Does Florida Have A Motorcycle Helmet Law?
Are there laws in Florida that mandate the use of a helmet by motorcyclist drivers as well as motorcycle passengers? The answer is yes. The motorcycle helmet laws in Florida can be rather complex, hence in this article, we will state everything you need to know about these laws.
Riding a motorcycle has its own set of risks, which most motorcyclists are fully aware of. Even the most seasoned motorcycle riders can have their ride, or even their lives, cut short in an instant by a negligent driver in a car. While the danger will always exist, there are ways to mitigate the risks with equipment or driving techniques. So in this blog, we’ll be discussing Florida’s motorcycle helmet laws today.
Florida Motorcycle Helmet Laws
According to Florida Statute 316.211, Florida motorcycle helmet law states that no one can drive or operate a motorcycle unless they are wearing protective headgear (aka a motorcycle helmet). The headgear must meet the requirements of Federal Motorcycle Vehicle Safety Standard 218. Riders must also use protective eyewear (and a motorcycle helmet face shield qualifies).
Some exceptions are made for riders under the age of 16 years who are driving a motorcycle with a capacity of less than 50 cubic centimeters or that will not exceed 30 mph on flat terrain (… how the heck a police officer could determine something like that is unknown).
Florida motorcycle helmet laws also apply to younger riders on vehicles such as mopeds and scooters which many consider to not be actual motorcycles. So for younger riders, individuals under the age of 16 years are not permitted to ride a moped or scooter unless they wear helmets that meet the Federal Motorcycle Vehicle Safety Standard 218.
Also, not just any headgear will suffice for adults or riders under the age of 16 years who are required to wear helmets. Helmets must be certified by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT). Several motorcycle helmet manufacturers offer bike helmets that are rated by bogus or international standards that are not the equivalent of DOT approved and therefore not authorized.
And, just to be clear, even if you are older than 16 years of age, plopping anything on your head that you claim is a motorcycle helmet (e.g., think athletic helmets, such as football or lacrosse helmets, a salad bowl, or say a bucket), are not permitted (despite the fact that you definitely will turn a lot of heads and achieve the American dream when that photo of you riding your motorcycle with that Rubbermaid mop bucket on your head goes viral and you land a reality TV series gig).
Authorized helmets typically include a DOT label and might state that they have been certified by Snell or the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Certified helmets typically have at least an inch of cushioning. On the other hand, unauthorized helmets have less cushioning or are merely plastic with no foam inner.
Our suggestion: Since motorcycles lack the actual frame/”cage” of a car to shield passengers in a collision, a motorcycle rider/passenger usually takes the entire force of the hit, which can result in severe damage. So, along with a DOT authorized helmet, motorcycle riders can really mitigate the risks by protecting themselves better by wearing a hefty leather jacket, pants, boots or shoes that cover the ankles, and some riding gloves.
Exceptions to These Laws
Florida motorcycle helmet law enables you to operate a motorcycle without a helmet if you are above the age of 21 years and have at least $10,000 in medical insurance coverage. Keep in mind, that some medical plans do not cover a rider in the event of a motorcycle accident or injury so make sure you don’t have such a policy.
If your health insurance plan doesn’t cover motorcycle accidents you’d better find a different plan or contact your company and ask about adding supplemental coverage that will cover you in case of a motorcycle accident. On the topic of the health insurance requirement, if you are stopped by an officer, motorcyclists must have health insurance proof, such as an insurance card or a copy of the declaration page.
The document of proof must prove that the coverage is valid and is from a reputable health insurance company (don’t ask me how they determine that … my guess is if the card says something like “Non-Reputable Insurance Company,” you’ll probably pass muster).
Again, though, in the drive to offer cheaper health insurance options, some insurers may not cover activities that they deem to be what they call “extreme sports related” or “high risk hobbies” so if you have any questions about your coverage, you should check with your medical insurance company to ensure those motorcycle injuries are included. Passengers must also fulfill the criteria for medical insurance.
While Florida motorcycle helmet laws permit optional usage for motorcyclists over the age of 21 years, eye protection is however required for all Florida motorcycle riders and passengers. Anyone riding in an enclosed side vehicle is exempt from Florida’s helmet and eye protection rules.
The Dangers of Such Laws
The state of Florida did have a universal helmet usage mandate at one point (meaning, all drivers/passengers at all times with no exceptions), but that law was changed in the year 2000, and since then, there have been no efforts to reinstate it.
The abolition of the statute had the unintended consequence that many predicted. Prior to the year 2000, there were an average of 160 motorcycle deaths each year; however, from 2001 to the present, the figure rose to 246. The numbers went higher to 550 by 2006 … and yes, the population of Florida and the number of motorcycle operators had gone up over those years but NOT BY DOUBLE (so don’t blame the rise in fatalities on that!).
To combat this rise in motorcycle accident fatalities, later Florida motorcycle helmet laws were modified to require motorcycle training (aka safety course) and the mortality rate reduced slightly. But, by 2012, the rates started to climb and and crept up eventually to 457 fatalities in that year.
The motorcycle casualty count of Florida continues to be among the highest in the country, and several states, considering their own helmet legislation, turn to Florida as an example of why such rules are necessary. After stating that however, keep in mind, that Florida is probably the US state with the most number of days per year that are of a temperature that is conducive to riding.
So, even though the fatality rates of many states is lower, that is partially explained by the fact that states further north, simply see less riding days per year because of their colder climates. Setting aside these climate based discrepancies, the fact is that stricter helmet laws save lives and most reasonable people agree.
So the only issue that keeps a debate alive is founded on the concepts of the freedom to choose and personal responsibility considerations. In any case, in the USA only about 19 states maintain universal mandatory motorcycle helmet usage laws.
Those who oppose universal mandatory helmet usage laws argue that much of the rising death toll is not based on loser helmet laws but instead on the rise in the number of motorcyclists. They maintain that the mortality rate has increased, but it is still comparable to the overall growth in motorcycles on the road.
There are also other factors that are attributed to faster and more extreme motorcycles, the growth of both younger motorcycle riders as well as older motorcycle riders who have their own increased risk factors. In any case, there are so many factors that many arguments around motorcycle helmet use in Florida and or any other US state can be definitively resolved because of all the elusive considerations and factors.
Will I be at risk of a denial of an insurance claim if I am in an accident while not wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle in Florida?
Failure to wear a helmet may have a negative impact on your insurance claim. Although it is your decision to wear or not to wear a helmet, having an accident while not wearing a helmet may lead to an insurance company taking the position that you were negligent. Insurance companies can try to claim that your injuries (particularly if you experience head trauma as a result of your accident) were caused by your decision not to wear a helmet.
This is a tough claim to refute because their position is intuitive. So, again, you may want to read the fine print of your health and/or vehicle insurance to see if they explicitly state that such helmet usage consideration will be taken into account in the event of a claim.
Your injuries could have been less severe if you had decided to wear protective gear. Nevertheless, there is no way of knowing how serious your injuries would’ve been if you had been wearing a helmet.
Complicating the matter is the situation where suppose you are riding a motorcycle without a helmet and get struck by a vehicle, and it is not your fault. The driver of the vehicle that struck you may argue that your head injuries were allowed to be significantly more severe by the fact that you chose not to wear the recommended protective gear – in this case a motorcycle helmet. Hence, it’s always safe to wear a helmet so that you do not fall victim to such legal issues.
An individual who is somewhat at blame for the cause of their accident may have their compensation lowered under Florida’s pure comparative fault laws. The decrease is proportional to the individual’s share of the blame for their injury.
Because studies show that wearing a helmet minimizes injuries and saves lives, the situation might get difficult. A jury would have to consider if your failure to wear a helmet was reckless. After a motorcycle accident, the smart thing to do is call an expert motorcycle accident lawyer to evaluate your case. Every case has unique circumstances.
The bottom line, unless you are some kind of lawyer who happens to know the ins and outs of motorcycle accident and helmet laws (which are probably about .00001% of the rider population) and think you can outsmart the courts if you get in an accident while not wearing a motorcycle helmet (and then, would someone smart enough to get through law school, pass the Bar exam, and be that knowledgeable on this topic really be an anti-motorcycle helmet kind of person?!?!), then we suggest you just wear the darn helmet!!
What are the obvious safety benefits of complying with Florida motorcycle helmet law and wearing a motorcycle helmet?
Cars are outfitted with airbags, safety belts, durable frames, and a slew of other safety systems to keep drivers and passengers unharmed in the case of a collision. As a motorcycle rider, you simply have the clothing on your back and a helmet on your noggin (hopefully) to protect you.
Riding without a helmet puts your most precious organ at risk of damage as it is protected by a skull that simply doesn’t have the DOT stamp on it so it’s not going to give you enough protection.
We are not here to limit your liberty. Many motorcycle riders consider wearing a helmet to be a hindrance to their enjoyment of the ride. In 2018, just 71% of motorcyclists in the United States wore them. Let us go over a few numbers to better understand just how important helmets are.
Wearing a motorcycle helmet can save your life. According to the DOT, the usage of head protection prevented an estimated 1,872 deaths in the year 2017. If all motorcycle riders had worn headgear in the year 2017, 749 more lives could have been spared.
There are also financial advantages to wearing a helmet and having motorcycle insurance. Remember that following helmet requirements will not protect you from potential legal issues if you are harmed in a motorcycle accident while not wearing protective gear. Since motorcycle insurance is not mandatory, if a rider is involved in a collision, they are financially liable for any injuries or damage to property.
Helmets, as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), lower the risk of mortality by 37% and the risk of brain injury by 69%. The data does not lie.
So, although it is your decision whether or not to wear a helmet in Florida, doing so can save your life or prevent catastrophic head damage. Making the correct decision can save your life in the event of a crash.
Final Thoughts Regarding Florida Motorcycle Helmet Legal Requirements
While it is true that motorcyclists have no control over road circumstances, weather, or the actions of other motorists, they should take precautions to safeguard themselves from accidents and life-threatening situations.
Particularly motorcycle riders in Florida should consider the fact that you are probably going to be on the road on your bike more often than riders in other states and so not only do you need to understand that Florida has motorcycle helmet laws and abide by them for legality sake, but also abide by Florida motorcycle helmet laws for your “life preservation sake.”
Do not jeopardize your health and safety by not wearing a motorcycle helmet whenever you ride. Not only will it minimize your chances of being hurt, but it will also make recovering financial compensation simpler if you are involved in a collision. Our objective is to make you aware of these dangers so that you will think twice before riding your bike without a helmet.