Biker Who Fought to Overturn Helmet Law Dies Ironically

Ron Smith, Brenda Volpe weren't wearing helmets when they died of head trauma in crash
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 26, 2022 9:15 AM CDT
Biker Who Fought to Overturn Helmet Law Dies Ironically
Ron Smith, 66, and Brenda Volpe, 62, died of head trauma in an Aug. 20 crash that saw neither wearing helmets.   (Getty Images/dangphoto2517)

A Florida lawyer who aggressively fought to overturn a state law requiring bikers to wear helmets died in a crash with his girlfriend. Neither were wearing helmets. Ron Smith, 66, and Brenda Jeanan Volpe, 62, were on their first ride with the American Legion Post 173 in Holiday on Aug. 20, headed to a funeral for a fellow biker who died from cancer, when Smith had to slow for traffic on US 19. He lost control as his motorcycle spun and collided with a trailer attached to a pickup truck in another lane, reports the Tampa Bay Times. He and his passenger—described in an obituary as "the longtime love of his life"—died of head trauma, according to autopsy reports.

"It's entirely possible that if they were wearing a helmet they might have survived, but again, we can't say for sure," Eric Teoh, a motorcycle safety researcher at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, tells the Times. "It certainly would have improved their odds." "Motorcycle helmets are estimated to be 37% effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcycle operators and 41% effective for motorcycle passengers," according to the National Safety Council, which cites National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data. But Smith "thought everybody should have their own choice," says Dave Newman of the American Legion post in Old Town, where Smith had been a member for two years.

The Pinellas lawyer advocated for overturning the motorcycle helmet law in the 1990s, representing clients ticketed for violations. Some say the cases helped achieve Smith's goal. One county judge ruled that the law was unconstitutional. Another threw out a ticket, meaning that for a brief time, the law was not enforced. And by 2000, lawmakers passed a law allowing motorcyclists over 21 to go without a helmet if they had $10,000 in insurance coverage for accident injuries, per the Times. Eddie Rodriguez, rider director for the American Legion post in Holiday, tells the outlet that the crash has triggered change among the group's riders. On the next ride, "every single one had a helmet on." (Read more motorcycle crash stories.)

We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.