Helmets for motorcycle riders in Florida


Motorcycle Helmet post-accident
Source: http://www.iridenewyork.com

I’ve lived in Florida most of my life. There have been countless times when I’ve been driving down a highway and been passed by a motorcyclist wearing only a ball cap for head protection. It’s scary to think what would happen if a car changing lanes clipped the motorcycle- for the canvas ball cap would be little match for the asphalt.

Many states have laws requiring helmets by all motorcycle riders, but Florida is not one of them. Florida’s universal helmet law was repealed in 2000. Now it is legal for riders over the age of 21 who have at least $10,000 worth of medical coverage insurance to ride without a helmet. According to the CDC, during the 2 years following this law change the motorcycle death rate in Florida increased by 21%. In addition, the hospital admissions for motorcycle riders with head injuries, brain injuries, and injuries to the skull increased by 82%.

Motorcycle helmet laws

Percentage of motorcyclist fatalities in which riders were not wearing helmets, by state — United States, 2008–2010
Source: CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

Helmet use consistently has been shown to reduce motorcycle crash–related injuries and deaths, and the most effective strategy to increase helmet use is enactment of universal helmet laws. Reinstating a universal helmet law for motorcyclists in Florida will reduce health care costs, prevent serious injuries, and save lives.


10 Responses to “Helmets for motorcycle riders in Florida”

  1. karinswihart Says:

    Thanks for focusing on this issue. It drives me crazy seeing people riding motorcycles without helmets. However, I, myself didn’t wear a helmet when using boda boda drivers as a form of transportation in Uganda… I guess I succumb to cultural pressures!

    I find the $10,000 medical coverage requirement interesting. I had a coworker working on health care reform who proposed an idea that we could eliminate all laws regarding helmets, however, the cost of their injury would not be covered by anyone and liability insurance would be so exorbitant that it would be be in the best interest to wear a helmet. Granted that’s more libertarian than I would go, but still interesting.

    What are your thoughts about helmets for bicycles?

  2. jyang80 Says:

    Thanks for posting this entry. I myself have been in an accident similar to this situation in high school. On the way to school, I was hit by a car while riding my bike across the street. Thankfully I was wearing my helmet and only got few scrapes on my knees and the sides of my bike. That incident could’ve been worse if I had not worn my helmet. Also, this accident didn’t even happen on a highway, rather it was in a quiet residential area. So I definitely believe there should be a law about wearing helmets at all times too, no matter how old or where people are riding their motorcycles or bicycles.

  3. Chun Chen Says:

    I believe reinstating the state policy is very important.

    I can talk a little bit my experience in my home country. Back in China, wearing helmet is required by the law. However, there is no strong legal enforcement to do punish such doing. For example, when the policemen find someone riding motorcycles without helmets, they don’t have the time or energy to deal with them comparing with other more important issues. Even if the drivers are caught, they would only play around 200 RMB, which is around $30.

    The way to deal with the problem will be provide a free helmet through MVA to them when they finish some registration work. The financing of the helmet can be obtained through severe fines, at least $500. In such a way, drivers will have the incentive to obey the law after we pass it.

  4. mispjhsph Says:

    Thank you for bringing up such an important topic. I was intrigued by the fact that riders over the age of 21 who have at least $10,000 worth of medical coverage insurance could ride without a helmet. I wonder how that amount was calculated. I believe in – “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.

    As you noted, even CDC data shows that during the 2 years following this particular law change, the motorcycle death rate in Florida increased by 21% and the hospital admissions for motorcycle riders with head injuries, brain injuries, and injuries to the skull increased by 82%. Every effort should be done to reinstate the universal helmet use law for motorcyclists in Florida. Policies similar to the ones that have proven to be effective in increasing seat belt use can also be utilized to increase helmet use by motorcyclists in Florida.

  5. Catherine Cheung Says:

    One burning question comes to mind after reading your blog. What arguments were used by the proponents of the law to repeal helmet use in 2000? My guess would be that these arguments would have something to do with “liberty” and “freedom” and such. I’m not sure that I have ever been convinced, however, that such arguments have validity when potentially, society as a whole would be expected to care for injured motorists when accidents do occur (notwithstanding the $10,000 insurance!).

  6. menchen2014 Says:

    Thanks for the interesting post. I totally agree that the helmet avoidance could substantively increase healthcare expenditure and traffic injury.
    While I am thinking more interventions besides a genera universal helmet laws are highly required for an effective solution of this problem.
    Firstly, from the scope of social behavior, associated policy makers should comprehensively understanding why people reject to wear helmets. Various factors should be taken into consideration such as the convenience and appearance of helmet, public perspective and knowledge of wearing helmet, reasonable avenues of interventions etc.
    Meanwhile, related stakeholders and policy makers should collaborate to solve this problem locally and nationally. For example, American Traffic Solutions could collaborate with the Florida Department of Transportation to make policy adjustment, public campaign and community education etc.

  7. hdantat1 Says:

    Hi Amanda,
    I find your posting intriguing, yet worrisome as regards the safety of riders.
    In view of the data you have provided, it is evidence that repealing the universal helmet use law in the state of Florida has not only resulted in an increase in motorcycle related injuries, but also increased health care costs. This change in state law was seen as a victory for individual rights by biker organizations that had lobbied the Florida legislature for a repeal of laws mandating helmet use.
    Though the biker organizations may have lobbied for a repeal of the law, a root-cause analysis to determine the reasons why this action was taken by the biker organization needs to be conducted. This would provide a guide on strategies to be adopted in order to re-orient the bikers on the pros and cons of using a protective helmet.
    The public policy issue for our society and legislature in this case, is whether the concept of individual rights overrides the point that helmet use saves both money and lives.
    I agree with you that the law should be reinstated.


  8. thesarafletcher Says:

    Great topic. When I visit my family in Arkansas (another state where helmets aren’t required for adults over 21) it always blows me away the number of riders without a helmet, often while also smoking a cigarette. (I’m not sure how they manage to keep it lit, but that’s another story.)

    Regarding insurance, $10,000 of coverage is barely a drop in the bucket to cover trauma service and rehab costs of an accident. I just don’t understand how seatbelts can be required for car riders, but not helmets on motorcycle (or bicycle) riders?


    The link is a little old, but it’s interested the read the comments below encouraging people to “stand up for their rights to freedom of choice” when a politician brought forth a bill to change the law to again require helmets in Arkansas back in 2003. If only people could exercise their freedom of choice to make smart decisions….maybe our healthcare premiums would be lower 😉

  9. patriclo3 Says:

    Thank you for this interesting post. I was a bit dumbfounded to hear about the helmet law being repealed. It angers me that people use terms such as “individual rights and liberty” to fight against prevention and safety, not to mention increasing healthcare costs for everyone else. Ideally, yes, people should be given the right to make their own decisions. However, with this right, they should make responsible and smart decisions. If not, and the decisions are in fact causing more harm to people in addition to an increase in healthcare costs, then it is time for the helmet law to be reinstated.

  10. loopertx Says:

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