Florida motorcyclists may not have noticed, but a new law affecting us took effect October 1. Under this new law, motorcyclists who commit certain traffic offenses face increased penalties — a $1,000 fine on the first offense, a $2,500 fine and a one-year license revocation on the second offense, and a ten-year revocation, $5,000 fine and third-degree felony charges on the third offense. The offenses at issue include speeding in excess of 50 mph over the speed limit; intentionally lifting wheels off the ground (popping a wheelie); and riding with a license plate attached vertically or flipped up.
If singing out those behaviors seems strange to you, this article from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel might help. According to the article, the new law was conceived and passed as a response to the growing popularity of sport bikes — colorful, mainly Japanese motorcycles that can reach 200 mph despite being street legal. The article offers several anecdotes about unsafe riding by people on sport bikes, as well as speculation by an FHP officer, but no hard evidence that they are worse motorists or need stricter regulations than other vehicles on the road.
I do not ride a sport bike, but as I’ve said on this blog before, I do ride. (My bikes are a Harley Road King Classic and a Big Dog Ridgeback chopper.) My first instinct, on reading this article, was to be offended at what seemed to be prejudice against bikers written into the law (and the article). Sport bikers aren’t always angels, of course, but there’s no proof offered that they’re any worse than other motorists.
But once I read the law itself, I felt better about it. Most of the behaviors it prohibits are behaviors that I agree are too dangerous for city streets. For example, the speeding provision doesn’t kick in until the rider is going more than 50 mph above the speed limit — for example, 76 mph in a 25 mph zone. That kind of speeding is safest at a racetrack. Wheelies are too, because they require high speeds and leave the rider with less control. And while there’s nothing inherently unsafe about a flipped-up license plate, I believe keeping it visible is a reasonable sacrifice to make in exchange for the privilege of using public roads.
However, I still wish this law had been written to apply to everyone on the road — not just motorcyclists. Anyone can speed and weave through traffic, and many people in cars and trucks do. Failing to recognize this seems to me like a form of anti-motorcycle prejudice, and that has no place in Florida law. My firm, Cohn, Smith & Cohn, specializes in representing bikers who’ve been in serious Florida motorcycle accidents caused by another motorist’s carelessness — regardless of the type of bike. If you or someone you care about is in this position, you have the right to demand justice and financial compensation. To learn more at a free consultation, please contact us today.