Motorcycle Helmet Laws Across the U.S.

By  //  August 6, 2020

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As the weather across the country gets nicer, more people will take to the roads with their motorcycles. Especially amidst the coronavirus pandemic guidelines, a ride on a motorcycle in great weather is a welcomed escape for many Americans.

As the weather across the country gets nicer, more people will take to the roads with their motorcycles. Especially amidst the coronavirus pandemic guidelines, a ride on a motorcycle in great weather is a welcomed escape for many Americans.

However, despite the recreational enjoyment, there are still a myriad of laws a person must follow to ride their bikes on the roads safely.

While many experts and medical professionals recommend always wearing protective gear, such as durable clothing and a helmet, the safety laws differ between states. What may be legal in one state may be restricted for certain groups, or not allowed at all, in others.

If a biker is thinking of taking their motorcycle for a scenic drive between state lines, there is some information that can help them adhere to all of the laws across the country. 

Which States Have Motorcycle Helmet Laws?

A majority of states within the U.S. have some form of law that dictates who on a motorcycle must wear a helmet. The states that have laws requiring helmets for passengers and drivers fall into the following four categories:

Under 18: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Montana New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Wyoming

Under 19: Delaware

Under 21: Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah

Everyone: Alabama, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington D.C., Washington, West Virginia

“While wearing a helmet may not be required once someone who is over the age of 21 in many states, it can be beneficial to your wellbeing if you wear a helmet in the event of an accident on the road.” explains Attorney Ronald F. Wittmeyer, Jr of the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd.

However, whether a biker willingly chooses to wear a helmet or not, it is important to take note of which states require helmets if they are planning to cross state lines. Not wearing a helmet in an area that requires them may result in a hefty fine or other consequences. 

Which States Do Not Have Helmet Laws?

Only a few states have no laws regarding whether a motorcycle rider and passengers should wear a helmet. The following three states are the only ones within the U.S. that do not have any stipulations on helmets for motorcycle drivers:

No Helmet Law: Illinois, Iowa, New Hampshire

Although these states do not require riders to wear a helmet, experts continue to recommend usage as being in their best interests. 

Since Motorcycles have less metal between them and the road, neglecting a protective helmet can leave their head, face, and neck susceptible to serious injuries in the event of a collision. 

Tips for Riding Safely

While state safety laws may differ, there are still some general rules for how a person can ensure the highest level of protection while operating their motorcycle.

It is important to note that driving a motorcycle is different than operating a car. Motorcycle riders need to drive much more defensively. They should operate with the assumption that other drivers on the road cannot see them, due to their small stature.

Wearing the appropriate gear while on a motorcycle is essential as well. Protective clothing, like leather jackets and pants, gloves, and boots with nonskid soles can help minimize the severity of the injuries in the event of an accident. Some motorcyclists also put reflective tape on their clothing for an added layer of protection and visibility.

Overall, the best thing a person can do before getting on their motorcycle is ensure that the vehicle is ready and the driver is prepared.

A motorcycle should have working headlights, taillights, and signals, as well as proper levels of any fluids like gas or coolants before taking it on the road. 

Additionally, the driver must be undistracted and sober. Drinking or using other substances that could delay your reaction time can be deadly for not only the rider, but for others on the road.

While these suggestions are not exhaustive, they can help prepare a driver for when they take their motorcycle onto roadways across the U.S. Even if a state does not have a specific law that requires a motorcycle driver to wear a helmet, wearing one can prevent serious injury and can provide peace of mind as they depart on warm weather rides. 

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