Florida Doesn’t Require Helmets, That Doesn’t Mean Riders Shouldn’t Wear Them
How many times have we been driving down one of South Florida’s scenic highways only to see someone speed past us on a motorcycle? Florida has a lot of open road, and many people find riding motorcycles in our state a great experience, both for the beautiful weather and the ability to get where they’re going more quickly (let’s face it, South Florida traffic can be downright unpleasant). While riding a motorcycle can be a fun, enjoyable way to navigate the often traffic heavy Florida roads, most riders don’t protect themselves properly when doing so.
Adequate motorcycle insurance, proper knowledge of handling a motorcycle in varying weather conditions (Florida gets a lot of rain!), and abiding by all traffic laws are all musts, but the first thing a rider must do to protect themselves on the road starts with securing a proper fitting helmet–and wearing it for every ride.
The Shaked Law Firm has stressed the importance of motorcycle safety here on The Law Resource several times in our various article series’, however, this article will now cover the specifics that riders need to know about Florida’s motorcycle laws; specifically, helmet laws and why these lax laws shouldn’t lull riders into a sense of false security that they need not wear a helmet!
Staying safe on the road begins before we even leave the house. Drivers must take care to have all insurance policies in place before ever getting behind the wheel of a new vehicle, and parents are responsible for ensuring new teen drivers have taken the proper Drivers’ Education courses (and passed!) before handing over the keys.
This same responsibility lies with motorcycle riders; insurance policies must be in place, new riders should have extensive motorcycle handling courses under their belt––and for a mode of transportation that lacks the ideal safety of a car, there’s an added measure that must be taken: a helmet.
This responsibility is a matter of personal safety, not a matter of law. That’s entirely because as of 2000, in the state of Florida, riders age 21 and over who are covered by an adequate ($10,000+) health insurance policy (always reference the specific policy to be sure of your coverage) have not been required to wear a helmet while operating a motorcycle.
The purpose of a helmet being utilized should not be based on whether or not the law requires motorcycle riders to do so. The purpose of a helmet and other protective gear is to protect the head, neck, spine, and brain from catastrophic injuries that could result in paralysis and in worst case scenarios, fatalities.
According to extensive research by Dr. Rob Spivey, the trauma program manager at Health First’s Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne, FL in an article published by Florida Today in 2016, Spivey shared:
[…]“Helmets are designed to both absorb impact and extend the time of impact. During a crash, the body and the head are traveling at forward speeds. This created energy is proportionate to speed. The higher the speed equates to more force that is generated,” more than 70 studies since the year 2000 “support that the use of motorcycle helmets in decreasing the incidence of lethal head injuries, death and non-lethal head injuries related to the use” of helmets for motorcyclists.
Setting an example
What we must remember about wearing a helmet is that we are setting example for younger children who look to adults for the right thing to do. Too many children become injured riding their bikes because parents don’t feel it’s necessary to create the “always wear a helmet” rule in their family. The child sees Mom or Dad riding a bike or a motorcycle without a helmet, and they don’t understand the importance of it themselves.
Hit-and-run accidents can happen when a child is riding their bike in a neighborhood they and their parents know well, or close to home where they live and play often. There is no accounting for when a negligent, careless driver will blaze through a stop sign or run a red light with no regard for the children in the neighborhood. What parents can do is employ all measures of safety for their children and teach them the proper precautions to take when with friends.
We’ve discussed a wide variety of topics within this article, and to conclude, we’ll provide a quick “safety checklist” to ensure our readers have the facts they need to know at-hand:
- Florida law doesn’t require riders age 21 and over, with $10,000 or more in health insurance coverage to wear a helmet; that, however, doesn’t provide an excuse not to wear one
- Traumatic brain and spine injuries can occur due to motorcycle collisions–a helmet can help to prevent catastrophic injuries by softening the impact of the road on the brain
- New motorcycle riders should have extensive motorcycle handling courses under their belt before they take to the road
- Besides a helmet, protective gear such as gloves, protective glasses, and long sleeved clothing should be worn to protect other body parts from life-threatening injuries in the event of an accident
- Parents must stress the importance of wearing a helmet to their children; children should not be allowed to ride a bike without safety precautions such as a helmet and well tied sneakers in place