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Is it time to reconsider motorcycle helmet laws in Florida?

Florida’s first motorcycle accident fatality of 2015 and an analysis of motorcycle accident statistics since the state repealed its mandatory helmet law in 2000, has led some people to reconsider the wisdom of that repeal.

The accident in question took place in Highlands County when a motorcyclist collided with a car making a left turn. It was the fourth fatal accident involving a motorcycle in the county since 2014. In most of these accidents, the driver of the other vehicle either failed to see the motorcyclist or ran into the motorcycle while committing some other traffic violation.

Problems of other drivers failing to either observe motorcycles on the road with them or otherwise negligently operating their vehicles in ways that jeopardize motorcyclists have combined with the lack of use of motorcycle helmets to produce a lethal cocktail for fatal accidents. This is demonstrated by the following statistics:

  • In the years 2010 through 2012, motorcycle accident fatalities gradually increased from 382 to 457.
  • From 2001 through 2013, even though the overall rate of traffic accident-related injuries decreased by 10 percent and fatalities by twice that amount, the number of motorcycle accident injuries and fatalities went in the opposite direction: injuries increased by 50 percent, and fatalities have nearly doubled.

The increase in injuries and deaths has led some to believe that they are at least in part the result of fewer motorcycle riders wearing helmets. In at least one of the fatal accidents in Highlands County last year, the motorcyclist was wearing a helmet. Despite the rise in injuries and fatalities, there does not appear to be any significant legislative movement to again make helmet use mandatory in Florida.

No amount of bumper stickers proclaiming, "Look twice for motorcycles," or the designation of a "Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month" will change the need for motorcyclists to lookout for drivers who are not alert enough. But when safety awareness is not enough, and an accident occurs, consulting with a personal injury attorney experienced in motorcycle accident cases may be the most practical recourse to cope with the injuries or property damage that may ensue.

Source: Highlands Today, "A driving reminder of awareness," Paul Catala, Jan. 10, 2015

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