On July 1, 2000, the state of Florida passed an amendment to the Florida Statutes that allowed motorcycle and moped riders to legally ride without the protection of a helmet. It was not designed to be a free pass for anyone who craves the sensation of wind in their hair: Chapter 316, section 316.211 3(b) of the Florida Statues states that in order to ride helmet-free, you must be at least 21 years old and carry a medical insurance policy that covers at least $10,000 in benefits for injuries resulting in a crash.

There seems to be a lot of attraction for going without a helmet in Florida, a state famous for sunshine, sea breeze and summer heat. Nevertheless, statistics show that helmet use can only increase the enjoyment of your motorcycle. The facts are stark but simple: If you wear a helmet, you will stay alive longer. And that means you’ll ride longer.

On the year when the helmet exemption went into effect, the Florida Department of Transportation reported 5,075 motorcycle crashes, 4,476 injuries and 227 fatalities. By 2006 the fatality rate had more than doubled, and in 2008 the crash and injury rate peaked at 9,618 and 8,519, respectively. A recent downswing in crashes, injuries and fatalities can be attributed to the 2008 mandate that all motorcycle riders seeking a helmet free endorsement must complete a motorcycle training and safety course. It should be noted, however, that an essential part of these courses educates new riders about the use of proper safety gear and attire — especially helmets.

There’s also the financial question of helmet use, particularly when it comes to insurance. Unlike automobile operators in the state of Florida, motorcyclists are not required to carry Personal Injury Protection against accidents with their motorcycles. In fact, Florida riders aren’t required to carry any sort of vehicular insurance for a motorcycle. However, an article by Jon Langston published last month on Motorcycle.com offers a sophisticated view on how helmet use affects the wallet.

“Wearing a helmet doesn’t make a motorcyclist any more insurable,” Langston says. “Premiums are sometimes more affordable in those states with mandatory helmet laws, but there is currently no data that supports that notion.”

Langston then points to a 2012 study by the Centers for Disease Control concluding that, in the incident of a crash, motorcyclists who wear helmets pay less for medical treatment, get out of the hospital faster and are less likely to endure expenses for long-term injury and disability.

In upcoming articles, we’ll dig deeper into the topic of insurance for motorcycle riders. Please remember whether you choose to ride with or without a helmet, make sure you purchase sufficient insurance to cover you and any other rider for medical care in the event of an accident, lost time from work and the long term consequences of injuries.