As motorcycle accident attorneys in Southwest Florida, the Goldberg Noone Abraham law firm advocates for the safe operation of motorcycles, and we fully support the rights of bikers when it comes to sharing the road with cars, trucks and other motor vehicles.
Sadly, even for the most experienced riders out there, the risks of being hit by someone else who is not following traffic laws or is driving in a negligent or careless manner are all to real.
When you make the decision to get on a motorcycle, there are many things you need to know. People often have misconceptions about the safe operation of a motorcycle, but don't realize it until after they've purchased their first bike.
Let's look at some things the beginner biker should consider.
Where Do I Begin?
If you've been thinking about starting to ride, you've most likely done some research about buying your first bike and learning to operate it safely. Local motorcycle dealers in Southwest Florida understand that not everyone that walks through their doors is an experienced rider, so they're fully prepared to educate and inform the beginner who has a lot of questions starting out. The Motorcycle Industry Council reports that from 2014 to 2018, motorcycle ownership in U.S. households went from 6.94% to 8.02%.
Some dealers, like Harley Davidson, offer their own versions of beginning rider training called the Riding Academy New Rider Course. (They also offer a Skilled Rider Course, because smart bikers never stop learning). Harley dealers also offer a JumpStart program, where a new rider can experience the operation of a bike that's mounted on a fixed platform, before they get out on two wheels. Other new bike dealers may offer new rider training through an independent local provider.
Responsible bike salespeople know that it is unproductive and unsafe to sell a bike to a beginning rider that is too much for them to handle. The rider will often realize that the minute they hit the road, and determine that the dealer sold them the wrong bike. Not only is that bad salesmanship, it can turn into disaster if the rider has a crash that they blame on having more bike than they can realistically handle as a beginner.
The key to learning to ride is to not bite off more than you can chew. The physical size of your first bike, and the horsepower it has, are keys to enjoying the experience completely and with less risk of becoming overwhelmed or afraid of what you've gotten yourself into. You can always upgrade the size and power of your bike once you've completely mastered the safe operation of riding. Training courses are offered for riders of all skills, so you can build your knowledge and experience as you go. Think of it like any other learning experience – you can start out as a beginner, like in school, but then further your education by graduating to more advanced classes. Better to start out on a bike that you feel completely comfortable on, learn how to operate that safely, and then consider trading up to something with a little more power if you'd like.
What is a Motorcycle Endorsement?
Any operator of a motorcycle – even a trike-style, 3-wheeled bike – must have either a motorcycle endorsement on their driver license or possess a motorcycle-only license. In order to get an endorsement, you'll need to show proof of successful completion of a Basic Rider Course, (BRC), or Basic Rider Course updated, (BRCu). You'll also need to have at least a regular Class E operator's driver license. The cost is just $7.00, plus the applicable licensing fees in your State. You can get a Motorcycle Endorsement at your local county tax collector's office or driver license office.
Motorcycle Endorsements never expire, and you have a one-year period to get one after completion of your BRC or BRCu. If you intend to operate only a motorcycle, you can apply for a Motorcycle Only license. You'll need to first have a Learner's License if you're between 16 and 18-years of age for at least a one-year period that has no traffic violation convictions. You'll need the certificate for passage of your BRC or BRCu, and to pay all applicable fees. You'll also be given the same regular Class E operator's exam given to those applying for a license to operate a car.
If you have successfully passed an approved BRC or BRCu in another state or while in the military, provided it is within a 1-year period, you can apply for a motorcycle endorsement or a motorcycle only license in Florida.
Do I Need Insurance to Operate a Motorcycle in Florida?
This can be a tricky topic. Motorcycle accident attorney Scot Goldberg points out that technically, you don't need insurance to register or operate a motorcycle. “This is where the old saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, comes into play,” says Goldberg. “Florida law says that an uninsured biker who is charged with causing a crash with injuries, that bike owner will be held financially responsible for any bodily injuries and property damage that were the result of the crash. The cost of buying insurance on your bike is extremely minimal, especially when you factor in the potential costs involved should you end up causing a crash.”
Am I Required to Wear a Helmet in Florida?
Helmets are another hot topic regarding operating a motorcycle. Florida law states there are only 2 eligible exemptions for those who decide to go without a helmet. The rider must be over the age of 21, and also possess an insurance policy with a minimum of $10,000 in medical benefit coverage.
“I understand that whether a biker wears a helmet or not is a personal choice, along with many other freedoms we Americans enjoy,” Goldberg says. “But believe me when I say, in our profession, having seen the aftermath of dozens of motorcycle crashes where the riders were not wearing helmets, we strongly advocate wearing a helmet.”
In addition to wearing a helmet no matter if you're taking a short rise or a long cruise, there are many things to consider when it comes to the clothing you wear when you ride. People driving cars often don't see bikers, especially those who wear black or dark clothing or whose bikes are a dark color. The more visible you make your bike and yourself, the more you reduce the risk of someone hitting you. When it comes to hitting the pavement if you're involved in a crash, always remember your only barrier is what you have on.
A lot of novice bikers think that a pair of sturdy jeans, a jacket and a helmet are enough to fully protect you if you go down. But this is far from what is considered “full gear” when it comes to maximum protection. Not all helmets are designed for adequate head and brain protection. Different styles and designs of helmets include full-face, ¾ or ½ helmet. As you may assume, a full-face helmet will do the best job of protecting your face, chin, and neck in the event of a crash. But even full-face helmet styles come in varying levels of safety design and impact standards. The Department of Transportation, D.O.T.), recommends their own standard called FMVSS218, which is widely considered to be the minimum standard used by helmet manufacturers. Another and more stringent testing standard is called the Snell Memorial Foundation certification, and although they are not a requirement of law at this time, helmets that pass this certification are thought to have greater safety and protection benefits.
We've all seen bikers on the road who are wearing a tank top t-shirt, shorts and flip flop footwear. And again, its their personal right to dress like that if they choose. But rider apparel that includes armor material built into the fabric, along with gloves and boots designed specifically for bikers, will always provide the optimum protection in the event of a collision.
Goldberg Noone Abraham has a long history of supporting the biker community of Southwest Florida, and our team of attorneys have represented many who have been the unfortunate victim of an accident. You can read more about our recent motorcycle crash verdicts and settlements here.
It never costs a thing to call us for answers if you've been hurt or lost a loved one in a bike crash. You can speak directly to one of our skilled and experienced attorneys by calling 239-461-5508, or just fill out this easy form and we'll contact you immediately.
We encourage all riders on the road to use caution when they're on their motorcycle, wear a helmet and follow all traffic safety laws and regulations.