2011 Motorcycle Helmet Use Laws

Just this month, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety issued a report regarding the motorcycle helmet use laws for each of the states. The Institute's research found that "laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear a helmet are in place in 20 states and the District of Columbia. Laws requiring only some motorcyclists to wear a helmet are in place in 27 states.

There is no motorcycle helmet use law in 3 states (Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire)." Florida falls into the category of states where only some motorcyclists are required to wear a helmet. "In Florida, the law requires that all riders younger than 21 years wear helmets, without exception. Those 21 years and older may ride without helmets only if they can show proof that they are covered by a medical insurance policy." Florida's motorcycle helmet use law rating was "poor"-which means, "either no helmet use law or law covers only some riders."

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety studied the effects of states' enactment, repeal, or weakening of universal helmet laws. The study found that "helmet use approached 100 percent when all motorcyclists were required to wear helmets, compared with about 50 percent when there was no helmet law or a law applying only to some riders." I was not shocked when I read this as I hear all too often of the tragic deaths and serious injuries of motorcycle riders who are not wearing his or her helmets. Whenever I am driving on our roads here in southwest Florida, I make certain to use extra caution with motorcyclists as I know most of them are not wearing a helmet.

I remember driving on our roads when helmets were required, but In 2000, Florida's universal helmet law "was weakened" to exempt riders 21 and older who have at least $10,000 of medical insurance coverage. "An Institute study found that the motorcyclist death rate in Florida increased by about 25 percent after the state weakened its helmet law. The death rate rose from 31 fatalities per 1,000 crash involvements before the law change (1998-99) to 39 fatalities per 1,000 crash involvements after (2001-2002). An estimated 117 deaths could have been prevented during 2001-02 if the law had not been changed."

When I think about a motorcycle rider waking up in the morning and making a decision to ride his or her bike without a helmet, I always wonder what rationale he or she is using. I understand and have heard the joys and freedoms of riding a motorcycle on the highway without a helmet. But, if it means you may not be able to wake up and ride the motorcycle tomorrow as a result of a tragic accident, I would hope one would proceed with absolute precaution and wear the helmet.

I am not writing this blog passing judgment. Just the opposite. I hope I save at least one life by someone, somewhere reading this and making the decision to wear a helmet and to ride safely on our roads here in southwest Florida. I read this quote today about motorcyclists, "Everyone crashes. Some get back on. Some don't. Some can't." If you choose to ride, please make certain to wear your helmet and still enjoy the freedom of your motorcycle.