Is it illegal to drive a motorcycle without a helmet in Florida?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. That’s because the Florida motorcycle helmet laws are complicated and filled with exceptions. Let’s take a look.
Helmets Are Always Required… Except for When They’re Not (Which Is Often)
The general rule in Florida is that every motorcycle driver and passenger must wear an approved safety helmet. There are several key exceptions, though, and large numbers of motorcyclists fall within them.
In Florida, you have to wear a helmet unless:
- You are over the age of 21 and you have an insurance policy that provides at least $10,000 in medical benefits for injuries that result from a motorcycle crash.
- You are age 16 or older and are operating a motorcycle that is incapable of going faster than 30 mph on level ground and is powered by a motor with a maximum displacement of 50 cubic centimeters or is otherwise rated not in excess of 2 brake horsepower.
- You are riding in an enclosed cab.
As you can see, these are broad caveats to the general rule. The practical effect of these exceptions is that most of-age motorcyclists can drive without a helmet in Florida (as long as they have sufficient insurance).
Note: The Florida motorcycle helmet laws are found in Florida Statute 316.211 (“Equipment for Motorcycle and Moped Riders”).
Even When Helmets Aren’t Required, Eye Protection Is
All drivers and passengers — regardless of age or insurance coverage — must wear eye protection while on a motorcycle. That goes for mopeds, too. The only exception is for people riding in an enclosed cab.
Biker’s Rights vs. Biker Safety
The Florida motorcycle helmet laws boil down to a tension between biker’s rights and biker safety.
On the one hand, many motorcyclists want the freedom to choose for themselves when they’ll wear helmets. On the other, advocates worry about the extremely high fatality rate associated with Florida motorcycle accidents — and car drivers worry about the damage they might cause in a crash with a helmet-less biker.
As longtime Miami motorcycle accident attorneys, our firm has always defended biker’s rights to use the roads. But we are also fiercely committed to keeping those bikers safe.
We’ve seen far too many lives impacted by catastrophic head and brain injuries in the absence of a helmet in Florida.
Accordingly, we encourage motorcyclists and moped operators to make the right choice for safety, regardless of what the statutes might technically allow. I know this is not a popular stance with riders, but we feel it is the right stance.
We have represented many clients that sustained head injuries in motorcycle accidents. While Florida law does not require riders to wear helmets, the defendant is entitled to introduce evidence of comparative fault. In essence, the defendant can admit liability for causing the accident, but ask the jury to apportion a percentage of fault on the motorcyclist for not wearing a helmet. In a simple example, assume the Jury awards the motorcyclist $1,000,000.00, but finds he was 30% negligent for not wearing a helmet. The judge will reduce the award by 30% ($300,000.00) in the example above.
While we urge motorcyclists to wear helmets, we have successfully argued that helmets would not have prevented our client’s head injury. The argument is that the Motorcyclist sustains a coup contrecoup injury on impact. A coup injury occurs near that area of impact, and a countrecoup injury occur at the area opposite of impact.
Thus, the argument is that the helmet would not make a difference in preventing the injury.
Despite our good lawyering, our advice is simple: wear a helmet. Every time.
Questions? Ask Our Miami Motorcycle Accident Attorneys.
Do you still have questions? Unsure whether the Florida motorcycle helmet laws apply to you? Have you been injured in a car crash involving a motorcycle or moped?
The experienced Miami motorcycle accident attorneys at Kaire & Heffernan, LLC can help. Call our office to learn more.