Motorcycle accidents are quite common, especially in Florida. According to 2016 crash statistics supplied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 600 motorcycle accidents resulted in fatalities in Florida, accounting for around 11.35% of the total 5,286 recorded crashes in the entire United States that year alone.
If you or someone you know gets involved in a motorcycle crash, it’s best to contact specialized personal injury lawyers who have years of experience dealing with similar cases. However, understanding and following the specific rules that govern motorcycles not only helps to keep you safe, but it also allows you to understand where you stand in case your involvement in a crash gets escalated to court.
Here are the top 15 motorcycle laws in Florida that you should know about:
1. You need specialized training to drive a motorcycle in Florida
Having a driver’s license is not enough to lawfully drive a two-wheeled motorcycle in Florida. To do so, you must get a motorcycle endorsement, which involves specialized training. While it’s possible to get the endorsement without a license, you still need to present both if you get pulled over while on the road.
2. Your motorcycle needs to have functioning daytime headlights in Florida
Under Florida law 316.405 motorcycle riders need to use their daytime headlights at all times during the day. While failing to use it is not proof of negligence in a civil case, it can still be used as evidence of negligence if it was established to be the cause of the accident.
3. You may need two types of insurance to operate a motorcycle in Florida lawfully
There are three types of insurance that pertain to operating a motorcycle in Florida. The first one concerns you if you prefer not to wear a helmet while riding. Aside from being over 21 years old, you need to have $10,000 in medical insurance benefits. These benefits will cover your hospital bills in case of a crash. This insurance is required only for people who prefer to drive without protection.
The second type of insurance is at least $30,000 in liability insurance. It is broken down into:
- $10,000 for one person bodily injury
- $20,000 for two or more people bodily injury
- $10,000 per crash in property damage liability
Insurance is technically not required to register motorcycles in Florida like it is for four-wheeled vehicles. You are allowed to ride around Florida on your motorcycle without any insurance, provided that you don’t get into accidents. However, hefty penalties do apply if you are proven to be at-fault in an accident that involves property damage and bodily injury. These penalties will be on top of the liabilities that you will pay for the damages, which include but are not limited to the following:
- Suspended driving privileges
- Suspended motorcycle registration and tags
- Being required to purchase bodily injury and property damage insurance for up to three years
4. Florida’s no-fault laws do not apply to motorcycles
Florida’s no-fault policy requires drivers to secure personal injury protection (PIP) coverage to ensure that all medical bills will be covered without having to assign blame on either party involved in the accident. However, this only applies to drivers of vehicles with four or more wheels.
If you are a motorcycle driver that got involved in a collision with a four-wheeled vehicle, you will have to pursue litigation to prove the other driver’s fault to get compensated for medical bills, lost income, and damages to your motorcycle. To counter this, many motorcycle drivers opt to purchase uninsured motorist coverage (UMC), but this is not required by law.
5. You can forego wearing a helmet in Florida
As mentioned earlier, provided that you are over 21 years old and have $10,000 in medical insurance benefits, you can ride without a helmet. However, you will still need to have some form of eye protection all the time. This exception to the rule is a result of the repeal of Florida’s universal helmet law in 2000, due to arguments that there is no concrete evidence of helmets being able to save lives in crashes.
The arguments continue today. However, it’s worthwhile to note the fact that the NHTSA reported an increase of 81% in motorcycle fatalities after the repeal.
6. Motorcyclists are not allowed to wear earphones while on the road in Florida
Florida law 316.304 specifically prohibits the use of listening devices, whether they are worn inside the ear or over the ear while driving their motorcycles on the road. The exception to this rule is hearing aids and any other gadget used to improve hearing.
7. Lane splitting is permitted for two motorcycles in Florida
Florida law 316.208 grants that motorcyclists are entitled to one full lane, but have the option to share it with another motorcycle. It means that another four-wheeled vehicle driving behind a motorcycle must stay on the rear and should treat the motorcycle as another four-wheeled vehicle.
A four-wheeled vehicle cannot force a motorcycle to give way. The exception to this rule is other two-wheeled vehicles, who may share a lane with another motorcycle if they so choose. However, it must be noted that motorcycles are still not allowed to cross lines and rows of vehicles.
8. DUIs and reckless driving are considered as crimes in Florida
Most motorcycle law violations in Florida are classified as civil suits, which means that if you are found to be at fault, you will most likely be facing fines and payments for damages, but no jail time. The exception to this rule is drunk driving and reckless driving, which are considered as crimes and could lead you to prison, especially if the criminal activity resulted in deaths.
9. Helmet laws are not clear with regards to establishing negligence in Florida
While the law clearly states that motorcycle drivers (except those who are both over the age of 21 and have $10,000 in medical insurance benefits) are required to wear a helmet, it’s unclear whether failure to wear one during a crash is evidence of negligence. It is a particularly contested topic because proof of negligence in crash victims can be used to reduce liabilities that need to be paid by the at-fault party.
Without a clear ruling from the Florida Supreme Court, most lawyers who handle motorcycle accidents in Florida refer to Rex Utilities v Gaddy in 1982, which declined to admit evidence of failure to wear a motorcycle helmet since the defense could not prove it to be the cause of the injuries incurred by the motorcyclist.
One critical area that needs to be pointed out here is the fact that the case was decided in 1982, which predates the repeal of the motorcycle helmet laws in 2000.
Another case that deserves to be studied is the Insurance Co. of North America v. Pasakanis. In the said case, a Florida court ruled that failure to wear a seatbelt was proof of negligence, especially since seatbelts have been documented to contribute to reducing car accident deaths. The difference, however, is that while seatbelts are readily available and are part of a car, helmets aren’t.
As is evident in the cases presented, the laws regarding whether failure to wear a motorcycle helmet is a proof of negligence are confusing and conflicting. With no clear ruling or defining law to resolve the said issue, it’s best to stick to wearing helmets when riding a motorcycle.
10. Florida has strict definitions for what makes a bike street-legal
According to Florida law 316.2095 and Florida law 316.222, motorcycles are required to have footrests and handlebars attached. The same laws also require you to have working stop lamps and signals.
Another law, called the Florida law 322.01, defines a moped as a two-wheeled vehicle powered by a motor with a displace limit of 50 cubic centimeters and cannot travel over 30 miles per hour on a flat road. These are important because a deviation from these definitions will mean that you are subject to a different set of rules. For example, bikes that are legally classified as mopeds can be driven around without helmets, insurance, or a license endorsement but are not allowed on highways.
A moped equipped with an engine that’s capable of over 50 cubic centimeters in displacement will be technically classified as a motorcycle—which does require its rider to have insurance, a helmet, and a license endorsement.
11. Ape hangers are prohibited in Florida
Ape hangers are a popular modification used by riders in the US. Ape hangers are handlebars that have been modified to extend upwards, usually requiring riders to reach up to grab them. Proponents of this modification contend that longer handlebars provide comfort and lessen fatigue over long rides. However, in Florida, handlebars are not allowed to extend above the shoulder height. For this reason, most bikers who do cross-country trips in motorcycles with ape hangers skip Florida altogether.
12. Florida law prohibits modifying exhaust systems
Unfortunately for enthusiasts, modification of any form on a motorcycle’s exhaust pipe is not permitted. That is to prevent any changes that may result in the escape of excessive smoke and to prevent bikers from making their tailpipes sound louder.
13. Florida requires motorcycles to have footrests for passengers
Except for sidecars or enclosed cabs, Florida law 316.2095 requires motorcycles that carry passengers to have footrests for both the driver and passenger to ensure safety and maneuverability.
14. Motorcycle Helmet Laws are state laws
In the 2016 Classy Cycles v. Bay County case, a Florida court ruled that local governments, such as counties, cannot make additional laws that modify existing state laws. This means that a local government cannot restrict what the state has granted to be lawful, nor can it make rules that are more restrictive.
For example, local governments cannot force motorcyclists to buy more insurance than what is required by state law, nor can it force them to wear fluorescent green vests. However, since the laws change from state to state, a motorcyclist with permission to forego wearing a helmet in Florida must wear one if he wishes to ride in a state that has an effective universal helmet law, such as California.
15. Florida does not allow motorcycles to run a red light
While this may seem like a no-brainer, it’s important to understand that there are actually two kinds of traffic lights: timed and demand actuated. The first type changes lights in uniform time intervals. The concern stems from the second type, which works through sensors that are configured specifically to detect cars and trucks but may miss motorcycles completely. This is because of the use of inductive loops, whose high-sensitivity areas are designed for the width of four-wheeled vehicles.
While some states, such as Indiana, allow motorcyclists to run a red light if they believe that they are stuck, Florida doesn’t. To avoid frustration in an intersection with a traffic light that doesn’t detect your motorcycle, try to place your wheels on the high sensitivity areas of the loop. That is only possible if the loop cuts are visible. In cases where there are no visible loop cuts, it’s highly possible that you are on a major street, where riders may have to wait up to 180 seconds depending on the time of day and volume of traffic.
If You Are Involved In A Motorcycle Accident Speak With A Lawyer Today
Driving is a privilege, not a right. When driving to any place, it’s best to know and follow that state’s rules of the road by heart. Doing so is vital not only to understand your rights and to know how to act in the case of a crash but more importantly, to avoid being in an accident in the first place. If you or someone you know gets involved in a collision in Florida, it’s important to contact a car or motorcycle accident lawyer who will be familiar with the state’s specific laws governing the road. That way, you will be guided accordingly on the right things to do.
Shiner Law Group is composed of personal injury attorneys in Florida. We specialize in representing people who have suffered injuries and losses due to the carelessness of others. Contact us today to know more.