SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. - There were hundreds of motorcycle crashes on the Suncoast this past year. The Florida Highway Patrol says they investigated 18 fatalities as a result. The first of 2014 hit home for many in south Sarasota County.
Popular manager of the Venice Yacht Club and avid rider David Yarzab was struck and killed by an 85-year-old driver New Year’s Day on U.S. 41 in Nokomis. The incident is raising questions about age and awareness.
Yarzab was well known in the community. His death has left his family, friends, and co-workers in shock. It also has many asking for more laws and for the rest of us to please look twice.
Yarzab will be remembered for his dedication to family, friends, and co-workers. Friday a bouquet of flowers sits at the entrance of the Venice Yacht Club; a place he worked for 25 years.
"David was just an all-around great guy; great friend, great mentor, and great boss," says Douglas Laudenslager of the Venice Yacht Club.
When not around the boats, David was on bikes, as a member of the local riding club called The Dogs.
He was hit and killed while wearing a helmet New Year’s Day near the Waterfront Too restaurant, just feet from where the club hangs out.
"We lost 'Tipper' because he was potentially by himself," says club members Jerry "JD" Donella. He says for many reasons, people are just are not paying attention.
The Florida Highway Patrol says they investigated nearly 250 motorcycle crashes on the Suncoast in 2013, which resulted in 202 injuries and 18 deaths.
"The mind is programmed to recognize certain things. If you are looking for a car before you pull out in front of traffic your brain is going to recognize that car, but it might not recognize that motorcycle," says Donella.
Some are also raising questions about the age of driver. 85-year-old Polley Lawrence of Sarasota was not injured, but was cited for violating the right of way. "I don't want to blame older drivers for the death. I don't want to hold anger to the individual that killed my brother, but diminished capacity has got to be taken into account," says Donella.
Currently in Florida, the only age restriction for drivers is that those 80 years or older have to pass a vision test to retain their license. That license is good for the next six years. There are no tests for skill.
"Whether it's 60, 70, 80. I don't know what that age would be, but I definitely think there should be mandatory testing every year after you get past a certain age," says Laudenslager.
No matter what age you are, friends and family of Yarzab are asking us all to take a few extra seconds and to look twice out on the road. "Just getting someplace five seconds sooner is not going to have that big of a difference. I will tell you that it changed a very good man’s life," says Donella.
We are told Yarzab leaves behind a wife of 22 years, three daughters and four grandchildren. He was apparently living with and helping to support many of them.
A service at the yacht club is expected sometime next weekend.