Does Florida’s Motorcycle Helmet Law Put Riders at Greater Risk?
Motorcycle riders are always at an increased risk of harm while on the road. Other drivers often fail to notice motorcycles, and in the event of an accident, the lack of a surrounding vehicular structure makes what would have been a minor fender-bender into a serious, perhaps life-threatening situation. That all makes Florida’s stance on motorcycle helmets somewhat confusing. It’s legal to ride in the state without a helmet as long as a few requirements are met. Is that putting bikers at greater risk?
A Look at the Law
Prior to 2000, Florida was like most other states in the nation, which require motorcycle riders to wear a helmet at all times if they were on the road. However, that changed. From 2000 onward, it has been legal for bikers to ride without a helmet as long as they were over the age of 21, and carried at least $10,000 in medical insurance.
Upping the Risk or Increasing Freedom?
Does that add up to more risk for riders, though? Not necessarily, according to the state’s Highway Patrol. In 2013, central Florida experienced 57 deaths on motorcycles, but only 32 of those weren’t wearing a helmet. In 2014, there were 50 deaths, but only 23 involved no helmet. In 2015, there were 62 deaths, and 31 of those involved a rider not wearing a helmet. Of course, those are just the deaths in section of Florida. What about across the state?
In 2014, there were 450 deaths of motorcycle riders or passengers throughout Florida. About 210 of those involved no helmet. The numbers were similar for 2013 and 2015. So, only about half of all motorcycle-related deaths in the state involved the driver or passenger not wearing a helmet. Does that mean that those deaths could have been avoided, though? Again, not necessarily.
According to a Highway Patrol spokesperson, “I think a lot of people think that a lot of fatalities are going to be without the helmets, but there are a lot of crashes that are unsurvivable because of the nature of the crash. There is no trend one way or another.”
With that being said, there have been more than 70 studies done in the state since 2000 that show wearing a helmet can help make an accident more survivable. Helmets protect against impacts, as well as absorbing that impact.
As an important note, Florida’s law does not prevent anyone from wearing a helmet on a motorcycle. The law leaves it up to the individual if they wish to wear one. This is fine with most bikers in the state, as they feel it should be their right to choose how they ride. It’s about personal freedom, but also personal responsibility. Most riders take the stance that if they are injured without wearing a helmet, that’s the result of their own decision, and they would likely make it again. This sentiment is even echoed by those who’ve been involved in accidents without wearing a helmet.
Some riders take the opposite stance. While they agree that it’s the rider’s right whether to wear one or not, they choose to wear a helmet at all times. It’s all about the numbers for these riders. There’s simply no way to discount the results of the innumerable studies that show helmets help make lower-speed impacts more survivable. Of course, even the most state of the art helmet cannot make all accidents survivable – high speeds simply generate too much energy.
With all that being said, wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle is still the safest choice.