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Why motorcycle riders should ignore Florida’s helmet exemption

Most state laws require motorcycle riders to wear helmets at all times, regardless of their age, health or insurance status. Florida is one of the few states that provides an exemption.

According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, a person may choose not to wear a helmet if he or she meets two eligibility requirements. The law established these eligibility requirements on July 1, 2000.

Florida’s helmet exemption

To qualify for Florida’s helmet exemption, riders must be at least 21 years old. They must also have an insurance policy that provides, at a minimum, $10,000 in medical benefits. Though the state will accept proof of medical insurance from any recognized insurance provider, it advises law enforcement to favor cards from Blue Cross/Blue Shield or an HMO. Riders must have current coverage to avoid legal consequences.

Reasons riders should ignore the exemption

Just because Florida law provides an exemption to the helmet rule does not necessarily mean eligible riders should take advantage of it. Helmets drastically reduce riders’ risk of sustaining head or traumatic brain injuries, both of which account for between 75% and 88% of motorcycle-related fatalities. This is because, according to the WHO, helmets create an additional layer of protection against more severe forms of head injuries. They do this in three ways:

  • They reduce the deceleration of the skull (and therefore brain movement) by absorbing some of the impact.
  • They prevent direct contact between the skull and an outside object.
  • They distribute the force of the impact over a larger surface area so that one part of the brain does not sustain the full force of the blow.

These three functions lead to a decrease in three main areas: head injuries, fatalities and health care costs. Per the findings, helmets decrease the risk and severity of head injuries by as much as 72%; they decrease the likelihood of death by 39%; and they drastically reduce the costs associated with motorcycle accidents.

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