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California and Florida are two states that are especially known for their sunshine and beautiful climates. For this reason, it is no surprise that they are the top two states1 in the United States that attract registered motorcyclists. However, just as California and Florida are on opposite sides of the country, the motorcycles laws in each state can widely differ.
Motorcyclists may be excellent at safely and lawfully operating their bikes in one state but may be terrible at riding in the other. This is because most motorcyclists cannot fully familiarize themselves with all of the differing laws between the states. What is completely allowed in California may be completely unlawful in Florida, and these differences can make operating motorcycles both confusing and dangerous from state to state.
Key Laws in Both States
The following chart takes a brief look at key provisions every motorcyclist should know in each state in order to comply with the law.
CALIFORNIA FLORIDA Acceptance of other states' motorcycle licenses, permits, or endorsements Adjacent riding No specific restrictions. Two motorcycles may ride together in one lane, but no more. Age restriction for passengers Education class requirement Required for riders under 21 with a skills test evaluation. Since 2008, all new licensees must attend a class and pass knowledge and skills tests. Eye protection Not required. Headlights in the daytime Required if the motorcycle was made after 1978. May also use headlights that adjust brightness to the outside light or modulating headlamps. Required. May also use headlights that adjust brightness to the outside light or modulating headlamps. Helmets Always required. Required for riders under 21. Not required if over 21 and have a medical insurance policy of at least $10,000. Inspections Random safety inspections at periodic intervals. Not required. Insurance requirements Must be able to show financial responsibility. $10,000 minimum liability for property damage + $20,000 minimum liability for bodily injury = $30,000 total minimum policy. Lane splitting Left and right mirrors Must have at least one mirror. Must have at least one mirror. Lemon Law coverage Limits on sound Maximum of 80 decibels from 50 feet away from the motorcycle. Maximum of 85 decibels from 50 feet away from the motorcycle. Mufflers Always required; may replace with bypass, cutout, or similar device. Always required. Modifiers that increase sound level are prohibited. Sizing requirements No handlebars that extend over your shoulders by more than six inches. Rider must be able to comfortably reach all controls. No handlebars that extend at all over your shoulders when in seated riding position. Rider must be able to comfortably reach all controls. Towing a trailer Must drive under 55 miles per hour and must remain in the right lane (or right two lanes on a four-lane highway). No stated restrictions. Use of earphones or helmet speakers May use in only one ear. Earphones not allowed; helmet speakers are allowed. Use of earplugs Must be able to hear horns from nearby vehicles and emergency sirens. No stated restrictions.
Important Differences in the Laws
In some instances, California lawmakers can seem stricter regarding safety than Florida while, in other instances, the opposite is true. For example, California law requires all motorcyclists to wear a helmet2 at all times, while Florida does not require helmets for most riders over the age of 21. Conversely, Florida requires all new motorcyclists to complete safety courses and pass extensive testing to receive a license, while California only requires classes for riders under 21. California is also the only state that does not prohibit lane-splitting, a practice widely believed to be dangerous, and Florida law expressly prohibits3 lane-splitting.
If a motorcyclist from California decides to ride in Florida, lack of knowledge of the changes in laws can not only cause trouble with law enforcement, but can also cause dangerous accidents and injuries. For this reason, all motorcyclists should be cognizant of the possible differing laws from state to state and do their best to ride lawfully and in a safe manner no matter in what state they may be.
This article was provided by the Dolman Law Group, a personal injury law firm based out of Clearwater Florida. The Dolman Law Group handles a wide range of personal injury cases throughout Florida, involving traffic-related accidents, catastrophic injuries, wrongful death, and much more.