Motorcycle helmet laws have had a long and complicated history here in the United States. In 1967, the Highway Safety Act was enacted. One of the requirements of this act was for states to implement helmet use laws for motorcyclists. The states that failed to pass these laws would be penalized by losing a percentage of their federal highway funding. As a result, almost every state had implemented laws requiring motorcyclists to wear a helmet by the early 1970s.
Despite these implementations at the state level, there were many detractors of these helmet use laws. Following pushback from states that failed to enact these laws, Congress revised the Highway Safety Act in 1976. States no longer needed to implement helmet use laws in order to receive federal highway funding. Since then, many states, including Florida, have revised these laws. In a landmark 1996 case, Florida’s mandatory helmet law was overturned and ruled as unconstitutional by a Pinellas Country court. As of today, only 19 states mandate the usage of a helmet while riding a motorcycle.
In 2000, Florida Governor Jeb Bush signed a law into effect, requiring only motorcyclists who are aged 20 or below to wear a certified helmet while riding; failure to do so results in a $35 fine. According to the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles, if you are 21 years of age or older, you do not have to wear a helmet while on a motorcycle. However, you must also have a medical insurance policy of at least $10,000. All motorcyclists, regardless of age, must either wear eye protection while riding, or have a windshield on their bike.
Upon the implementation of this law, the number of motorcycle-related fatalities began to increase. Between 1997 and 2000, there was an average of 120 deaths associated with motorcycle usage. In 2001, one year after the law’s implementation, there were 246 deaths. The number of yearly deaths has increased since then, despite a brief decrease during the recession from 2008-2010. In 2012, despite mandatory motorcycle training courses for all riders, there were nearly 460 motorcycle-related fatalities in Florida; these figures are nearly double those from 2001.
Wearing a Helmet Can Lower Your Risk of Suffering a Brain Injury
Despite Florida’s laws that allow riders above 21 not to wear a helmet, these above statistics clearly demonstrate the importance of doing so while riding a motorcycle or even a scooter. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, wearing a helmet can lower the risk of brain injury by 67%, and the risk of dying by 29% when in a motorcycle crash. In addition, certified helmets have been proven to not impair a rider’s hearing or vision.
A recent study conducted by the University of Southern California demonstrated that riders who wear a helmet did not experience as many head or neck injuries as riders who did not. Although the benefits acquired by wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle should be clear by this point, it is important to note that wearing a helmet is not a foolproof method to stay alive.
More importantly, a rider must exercise a great deal of caution when on a motorcycle, and should be extremely comfortable riding one before attempting to drive on a busy road or highway. While you may not be required to wear a helmet while on a motorcycle here in Florida, the evidence and benefits of doing so is extremely overwhelming. As an Orlando personal injury attorney, I strongly recommend you and your loved ones wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle.