Twelve years after Florida’s motorcycle helmet law was repealed, most bikers have stopped wearing the protective gear, contributing to a vast decline in highway safety.
Currently those above the age of 21 and with more than $10,000 in medical coverage can forgo wearing a helmet. Before July 1, 2000, every single rider had to wear one. Repeal proponents claimed the law infringed on their liberties and was paternalistic. Yet the law’s absence has led to a public health hazard.
After the law was changed, helmet usage across Florida decreased dramatically — from nearly all motorcyclists on the road to just 50 percent, according to a 2005 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Motorcyclist injuries and deaths — as expected — have risen drastically since Florida changed the law. Motorcycle deaths in the two years after the repeal were 71 percent higher than those during the helmet law’s last two years.
The only bright side to the way things are: the rise in fatal motorcycle accidents has correlated with a rise in organ donations — with one donation having the potential to save eight lives. But that surely isn’t the best way to increase organ donations.
Bikers who decline to wear helmets and then suffer an accident are a strain on healthcare resources, usually requiring intensive care if they survive the crash. Wearing a helmet could be the difference between a speedy recovery process and one that is long and expensive.
Motorcyclists’ medical expenses frequently exceed the amount covered by their insurance. In fact, only about 25 percent of all the hospitalized cases for head, brain or skull injuries from motorcycle accidents cost less than $10,000. The average case cost increased by $5,296, up to $39,877.
It falls on taxpayers to bail out riders for their risky behavior: One out of every five motorcycle accident patients’ billed costs are sought from charitable and public sources like Medicaid, representing a total of $10.5 million.
The status quo also places an unfair burden on automobile drivers, who share the road with motorcyclists across South Florida. Drivers who accidently collide with riders will incur higher costs, all because of the motorcyclist’s refusal to wear a helmet.
It is time to reinstate Florida’s Motorcycle Helmet Law. It has riders’ best interests in mind and ensures fairness for taxpayers.