Will Florida Motorcyclists be Required to Wear Helmets?
After 16 years of allowing motorcyclists to lawfully ride helmet-free, will Florida finally pass legislation requiring all motorcyclists to wear protective headgear? According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were more than 10,000 motorcycle crashes in Florida in 2015, 546 of which resulted in driver deaths. These safety statistics, as well as others, have contributed to the growing conversation about helmet requirements, especially among lawmakers.
According to Florida Highway Patrol, nearly half of the motorcyclists who died in crashes in 2013 and 2014 were not wearing helmets. Florida Representative, Don Hahnfeldt, who proposed the legislation, suggests that all motorcyclists be required by law to wear protective headgear in order to prevent such deaths.
Current Florida law authorizes motorcyclists over the age of 21 who carry proof of medical insurance to operate a motorcycle without a helmet, however, Hahnfeldt’s bill, HB 6009, will remove this exception, effective July 1, 2017. Removing this stipulation will require all motorcyclists to wear helmets, those who fail to do so may face a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a nonmoving violation.
Helmet use for motorcyclists has long since been a hot topic, debated for its safety values and the question of personal choice. While many establishments, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety, cite numerous safety reasons for helmet use, still many argue that helmet use should be an independent decision. Various motorcycle riding groups and clubs advocate for the freedom of choice, maintaining that, while helmets are proven to reduce and prevent injury, it should be the decision of each rider whether or not he or she chooses to wear one.