SHALIMAR — Alex Gavitt awoke on a stranger's front lawn May 7 in shock and severely injured.
Only five minutes before, the novice motorcyclist was riding 60 mph through a wide turn on County Road 180 in Crestview.
As the 29-year-old maneuvered the bend in the road, he lost control of his motorcycle and crashed onto a neighboring front lawn.
"I really didn't have a full comprehension of the situation until I went from the ER into the trauma unit," Gavitt said recently at his home in Shalimar. "I was joking about it all as I was getting into the helicopter to head to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola."
In all, Gavitt suffered a fractured disc in his neck, two fractured discs in his back, one burst disc in his back, three broken ribs, multiple compound fractures of his collar bone and a shattered shoulder blade.
Although the reason for the crash is unknown, the motorcyclists who were riding in front of Gavitt said they saw dogs in the area moments before the crash that might have been a factor.
"As far as what actually happened in my wreck, I don't know because I was knocked out," Gavitt said. "Chances are I was probably going slightly too fast and one thing led to another and I was off the road."
Gavitt, who will wear a full upper-body and neck brace for the next three months, has now become an advocate for motorcycle safety gear. He said although he doesn't want to come across as "preachy," he hopes his story will highlight the importance of investing in safety.
"I am extremely lucky to be standing here while we talk about this," Gavitt said. "Without gear, I would probably still be in the hospital. I would probably still be transferring skin from one part of my body to the other."
According to the most recent statistics released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Florida saw a 30 percent increase in motorcycle deaths in 2015, a record for the state.
Motorcyclists accounted for one-fifth (20 percent) of Florida's motor vehicle fatalities. Yet motorcyclists account for only 3 percent of registered vehicles.
In 2015, 606 people died and 9,045 were injured in motorcycle crashes.
According to the state law, a person over 21 may drive a motorcycle without wearing protective headgear if covered by an insurance policy that provides at least $10,000 in medical benefits for injuries suffered in a motorcycle crash.
Gavitt said he is dumbfounded by the state's lack of laws governing motorcycle safety.
"It's absolutely insane to me," he said. "I guess people go out cruising and they don't plan on driving aggressively, so they think they don't have a need for it. It's a helmet. It's just common sense."
Gavitt was wearing Kevlar riding jeans, a re-enforced riding jacket, steel-toed shoes and a helmet when he crashed.
"Even then it wasn't enough," he said. "There is always more advanced, more heavy-duty riding equipment out there. A very trivial amount of riding gear can save your life. At the very minimum, it could save you a lot of pain and suffering."
Garrett Gavitt, Gavitt's father and also a motorcyclist, said he's already begun looking into better safety equipment.
"He learned a lesson from this, I'm sure," Garrett Gavittr said. "By the same token, I learned a lesson from him. In the future I'm going to buy one of those jackets and gear."
Gavitt said he hopes to ride again as soon as his injuries heal.
"I've drawn a lot from this accident," he said. "I have appreciation for even the little things because I can now think back and can say, 'I almost died.' "