At age 21, The State of Florida trusts you with a major responsibility. It is a responsibility that, unfortunately, many do not take seriously. No, we are not talking about the responsibility of purchasing and consuming alcohol; we mean the responsibility of legally operating a motorcycle without a helmet. Though it is legal to operate certain motorcycles at age 16 (with proper licensing), a helmet is required until the rider is over the age of 21 and has at least $10,000 of medical benefits.
As you know, the potential risks of drinking are enormous and not to be underestimated. This is why drinking is only legal for adults that can fully grasp the responsibility of their actions. The same can be said for not wearing a helmet; you must understand the risks before the state allows you to legally take on this personal responsibility.
Though you do not have to wear a helmet, we have seen enough unfortunate cases of serious brain injury and death, directly connected to the lack of helmet use. According to the Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety, motorcycle helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 69% and the risk of death by 42%. Why gamble with your life when simply finding and wearing the safest motorcycle helmets available could prevent a future tragedy?
Below is Florida Statute 316.211 pertaining to required equipment for motorcycle operators:
Equipment for Motorcycle and Moped Riders
(1) A person may not operate or ride upon a motorcycle unless the person is properly wearing protective headgear securely fastened upon his or her head which complies with Federal Motorcycle Vehicle Safety Standard 218 promulgated by the United States Department of Transportation. The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles shall adopt this standard by agency rule.
(2) A person may not operate a motorcycle unless the person is wearing an eye-protective device over his or her eyes of a type approved by the department.
(3)(a) This section does not apply to persons riding within an enclosed cab or to any person 16 years of age or older who is operating or riding upon a motorcycle powered by a motor with a displacement of 50 cubic centimeters or less or is rated not in excess of 2 brake horsepower and which is not capable of propelling such motorcycle at a speed greater than 30 miles per hour on level ground.
(b) Notwithstanding subsection (1), a person over 21 years of age may operate or ride upon a motorcycle without wearing protective headgear securely fastened upon his or her head if such person is covered by an insurance policy providing for at least $10,000 in medical benefits for injuries incurred as a result of a crash while operating or riding on a motorcycle.
(4) A person under 16 years of age may not operate or ride upon a moped unless the person is properly wearing protective headgear securely fastened upon his or her head which complies with Federal Motorcycle Vehicle Safety Standard 218 promulgated by the United States Department of Transportation.
(5) The department shall make available a list of protective headgear approved in this section, and the list shall be provided on request.
(6) Each motorcycle registered to a person under 21 years of age must display a license plate that is unique in design and color.
(7) A violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a nonmoving violation as provided in chapter 318.
With that in mind, we have a few tips for those searching for the safest motorcycle helmets.
Finding a Safe Helmet
- Check for both Department of Transit (DOT) and Snell Memorial Foundation certification on helmets. Something to note is that Snell-approved helmets often face a higher level of safety standard scrutiny than those that are simply DOT approved.
- Utilize the Internet. There are literally thousands of helmet options to fit every need and style preference. Sites like HelmetCheck.org make it exceedingly easy to find the safest motorcycle helmets on the market.
- Ask an expert. Many motorcycle shops are filled with knowledgeable and helpful motorcyclists that would happily steer you in the right direction. Try them on for yourself to ensure the helmet fits comfortably and provides the features you are looking for in a helmet. You can also look up the safety reviews of any recommended helmet models to ensure that they are, indeed, up to snuff.
Regardless of your preferences, we cannot express how important it is to wear a helmet enough. More comfortable and stylish than ever, a helmet could save you from a traumatic brain injury or even death. You may consider yourself the safest of motorcyclists, but that does not mean you are not at risk whenever you mount your ride. Be safe, and never take the gamble of riding with so much at stake.