Florida is among those states with the highest percentage of motorcycle operators. It stands to reason, given that the Sunshine State enjoys ideal motorcycle weather year-round. Curiously though, there are also a lot of bikers in Florida who don’t wear helmets. You can see them on the roads every day. Knowing what we know about helmets and their ability to save lives, it seems strange that so many would ride their bikes without one.
So what gives? Why do so many Florida bikers take to the roads without a helmet? In short, they do so because they can. Florida allows motorcycle operators over the age of 21 who carry at least $10,000 in personal injury protection to go helmetless. There is a dichotomy in this particular provision of the law though, according to a South Florida personal injury attorneys known as the VG Law Group.
No State Insurance Mandate
Florida law does not mandate motor vehicle insurance for two- and three-wheeled vehicles. So technically, bikers do not need to have insurance at all. This is obviously risky given the potential for being sued by a Florida personal injury attorney following a crash. Nonetheless, allowing bikers over the age of 21 to go without helmets as long as they carry adequate insurance is a way to encourage them to be insured. Do you see the dichotomy?
One way to address the issue is to simply mandate both helmets and insurance for all motorcycle operators. But to date, Florida’s legislature has been reluctant to go that route. So the dichotomy remains – at least for motorcycle operators 21 years old and older.
The Freedom of the Road
Insurance issues and personal injury attorneys aside, it is interesting to understand the mindset of the Florida biker who doesn’t wear a helmet. Bikers everywhere talk about the feeling of freedom they get when tooling down the road on the back of a motorcycle. That freedom is experienced by not being confined in the enclosed steel cage that is your typical car.
That sense of freedom is even more profound when you are not wearing a helmet. Going without a helmet means feeling the wind in your hair and the warm sun on your face. But more importantly, bikers feel a greater sense of freedom in being able to decide for themselves whether or not a helmet is appropriate.
The situation is a lot like mandatory seat belt laws. Drivers all across the country were unhappy a few decades ago when states began passing seat belt laws. They were upset that regulators were taking away their freedom to choose for themselves. Helmet laws inspire the same kinds of reactions from bikers.
Still a Good Idea
Some people look at motorcycle helmet laws from the perspective of individual freedom. Others think about accidents, medical costs, and personal injury lawsuits. But in the end, wearing a helmet is still a good idea from a safety perspective. Studies consistently show that helmet use reduces the risk of brain injury and death following an accident.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), helmets save more than 1,000 lives every year. They reduce the risk of head injuries by 69% and fatalities by 37%. Those are some impressive numbers.
In Florida, motorcycle helmets are optional if you are old enough and carry enough insurance. Florida laws, combined with the state’s beautiful weather, are likely the two biggest factors contributing to the large number of bikers who go without helmets. Whether you are a Florida resident or someone who just visits on vacation, now you know.