Once you have filled your bike’s tank with gas and turned on the motorcycle GPS, it’s time to hit the road. As a rider, you can enjoy spectacular scenery and experience great freedom on two wheels. However, you always have to obey the traffic laws as otherwise, you can pay dearly. Motorcycle accidents can lead to permanent damage and devastating consequences.
In this article, we are going to talk about the motorcycle laws in Florida, more specifically the ones concerning helmets. In these last decades, these helmet laws have been changed multiple times and many people are still confused as to what they can or can’t do while riding a motorcycle.
Biking in Florida
The state of Florida has great weather throughout the year. This, combined with beautiful beaches and hundreds of miles of open road make Florida a rider’s paradise. Riding motorcycles in Florida is a popular activity, and numbers confirm it, as there are more than 570,000 registered motorcycles across the Sunshine State.
In addition, Florida is home to the famous Daytona Beach Bike Week, a large motorcycle event gathering bikers from all over the world. This state also has some great roads that make riding a pleasant experience.
People recommend the I-95 and I-75 Highways as they are long stretches of open road and the A1A which offers great views of luxury mansions and stunning scenery such as the Atlantic Ocean.
This being said, it comes as little to no surprise that Florida has extremely high motorcycle fatality rates. Numbers indicate that it surpasses even California, another popular state known for its rider population. So how can riders safely enjoy the biker experience but at the same time minimize the risk of injuries? What does the law state?
Like mentioned previously, Florida has repealed its universal helmet law in 2000, mainly due to its confidence in the road quality. According to their officials, their roads can be enjoyed without posing any high risk to the rider’s health or life.
Regarding the helmet laws
According to Florida’s motorcycle helmet laws, found in section 326.211, nobody can ride or operate a motorcycle unless he or she is wearing a properly fastened helmet. The protective headgear has to be secured on the head and must comply with the federal safety regulations. However, there are a few main things people need to be aware right now.
- If you are under 21, you absolutely have to wear a motorcycle helmet. There is no way around it.
- If you are older than 21, you have the option of not wearing a helmet only if you are covered by a $10,000 medical insurance. This will cover any injuries you sustain during a crash. If you prove that you are medically insured, then the helmet use is just a matter of personal preference.
- Even if you fall into the category where you are not required by law to wear protective headgear, you still have to wear motorcycle goggles or similar eye protection as long as you ride motorcycles or mopeds. However, if you are riding inside an enclosed cab, you do not have to wear eye protection.
The initial helmet law, which stated that everybody had to wear one with no exception, was repealed in the year 2000. After this happened, although they were still required to wear a helmet, the riders under the age of 21 who died in motorcycle accidents almost tripled, from 35 to 101.
The average motorcycle fatalities before the year 2000 were around 160. After the law was repealed, things took a turn for the worse, exactly how many anticipated. After the year 2001, this number started to grow exponentially to 246 and then, by 2006 it had reached 550.
This number dropped due to some motorcycle training laws that were enacted; however, by the end of 2012, it climbed up again to 457 deaths.
In addition. hospitalization numbers increased by 40% and so did the costs related to treating head injuries. These costs reached $44 million.
Unfortunately, only 1 in 4 hospitalized victims had medical bills that were under the threshold of $10,000, the minimum insurance required to legally ride without headgear. During the first year following the repeal, the percentage of riders in Florida who wore helmets dropped from 99% to 53%.
NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) statistics reveal that almost every motorcycle rider wears a helmet in states where the law says it’s mandatory. In the states where the law does not compel the riders to wear protective headgear, only 50% of them choose to wear it. Iowa and Illinois are the only states that allow all bikers to ride without helmets.
Around half of the states have this helmet law where you can choose to wear it or not, Florida and Michigan being the only states where medical insurance is required.
In 2011, the same institution stated that 56% of all the fatal motorcycle accidents that took place in the state of Florida involved riders who didn’t wear helmets.
An important thing to keep in mind for riders who are younger than 21 and for those above who wisely choose to wear helmets is that not every helmet on the market is adequate. The head protective gear you wear must be DOT-approved. Unfortunately, many manufacturers sell all types of helmets and they claim they are suited for motorcycle riding, when in fact they are not.
Helmets used in several sports, like football or lacrosse helmets, are not approved. Those that are suited for riders will many times have a DOT sticker or may say that are approved by Snell or ANSI (American National Standards Institute). Approved helmets must have at least one inch of interior padding. Fake or unsuited ones have less or no foam at all.
Across the United States, the most common motorcycle injuries are to the chest and head. Despite this known fact, published by the US Department of Transportation, riders who choose not to wear protective headgear still justify their choice with silly arguments. Most of the times, they are fearful of neck injuries or simply do not expect to be involved in an accident.
However, a seminal study completed in Los Angeles in 1981, called the Hurt Report, shows that wearing a motorcycle helmet is the single critical measure that reduces or even entirely prevents head trauma. Riders who wear helmets and also passengers always had fewer or less serious injuries after a crash.
Moreover, the same Hurt Report did not find any meaningful noise reduction coming from traffic sounds. The helmet does not narrow your field of view or affect your ability to pay attention to the traffic. In addition, the number of neck injuries hadn’t modified regardless if riders wore their helmets or not.
Even though the experienced freedom and the sensation of the wind in your hair seem exciting, you take a huge risk when you are riding without wearing a helmet. Everybody should agree that their health and self-protection is more important.