, the bikers said, is not about wearing a helmet. Bikers wearing helmets are among those killed in accidents caused by vehicle drivers, said Frank Kennedy, president of Southwest ABATE. Drivers who cause accidents involving bikers are being cited by police, but they are not getting fines or sentences as tough as drivers who kill passengers in other vehicles or pedestrians, bikers claim. The problem will continue to grow along with Florida's population and traffic congestion, Huttman said. According to Florida ABATE, she said, the number of registered motorcyclists in Florida more than doubled from 195,000 in 2000 to 473,000 in 2005. "That is a lot of political power, friends," she told the gathering.