More often than not, when people talk about vehicle accidents, they mean cars, trucks, vans, and SUVS. But bicycles are vehicles too, and they’re involved in collisions more often than you might realize.
It’s easy to forget about the dangers inherent in biking, especially in seemingly low-risk areas, like residential neighborhoods or rural communities. But even light or low-speed traffic moves much faster than the fastest bicycle, so there’s always a real risk for harm.
As Miami bicycle accident lawyers, we’ve been actively involved in the effort to make South Florida a safer and more welcoming place for cyclists. Sadly, Miami-Dade County (and the Sunshine State as a whole) has a pretty atrocious record in that regard — and that’s something we’re fighting to change.
Because our firm does so much work in bicycle accident litigation, biking enthusiasts often reach out to us with questions about Florida’s bicycle helmet and headlight laws — what does the law require and when?
Florida’s Bicycle Helmet Law Explained
Unfortunately, Florida has one of the most relaxed bicycle helmet laws in the country.
In fact, Florida does not require adults to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle at any time.
That fact is likely directly correlated with the high rate of bicycle accidents and fatalities in our state. Sadly, many bikers take their cue from the statute. Since the law doesn’t tell them they need to wear a helmet, they choose not to — and when accidents happen, the results are disastrous.
There is good news, at least, for some minors: Florida does require a helmet for bicycle riders or passengers who are under 16 years of age. In those cases, the helmet must fit properly and be securely fastened to the head with a strap that meets the minimum federal safety standards for bicycle helmets.
Minors who violate Florida’s bicycle helmet law may receive a verbal warning (coupled with a safety brochure) or, alternatively, a pedestrian violation citation with a fine. That fine could be waved if it is a first offense and the biker provides proof of purchase of a compliant helmet.
Florida’s Bicycle Headlight Laws Explained
Florida does impose some basic standards for the lights and reflectors on a bicycle, though they generally apply only to bicycles that are in use during the evening hours.
Florida’s bicycle headlight laws require that bikes in this state be equipped with:
- A lamp on the front that exhibits white light, which must be visible for at least 500 feet
- A reflector on the rear of the bike that exhibits red light, which must be visible for at least 600 feet.
Those requirements only apply between sunset and sunrise. The penalties are similar to those imposed for violating Florida’s bicycle helmet law (see above), and first offenses can be waived upon proof of purchase and installation of the proper lighting equipment.
Note that, with a few limited exceptions, flashing lights are strictly prohibited on bicycles in Florida. Make sure you install the right kinds of headlights and reflectors.
The Difference Between “Must” and “Should”
Florida might not require you to wear a helmet or to install enhanced safety features on your bicycle, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
Bicycle-motor vehicle collisions account for about 2% of the traffic fatalities in any given year. Many of those deaths could have been prevented if the bikers wore proper safety gear and motorists drove more carefully.
The Sunshine State has been slow to take more aggressive action toward protecting cyclists, but that doesn’t mean you can’t protect yourself. Get a reliable bike, install common-sense safety gear, and always wear a helmet, no matter what your age might be.
Legal Advice & Representation for Florida Bicycle Accident Victims
Mark Kaire has been practicing law in Miami for nearly 30 years. He is dedicated to helping the injured people of Miami receive compensation. Mr. Kaire has been blogging on Miami’s legal issues for many years.