If you enjoy riding your motorcycle with the breeze blowing through your hair, you might have to put a lid on those locks under a bill proposed in Florida’s House that would require all motorcycle riders to wear helmets.
The measure, HB 6009, would strip from state law an exemption added in 2000 that allows motorcycle drivers and riders to go helmet-less as long as they are over the age of 21 and have “at least $10,000 in medical benefits for injuries incurred as a result of a crash while operating or riding on a motorcycle.”
State Rep. Don Hahnfeldt, R-The Villages, filed the bill in December for the upcoming legislative session, which kicks off March 7 in Tallahassee. If the bill passes, it would make riding a motorcycle without a helmet a noncriminal infraction.
While proponents of the state’s exemption say it should be up to each rider to decide if they want to wear a helmet, Florida saw an increase in motorcycle crashes in 2015 — the most recent data available — according to a report from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
There were more than 10,200 motorcycle crashes in the state in 2015, up 3.5 percent from 2014, the state report said. Deaths of motorcycle drivers in 2015 saw an even larger jump with 546 killed, up nearly 28 percent from the year before. And motorcycle passenger deaths spiked even higher, up almost 73 percent to 38 deaths in 2015. Nearly half of all people killed in motorcycle crashes in Florida in 2015 were not wearing helmets, according to state data.
Palm Beach County bucked the state trend, with a slight decrease in the number of motorcycle crashes from 2014 to 2015, dropping from 525 to 520.
But the number of people who died in motorcycle crashes in Palm Beach County doubled from 17 in 2014 to 34 in 2015.