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Motorcycle Safety Guide: Florida Case Study

Deaths Increase for Riders Covered by Partial Helmet Laws

The Negative Impact of Weakening Helmet Laws: Florida

Number of deaths of riders under 21 in 30 months before vs. after repeal.

This chart shows the negative impact of weakening helmet laws. Before Florida repealed their universal helmet law, the state had 35 motorcycle riders under age 21 die in crashes in a 30 month period. After the law was repealed, this number rose to 101 deaths in 30 months.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration35

Florida is one example of the ineffectiveness of partial laws to save lives. In 2000, Florida repealed its universal helmet law, weakening it to mandate helmet use only for riders under the age of 21 and those with less than $10,000 of medical insurance coverage.35,37

Comparing the 30 months after the Florida state legislature repealed its universal helmet law with the 30 months before repeal:

  • Deaths of all riders increased by 55%, substantially higher than what was expected from the increased registrations after repeal.28,35
  • Among riders under the age of 21, deaths of unhelmeted riders increased by 188%, even though the helmet law still applied to them.28,35
  • Motorcycle crash-related hospitalizations rose more than 40%. The costs of treating head injuries from motorcycle crashes more than doubled to $44 million.28,35

Only one in four motorcyclists who were hospitalized had medical costs less than $10,000, which is the amount of medical insurance coverage that is required to ride without a helmet. Hospital discharge data showed that in the period after repeal, approximately $10.5 million of hospitalization costs were billed to public sources (e.g., Medicaid) or charitable sources, and an additional $8 million in costs were classified as “self pay” because patients were underinsured or uninsured.28,35


References are located on the Endnotes page.

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