Motorcycle Helmet Laws by State - The Motorcycle Helmet Law in Each State

Motorcycle Helmet Laws by State πŸ›£ | The Helmet Law in Each State

Last Updated on: 28th June 2024, 12:16 pm

Wear a helmet before you ride! The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has found that wearing motorcycle helmets saved the lives of over 25,000 motorcyclists between 2002 and 2017. But not all helmets come alike, and not all motorcycle helmet laws are the same. No matter where you’re riding, you must explore motorcycle helmet laws by state and know who’s covered. Once you know the laws, you can ride safely and avoid costly fines. Here is each state’s motorcycle helmet law.

Federal Regulations

Before you can understand motorcycle helmet laws by state, you must understand some federal regulations. Here are the essential federal laws for motorcycle helmet use.

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218

The Department of Transportation (DOT) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) approved Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218. The standard regulates the manufacture of motorcycle helmets. Many states have adopted the standard, requiring all helmets sold in the states to comply with it. Helmets must have the following traits:

  • A DOT sticker indicating the helmet passes DOT regulations
  • A permanently affixed manufacturer’s label describing the size, model, and materials of the helmet
  • A 1-inch inner layer of polystyrene foam
  • A cradle that separates your head from the inner layer
  • An exterior shell made of non-shatterable materials
  • Peripheral vision permissibility

Despite the standard, novelty helmets that do not comply with the law are sold in the United States. You should always check a helmet before purchasing it and ensure it complies with the safety standards. Never buy a helmet with cracked materials, a removable DOT sticker, or no manufacturer’s label.

Some states have additional regulations for helmets in addition to Standard 218. For example, some states require helmets to have reflective materials so people can see them from a distance.

Standard 218 applies only to helmets and not to motorcycles or accessories. You need to follow additional standards for motorcycles and accessories; many states require motorcycles to have footrests for passengers riding behind you. When you’re buying a used motorcycle, make sure your bike complies with these additional regulations.

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National Highway Safety Act

The National Highway Safety Act (NHSA) of 1966 required all states to pass universal helmet laws. States that declined to pass a universal motorcycle helmet law would lose funding for infrastructure projects.

By 1975, nearly all states had passed universal helmet laws. However, motorcycle riders lobbied the government to eliminate the provision that stripped funding from states without universal laws. In the following years, many states rescinded their universal laws and passed partial helmet laws.

While states no longer receive punishment for having partial laws, the NHSA is still on the books. Many states with partial laws are considering universal laws due to safety and economic concerns. Your state’s motorcycle helmet law may change, so you should follow the latest developments in your state.

State Regulations

Motorcycle helmet laws by state vary substantially. Some motorcycle helmet laws are stringent, while others are liberal and rarely enforced. In general, you can sort motorcycle helmet laws by state into a few major categories.

Keep in mind that these categories of motorcycle helmet laws by state are generalized. If you want to comply with your state’s laws, you should talk to a motorcycle lawyer and learn the details. If you’re planning a motorcycle trip across state lines, you should study each state’s laws and follow them accordingly. You can visit your state government’s website to read helmet laws by state.

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Universal Helmet Laws

A motorcycle operator in a state with an universal helmet law

Universal helmet laws apply to everyone. All motorcycle riders and passengers must wear helmets, regardless of age or experience. The laws are universal ones:

  • Alabama motorcycle helmet laws
  • California motorcycle helmet laws
  • District of Columbia motorcycle helmet laws
  • Georgia motorcycle helmet laws
  • Louisiana motorcycle helmet laws
  • Maryland motorcycle helmet laws
  • Massachusetts motorcycle helmet laws
  • Mississippi motorcycle helmet laws
  • Nevada motorcycle helmet laws
  • New Jersey motorcycle helmet laws
  • New York motorcycle helmet laws
  • North Carolina motorcycle helmet laws
  • Oregon motorcycle helmet laws
  • Tennessee motorcycle helmet laws
  • Vermont motorcycle helmet laws
  • Virginia motorcycle helmet laws
  • Washington motorcycle helmet laws
  • West Virginia motorcycle helmet laws

The California motorcycle helmet law and the NY helmet law are the most stringent helmet laws by state. Both states mandate the usage of DOT-approved helmets. You can pay fines of up to $1,000 or go to jail for up to a year for not following the law. The Georgia motorcycle helmet law and the Maryland motorcycle helmet law also impose severe penalties, including prison sentences.

Many of these states also require you to wear eye protection. Some states let you wear visors or use windshields, while others require you to wear safety glasses or goggles.

Partial Helmet Laws for Motorcycle Operators Under the Age of 18

Most states without universal helmet laws require riders and passengers under 18 to wear helmets. The following laws are partial helmet laws:

  • Alaska motorcycle helmet laws
  • Arizona motorcycle helmet laws
  • Colorado motorcycle helmet laws
  • Connecticut motorcycle helmet laws
  • Delaware motorcycle helmet laws
  • Hawaii motorcycle helmet laws
  • Idaho motorcycle helmet laws
  • Indiana motorcycle helmet laws
  • Kansas motorcycle helmet laws
  • Maine motorcycle helmet laws
  • Minnesota motorcycle helmet laws
  • Montana motorcycle helmet laws
  • New Mexico motorcycle helmet laws
  • North Dakota motorcycle helmet laws
  • Ohio motorcycle helmet laws
  • Oklahoma motorcycle helmet laws
  • South Dakota motorcycle helmet laws
  • Wisconsin motorcycle helmet laws
  • Wyoming motorcycle helmet laws

Partial helmet laws apply to both operators and passengers. Operators or passengers under 18 who don’t wear helmets can face fines, though fines vary depending on your home state.

Nearly all states with partial helmet laws still require riders over 18 to wear eye protection. Goggles or glasses are always permissible, and some states permit you to use windshields.

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Partial Helmet Laws for Motorcycle Operators Under 21

These states require all riders and passengers under 21 to wear helmets. They include:

  • Arkansas motorcycle helmet laws
  • Florida motorcycle helmet laws
  • Kentucky motorcycle helmet laws
  • Michigan motorcycle helmet laws
  • Nebraska motorcycle helmet laws
  • Pennsylvania motorcycle helmet laws
  • Rhode Island motorcycle helmet laws
  • South Carolina motorcycle helmet laws
  • Texas motorcycle helmet laws
  • Utah motorcycle helmet laws

Does Florida have a helmet law? Yes, it has a partial law for riders under 21. Its law is similar to the PA motorcycle helmet law and the Michigan motorcycle helmet law. If you find helmet laws by state confusing, you can plan a road trip through these three similar states.

Missouri motorcycle helmet laws apply to all riders and passengers under 25, regardless of experience. Once you turn 26, you can ride without a helmet after you purchase health insurance to cover accidents. All of these states require passengers and riders over 21 to wear eye protection.

Partial Laws for Riders With Instructional Permits

Some states require motorcycle riders with instructional permits to wear helmets, regardless of age. You may need to complete a motorcycle rider safety course with a motorcycle safety foundation before you can ride without helmets. These states include:

  • Alaska
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Wisconsin

In Maine, you must continue to wear a helmet for one year after receiving your motorcycle license. The Ohio motorcycle helmet law also requires novice riders to wear helmets for at least a year. In Delaware, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, you must continue to wear a helmet for two years after getting your license.

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Moped Exemptions

Two mopeds side by side

Many states, including ones with universal helmet laws, make exemptions for people riding on mopeds. Mopeds are two-wheeled vehicles with small engines and maximum speeds of 25 or 30 miles per hour. You do not need to wear a helmet as a passenger or operator, though you must wear eye protection. States with exemptions for mopeds include:

  • Arizona
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • New Mexico
  • South Carolina
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

No Laws

Three states have no laws about motorcycle helmets whatsoever. You can be of any age or experience level and ride without wearing a helmet. These state laws include:

  • Illinois motorcycle helmet laws
  • Iowa motorcycle helmet laws
  • New Hampshire motorcycle helmet laws

These states still have regulations related to motorcycle use, like lane-splitting restrictions. You should be mindful of these regulations whenever you ride.

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Comparative Negligence

An insurer writing a check to a motorcyclist after an accident

Comparative negligence is an insurance regulation that many states and private insurers follow. If you are partially at fault for a motorcycle accident, your insurer can reduce your payout accordingly. If an insurer determines you need $10,000 but you were 40% at fault for your accident, you may receive $6,000.

Your helmet use can affect comparative negligence. Your insurer can determine that you not wearing a helmet contributed to your injuries, so you can receive less compensation. Most states have comparative negligence regulations, including partial helmet states. Even if you’re not required to wear a helmet, you should wear one to get full compensation after an accident.

What to Know About Motorcycle Helmet Laws by State

Motorcycle helmet laws by state can be a bit tricky to figure out. Nearly all states require riders and operators under 18 to wear helmets. Some require riders under 21 and all operators with a motorcycle learner’s permit to wear one.

Even if your state does not require you to wear a helmet, you should wear one. A helmet can minimize your injuries in an accident and ensure you get full compensation after a crash.

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