Marsalisi Law
lightning strike motorcycle

Lightning struck a motorcyclist riding on Interstate 95 last summer that left him dead at the scene with holes burned through his helmet.  The 45-year-old man, identified as Benjamin Austin Lee from Charlotte, NC, was struck in the head just before 3 p.m. last June while riding in Volusia County.  

An off-duty Virginia state trooper who witnessed the accident described how the lightning strike impact caused Lee to steer off the road when the bike flipped, throwing the man off his motorcycle.  Photos shared on the Twitter account of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) shows the shiny black helmet with cracks and burn marks from the bolt.  FHP Lt. Kim Montes said bits of the foam from the helmet’s inside lining were scattered along the highway. 

While an official cause of death was not provided, whether it was the crash or the lightning strike that killed Lee, cardiac arrest kills most people struck by lightning. 

What are the Odds of Being Struck by Lightning on a Motorcycle?

According to a lightning safety specialist for the National Lightning Safety Council, John Jensenius, 11 lightning deaths have been linked with motorcycles since 2006.  He explained that being struck by lightning on a bike is not that uncommon.  Many people falsely believe that if you are moving at a fast speed, you’re less susceptible to being struck by lightning. Jensenius counters, 

“People think that if you are moving fast, it can’t strike you, but in fact, when you are dealing with something moving 300,000 mph, someone driving 60 or 70 mph is virtually standing still.”

Many believe that lightning is attracted to metal.  On the contrary, lightning is not drawn to any specific material. It is, however, drawn toward taller objects – such as a lone tree in a field. Similarly, a motorcyclist cruising on an open Florida highway along beaches and flatland is also more exposed and at risk. 

How Dangerous is Lightning in Florida?

Florida is the United States’ lightning capital, accounting for 16% of the average annual fatalities.  The most common area lightning strikes occur in Tampa Bay, putting motorcyclists in surrounding St. Petersburg at a higher threat than most. 

According to research from Florida State University, an average of 10 people die in Florida each year by lighting, and 40 more are injured.  The summer thunderstorms in June, July, and August see the highest number of lightning strike fatalities.  Over the course of a lifetime, Floridians have a 1 in 3,000 chance of being struck by lightning – a rate much higher than the national average odds of 1 in 15,300.  

What are Lightning Safety Rules When Riding a Motorcycle?

If you’re outside and hear thunder, you can be struck by lightning.  Lightning can travel from 10 miles away and strike a person.  So, even when it’s sunny outside, and a storm is approaching, you’re at risk. 

Lightning safety rules include:

  • Stay off elevated areas;
  • Immediately steer clear of beaches, lakes, or other bodies of water;
  • Steer clear of power lines, barbed wire fences, or any objects that conduct electricity;
  • Do not use computers or equipment that put you in direct contact with electricity;
  • Avoid sinks, baths, faucets, and plumbing;
  • Stay off porches and away from windows and doors.

If you’re riding a motorcycle and a storm is approaching, stop as soon as possible and take shelter in a substantial building, a car with a metal top (not convertibles), or even a beach bathroom.  Find any shelter that is available.

Experienced Motorcycle Attorney in St. Pete Who You Can Trust

Few places are as enjoyable for riding a motorcycle as Florida; however, as the United States lightning capital, it’s essential that motorcyclists know how to stay safe when storms approach.  Accidents happen when you least expect them.  If you’re hurt in a motorcycle accident caused by the negligence of another party in St. Petersburg, Florida, call Marsalisi Law for help.

Attorney Frank P. Marsalisi is the trusted motorcycle accident attorney in St. Pete and surrounding cities.  For more than a decade, he’s helped injured victims recover compensation the injuries and damages they have sustained after an accident.  To schedule a free consultation and speak to Frank about your claim, complete an online contact form or call anytime at (727) 800-5052

Marsalisi Law is Where Law Gets Personal.