Which US States Require Motorcycle Helmets?
The one emotion or idea that is closely tied with motorcycles is freedom. Riding away with the wind in your hair and no worries in the world; that’s a feeling that is difficult to beat. Nevertheless, while enjoying yourself is important when you are riding a motorcycle, so is safety, which often seems to take a back seat for most riders.
Motorcycles, unlike other vehicles, put the vehicle operator out in the elements and unprotected with a “steel cage” which is a fact that is often not appreciated. They don’t have airbags, steel frames, seatbelts, or other such features that can protect you in the case of an accident. The main thing that that can protect a motorcycle rider while riding is a motorcycle helmet … but only if the rider actually has that helmet on that terrible moment that it becomes needed.
And with that comes the debate of whether it is illegal or irresponsible to ride without a helmet. When it comes to the United States, that question sparks several controversies and yields separate answers and opinions. The US presently does not have any federal law, applying accross all the states, mandating riders to wear a helmet. What that means is, that different states have different laws regarding this issue.
This makes it difficult for riders to understand the laws of their particular state. But, do not worry. We have highlighted the different laws in each state so that you can learn about the laws of your state as well as others which will come in handy when you are traveling with your motorcycle particularly accross state lines!
US Motorcycle Helmet Laws Are Tricky
As mentioned, different states in the US have varying motorcycle helmet laws. And it is not just a question of which state mandates riders to wear helmets and which does not. There are other factors affecting this question such as the age of the rider, the passengers they are traveling with, the kind of health insurance the rider has as well as the kind of helmet they are supposed to use.
Perhaps surprisingly, out of 50 states, there are only 19 that mandate all motorcycle riders to wear a helmet, regardless of how old they are. Then, there are states that require riders under the age of 18 to wear a helmet. Similarly, there are other states that require riders under the age of 21 to wear a helmet.
Currently, there are only three states that have absolutely no laws regarding the wearing of a motorcycle helmet. Those states include Illinois, New Hampshire, and Iowa. Keep in mind that in most of these states, the laws are also applicable to other two-wheeled vehicles like scooters and mopeds.
State Guide to Motorcycle Helmet Laws
Since helmet laws can often get murky and confusing, we have compiled a table of the different states and their laws regarding motorcycle helmets.
|Alaska||18 and younger|
|Arizona||18 and younger|
|Arkansas||21 and younger|
|Colorado||18 and younger|
|Connecticut||17 and younger|
|Delaware||18 and younger|
|District of Columbia||All riders|
|Florida||20 and younger|
|Hawaii||17 and younger|
|Idaho||17 and younger|
|Indiana||17 and younger|
|Kansas||17 and younger|
|Kentucky||20 and younger|
|Maine||17 and younger|
|Michigan||20 and younger|
|Minnesota||17 and younger|
|Montana||17 and younger|
|New Hampshire||No law|
|New Jersey||All riders|
|New Mexico||17 and younger|
|New York||All riders|
|North Carolina||All riders|
|North Dakota||17 and younger|
|Ohio||17 and younger|
|Oklahoma||17 and younger|
|Pennsylvania||20 and younger|
|Rhode Island||20 and younger|
|South Carolina||20 and younger|
|South Dakota||17 and younger|
|Texas||20 and younger|
|Utah||17 and younger|
|West Virginia||All riders|
|Wisconsin||17 and younger|
|Wyoming||17 and younger|
As it can be seen from the above table, several states mandate the wearing of a helmet, irrespective of the age of the rider. On the other hand, there are states that require teenage riders to wear a helmet at all times while older riders have no such compulsion.
Teenage riders are usually thought to be high-risk and inexperienced drivers, motivated by adrenaline rather than common sense. As a result, most states have made sure to implement helmet laws that compel teen riders to wear headgear. There are presently 19 states that mandate riders who are 17 or younger to wear a helmet. Such states include Wisconsin, Wyoming, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Ohio, and others.
Similarly, there are 4 states that mandate riders who are 18 or younger to wear a helmet and 5 states that mandate riders who are 20 or younger to wear a helmet. Such states include Colorado, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and others.
Tips To Keep in Mind When Purchasing a Motorcycle Helmet
Whether or not your state mandates you to wear a helmet, the truth remains that they can help you save your life. Since there are so many varying laws with so many criteria affecting them, it is best to wear a helmet at all times, no matter what state boundary you are crossing into. This can not only protect you from a terrible accident but can also save you from getting a costly fine or ticket.
As a result, it is recommended that you buy a sturdy motorcycle helmet that can protect your head in the event of an accident. However, going shopping for a motorcycle helmet is not something that many riders look forward to BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY OPTIONS THAT IT CAN BE BIT OVERWHELMING! The reason is that there are so many options and different designs to choose from, which can sometimes become overwhelming, especially for riders who do not have much idea about helmets.
Most US states mandate the rider to wear a DOT-certified helmet. Hence, when looking for a helmet, first make sure that it is DOT certified and then move on to other criteria. Another thing that you must keep in mind is that the helmet fits you well and is not wonky around your head, since that could defeat the purpose of wearing a helmet (if you were to be involved in an accident, and the motorcycle helmet, because of its improper fitting, would be positioned in a weird/unplanned manner on your head thereby not absorbing the force of impact properly and not protecting your “mellon” as it was designed to).
Other than ensuring that the helmet that you are buying is authorized by the Department of Transportation and that it fits you correctly, the only two other things you have to keep in mind are the aesthetics of it and the budget.
Who said that safety and style cannot go together? So, choose a helmet that best suits your style … just make sure it is approved by the DOT or other authoritative safety associations. Today, there are plenty of designs you can pick from, thanks to different brands introducing a wide range of collections.
The last thing to consider is the budget. The price of a helmet largely depends on the design you are choosing and the safety features it has. If you are looking to buy a standard helmet that is DOT-certified, then you don’t have to shell out more than just $100. However, if you want additional features, the price can increase and can even go up to $500. Hence, it is best to have your budget in mind beforehand and cross-check with the features you want on your helmet.
The patchwork of helmet legislation that motorcycle riders face makes it tough to remain on the right side of the law while traveling outside of their home state. Putting on a bike helmet, irrespective of what your state law requires has been shown to prevent deaths and injuries when everything does not go as expected.
Hence, above everything else, keep your safety first, be responsible and wear a motorcycle helmet at all times – you’re life may depend on it!