Learning how to pop a wheelie on a bicycle is a right of passage for many American kids, but attempting the same stunt on a motorcycle is much more difficult and vastly more dangerous. Recently, a Florida man died after popping a wheelie on his motorcycle. Another driver hit him because the driver could not see the motorcycle’s headlight as the wheelie made it point into the air. The vehicle driver suffered minor injuries, but the 36-year-old motorcyclist died from his injuries at a nearby hospital. Every rider should understand the dangers and potential legal penalties for attempting wheelies on their motorcycles.
Legal Status of Popping a Wheelie
Only a few states have specific laws against wheelies on motorcycles. However, this does not mean that popping a wheelie is legal in states without laws explicitly forbidding the maneuver. In Florida, a wheelie could lead to a $1,000 fine. Florida law does not expressly forbid wheelies, but it does require all motor vehicle drivers to keep their wheels on the pavement.
A first offense in Florida would be the $1,000 fine. A second offense will lead to a $2,500 fine and the offender will likely face a driver’s license suspension. A third offense would be a third-degree felony, leading to up to five years in prison, mandatory driver’s license suspension for up to ten years, and fines up to $5,000.
Every state may not have laws explicitly outlawing wheelies, but police officers generally have authority to use personal discretion when issuing citations or conducting arrests for reckless and/or dangerous driving. Popping a wheelie not only significantly increases the chances of a rider losing control of his or her bike, but also impedes visibility for both the rider and the other drivers around the rider.
Potential Legal Consequences for Popping Wheelies
In addition to criminal penalties for violating state laws for reckless driving, a motorcyclist who pops a wheelie could face additional legal penalties if the act results in an accident and damages to other drivers. It is vital for all motorcyclists to remember that they have far less protection in an accident than a driver in an enclosed car. Motorcycles do not have safety belts, airbags, or other safety features found in cars. They also afford very little protection from crash forces, typically sending riders sprawling upon contact with an object or another vehicle.
A rider who engages in dangerous behavior on the road may incur civil liability for causing injuries and other damages, and he or she may also face limitations when it comes to securing compensation for personal losses. A rider who causes an accident by popping a wheelie or engaging in other reckless actions would likely have no legal recourse to secure compensation for his or her own injuries and economic losses. Such an event would also likely lead to higher insurance premiums and leave the rider on the hook for medical expenses and other losses.
Legal Counsel for Motorcycle Accidents
Anyone who suffers injuries due to a motorcyclist popping a wheelie should consult with a motorcycle accident attorney about options for legal recourse. Reckless driving is a leading cause of serious accidents in the U.S., and drivers and motorcyclists who fail to abide by the rules of the road endanger everyone around them. Such drivers may face civil lawsuits from victims and also criminal charges from the state, potentially losing the right to drive and facing severe legal penalties like thousands of dollars in fines and years in jail.
Drivers should know the procedure for reporting dangerous behavior on the road. If you witness a motorcycle popping a wheelie or any other driver engaging in reckless behavior on the road, reporting the issue to the police can help prevent the dangerous driver from injuring others. Take note of the vehicle’s make, model, color, and direction of travel, then pull over somewhere safe and call the police to relay this information. Doing so may potentially stop a serious accident before it occurs.