That "80%" figure pops up everywhere. And always out of context.
In fact, Florida motorcycle deaths increased by 151% from 1994 to 2004. But then, registrations increased 136%. So the net result is that deaths per 10,000 registered motorcycles in FL grew from 9.1 in 1994 to 9.7 in 2004, a 7% increase. However, by picking either 1993 or 1995 as a baseline rather than 1994, the fatality rate actually dropped. God is very generous in sharing with us His abundance of data, providing enough variance to prove whatever point we want to make. ;-)
The real story about Florida will come when NHTSA's 2005 data becomes available in a few months. After nipping at California's heels in the race for most fatalities for several years and equaling the Left Coast giant's 432 deaths in 2004, the Sultry Swamp of the South seems poised to take the top box on the podium for '05.
This is nothing more than nature weeding out the stupid.. I recently lost a coworker who argued with me that he was "Safe" on his "Hog" since it wasn't a crotch rocket like my 999. He didn't wear a helmet or any protection. Last weekend he hit some sand going around the corner and he's now with Indian Larry..
Protective clothing will not lessen your chances of having an accident,
it only lessen the extent of injuries when you do have one.
The times I ride with a full face I am always aware that I travel at least 20mph to 30 mph faster on any stretch of road than I do when I dont wear one. The wind blast in the face makes you keep the speed down a lot.
I now normally wear a DOT approved half and ride slow. I believe avoiding the accident is preferable to riding fast, increasing the chances of having an accident and hoping your gear will be the panacea to keep your body from harm.
I say you make it part of the license test... Ask the person if they feel it is valuable to protect their brain from violent trauma in an accident. If they answer no, you give them a solid bump on the top of the head with a 10lb hammer. If they survive, they can ride without a helmet, but only if they disconnect their brakes first.
One other thing they don't take into account is the great weather in both Florida and California, this means that the bikes that are there can be ridden more of the year compared to more northern states.
So what does that mean? I ride year-'round, with breaks only for snow/ice "on the road", and temps down in the teens or lower. I live on neither coast, but smack in the middle of the Continent (SW MO).
Granted, most of the others I know that ride have a "threshold" of ~65deg F (sometimes higher), but a little discomfort can be overcome with minimal effort.