When riders pull out onto the open road, they are prepared to experience the freedom, speed, fuel efficiency, and maneuverability their motorcycle has to offer. Although this maneuverability can often help riders avoid unexpected accidents and road debris, most riders understand that they are exchanging other forms of safety for this freedom. According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration,1 nearly 80% of all motorcycle accidents result in personal injuries or even prove fatal to the rider. This is compared to the less than 30% of all car crashes that result in either personal injury or death.
When you are traveling in a traditional motor vehicle, such a sedan, SUV, or truck, you are protected by a variety of safety mechanisms, including shatterproof glass, airbags, seat belts, and collapsible car frames, not to mention nearly two tons of metal. When they take to the road, motorcyclists are “assuming the risk” of suffering injuries to a greater and more severe extent than those traveling in a car. There are ways, however, to reduce the risk and severity of your injuries using specialized motorcycle safety gear, but this will not always protect you as needed.
Florida Motorcycle Safety Laws
There is a debate in the motorcycle community as to whether Florida state law should require the use of federally approved motorcycle helmets when operating your bike. Some riders believe it is foolish to not wear a helmet, especially considering you are not protected by an airbag, while others argue the use of a helmet can actually increase your chance of suffering certain neck and spinal injuries. Under Florida law,2 motorcyclists over the age of 21 have the option of forgoing protective headgear if they maintain personal injury coverage of at least $10,000. They are, however, required to wear protective eye gear. Riders under the age of 21, however, are required to wear headgear that complies with the Federal Motorcycle Vehicle Safety Standards, which means that the helmet has to be designed for motorcycle riders in order to comply with the law. Bicycle, soft, flight, military, and sports helmets are not approved for use with a motorcycle.
Further, Florida law does not permit “lane splitting” or “lane sharing,” which are the terms used when motorcyclists weave between lanes of traffic during heavy conditions or ride side to side in a single lane. Such laws do help protected riders, especially when car drivers are not expecting to be passed between lanes.
Recommended Motorcycle Safety Gear
Although Florida law only requires riders over the age of 21 to wear protective eye gear, safety agencies3 and motorcycle organizations alike recommend riders wear the following gear in order to prevent injury:
Helmet: Should fit snugly, be free of defects, and federally approved;
Eye and Face Protection: Can be included with the helmet or stand alone, but should be made from shatterproof plastic;
Jacket: Should fit snugly but allow freedom of movement, and it should be made from
either leather or a strong synthetic material. Purchasing a jacket designed for motorcycle use is recommended, as they are made to be worn in all weather;
Pants: Should be worn in all weather and cover your legs completely;
Boots: Should be high and sturdy so that your ankles are covered, but heals should be short and soles should be sturdy and made from slip-resistant materials. It is also a good idea to find boots without laces to ensure they do not catch in gears and components; and
Gloves: Should be made of leather or another type of breathable, durable material and allow for a strong and flexible grip.
Although utilizing this gear will help protect you from certain injuries, such as those sustained from loose debris, minor scrapes and burns, and head injuries, it is primarily designed to prevent injury by keeping your vision clear, your body protected from the wind and other elements, and your feet and hands from slipping. This gear will certainly help decrease your chances of suffering from preventable injuries but is not likely protect you from severe injury or death.
Common Motorcycle Injuries
Because a motorcyclist’s entire body is exposed to the open road, riders risk suffering injuries to almost every part of their body. The following, however, are the most common injuries suffered by Florida riders:
Lower-extremity injuries - Those suffered to the legs, ankles, and feet;
Upper-extremity injuries - Those suffered to the arms, wrists, hands, and shoulders;
Traumatic head and brain injuries;
Neck and spinal injuries; and
Chest and abdominal injuries - Injuries that affect the heart, lungs, organs, and ribs.
While broken legs, ankles, and flesh wounds are the most common, injuries to the chest cavity are the most fatal to riders. If you are caused to fall off your bike onto a busy street, due to impact by another vehicle, road debris, or lack of balance, your leather jacket is going to provide no better protection than tissue paper if you are directly hit or run over by a moving vehicle.
Of all potential injuries that motorcyclists can suffer, only a federally approved helmet will really reduce your chance of suffering a traumatic head injury, as a well fitting helmet can absorb much of the initial impact.
Contact a St. Petersburg Motorcycle Injury Lawyer Today
Even if you take every safety precaution as a rider, there is little substitute for the protection offered by traditional motor vehicles. Although riders are wise to protect themselves, as this may help prevent accidents and may assist in litigating your case, you still assume a substantial risk of injury while riding. The Dolman Law Group is your premier motorcycle accident firm in the greater Tampa Bay area. Unlike many attorneys, they understand the risks and benefits associated with riding, and they are here to help responsible riders get the compensation they deserve after an accident. Although motorcycle gear may not protect you from severe injuries, the Dolman Law Group will advocate for your rights as a rider. Contact them today at 727-222-6922 for a free, no-risk consultation.