When you suit up for a motorcycle ride, what do you wear? While there are plenty of options when it comes to style, your chosen wardrobe for the road should fully account for safety while operating a motorcycle. A certified motorcycle helmet may lend a critical part in saving your life if you are involved in a crash.

Depending on where you live and ride, the imperative to wear a helmet may be more than a recommendation. It may be the law. Motorcycle helmet laws differ from state to state, making it vital for you to learn the differences if you plan to ride across this great nation.


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Data from the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety and National Highway Transportation Safety Administration agree – motorcycle helmet laws work. Specifically, they save lives in even minor accidents, when the lack of other protections for a rider can put them in severe peril. As such, nearly every US state maintains some form of motorcycle helmet law.

State

Helmet Regulations

Alabama

Universal helmet law

Alaska

Partial helmet law (all riders under 18 or with a permit; all passengers)

Arizona

Partial helmet law (all passengers)

Arkansas

Partial helmet law (all riders under 21)

California

Universal helmet law

Colorado

Partial helmet law (all riders and passengers under 18)

Connecticut

Partial helmet law (all riders under 17)

Delaware

Partial helmet law (all riders under 19)

District of Columbia

Universal helmet law

Florida

Partial helmet law (all riders under 21 or those with less than $10,000 in insurance coverage for motorcycle accidents)

Georgia

Universal helmet law

Hawaii

Partial helmet law (all riders under 18)

Idaho

Partial helmet law (all riders under 18)

Illinois

No current helmet law (universal helmet law repealed in 1970)

Indiana

Partial helmet law (all riders under 18)

Iowa

No current helmet law (universal helmet law repealed in 1976)

Kansas

Partial helmet law (all riders under 18)

Kentucky

Partial helmet law (all riders under 21 or who have been licensed for less than 1 year)

Louisiana

Universal helmet law

Maine

Partial helmet law (all passengers under 18; all riders who have been licensed for less than 1 year)

Maryland

Universal helmet law

Massachusetts

Universal helmet law

Michigan

Partial helmet law (all riders under 21; all riders and passengers without additional insurance coverage)

Minnesota

Partial helmet law (all riders under 18 or who carry an instructional permit)

Mississippi

Universal helmet law

Missouri

Universal helmet law

Montana

Partial helmet law (all riders under 18)

Nebraska

Universal helmet law

Nevada

Universal helmet law

New Hampshire

No current or former helmet laws

New Jersey

Universal helmet law

New Mexico

Partial helmet law (all riders under 18)

New York

Universal helmet law

North Carolina

Universal helmet law

North Dakota

Partial helmet law (all riders under 18; all riders, if operator is under 18)

Ohio

Partial helmet law (all riders under 18 or who have been licensed for less than 1 year; all passengers when rider is required to wear)

Oklahoma

Partial helmet law (all riders under 18)

Oregon

Universal helmet law

Pennsylvania

Partial helmet law (all riders under 21 or who have been licensed for less than 2 years)

Puerto Rico

Universal helmet law

Rhode Island

Partial helmet law (all riders under 21 or who have been licensed for less than 1 year; all passengers)

South Carolina

Partial helmet law (all riders under 21)

South Dakota

Partial helmet law (all riders under 18)

Tennessee

Universal helmet law

Texas

Partial helmet law (all riders under 21 and those that do not carry insurance/have completed a safety course)

Utah

Partial helmet law (all riders under 21)

Vermont

Universal helmet law

Virginia

Universal helmet law

Washington (state)

Universal helmet law

West Virginia

Universal helmet law

Wisconsin

Partial helmet law (all riders under 18 or with an instructional permit)

Wyoming

Partial helmet law (all riders under 18)


What is a Partial Helmet Law?

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A partial helmet law is any state-level regulation or statute that requires at least some motorcycle riders or their passengers to wear a helmet. There is a lot of variation in these laws, though it is common for these laws to only apply to riders under 18 or 21 years of age. These requirements may also be levied against riders with permits, passengers under a certain age, or those lacking insurance coverage.


What is the Universal Helmet Law?

Universal helmet laws are fairly straight forward. In states that maintain this kind of law, all motorcycle riders and passengers must wear a helmet at all times. If they do not, they may be cited by a law enforcement official, often with the rider receiving a ticket for their passengers’ failure to comply. States with this kind of law also tend to dictate what kind of helmet qualifies as “certified” for legal use.


Federal Regulations on Helmets

In 1967, the US federal government enacted legislation requiring states to enact motorcycle helmet laws. Many states did so, but by 1976, Congress revoked federal authority to penalize states under these regulations. As such, many states have weakened their regulations since then.

However, one standard that still stands is Federal Motorcycle Vehicle Safety Standard 218. This standard dictates what the federal government sees as a “safe” helmet. Helmets that meet these performance standards will carry a DOT sticker. Other standards from Snell and ANSI also exist and may carry a certification process. More information can be found here.


Risks of Not Wearing Helmets While Riding?

Failing to wear a helmet is a reckless action that can lead to serious injuries, even if there is a minor crash. At highway speeds, even a slight amount of contact with a motorcycle can cause it to become unstable. This, in turn, can throw the rider clear of the bike at high speeds. Impacts at that speed can cause severe head injuries and even death, though a helmet can go a long way to decreasing the likelihood of either.


People Also Ask (FAQs)

Why are motorcycle helmet regulations not implemented in all states?

In the mid-1970s, Congress revoked the federal government's ability to punish states for failing to implement such regulations. Since then, many states have weakened their regulations. A couple states never implemented helmet regulations in the first place and still have failed to do so.

What is the impact of helmet use on motorcycle insurance rates?

There is a decent chance that your insurance provider requires you to wear a helmet I order for their policy coverage to apply. Even if your insurer does not require a helmet, their policy coverage rates may differ if you regularly wear a helmet as a supplementary safety measure.

What states have no helmet laws?

Only three US states currently do not maintain a statewide helmet mandate of one type or another. Those states are Illinois, New Hampshire, and Iowa. Only New Hampshire has never previously maintained a mandate, while Iowa and Illinois did so in the past but have since repealed those regulations.

What are the possible sanctions of defying helmet law in a state that requires one?

Many states will issue fines and citations for failing to wear a helmet. Excessive citations of this kind can lead to a license suspension or revocation.


Conclusion

Without question, wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle is critically important for both you and your passengers. Even if your state doesn’t require it, you should consider wearing this piece of equipment at all times. The same goes for your passengers, who deserve to be protected by a reliable piece of motorbiking gear.