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Gear Ape

Mandatory Helmet Laws Across The U.S. / Helmet Laws by State

Alabama: Everyone

Alaska: Under 18

Arizona: Under 18

Arkansas: Under 21

California: Everyone

Colorado: Under 18 (riders and passengers)

Connecticut: Under 18

Delaware: Under 19

Florida: Under 21

Georgia: Everyone

Hawaii: Under 18

Idaho: Under 18

Illinois: No helmet law

Indiana: Under 18

Iowa: No helmet law

Kansas: Under 18

Kentucky: Under 21

Louisiana: Everyone

Maine: Under 18

Maryland: Everyone

Massachusetts: Everyone

Michigan: Under 21

Minnesota: Under 18

Mississippi: Everyone

Missouri: Everyone

Montana: Under 18

Nebraska: Everyone

Nevada: Everyone

New Hampshire: No helmet law

New Jersey: Everyone

New Mexico: Under 18

New York: Everyone

North Carolina: Everyone

North Dakota: Under 18

Ohio: Under 18

Oklahoma: Under 18

Oregon: Everyone

Pennsylvania: Under 21

Rhode Island: Under 21

South Carolina: Under 21

South Dakota: Under 18

Tennessee: Everyone

Texas: Under 21

Utah: Under 21

Vermont: Everyone

Virginia: Everyone

Washington, D.C.: Everyone

Washington (state): Everyone

West Virginia: Everyone

Wisconsin: Under 18

Wyoming: Under 18


Further information by State

Alaska's motorcycle helmet use law covers passengers of all ages, drivers younger than 18, and drivers with instructional permits.

Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Texas provide exceptions for riders over a certain age. In Florida and Kentucky, the law requires that all riders younger than 21 yrs. wear helmets, without exception. Those 21 yrs. and older may ride without helmets only if they can show proof that they are covered by a medical insurance policy. Louisiana's law allows riders 18 yrs. and older to ride without helmets if they can show proof that they are covered by a medical insurance policy. Texas exempts riders 21 yrs. or older if they either 1) can show proof of successfully completing a motorcycle operator training and safety course or 2) can show proof of having a medical insurance policy.Motorcycle helmet laws in Kentucky, Minnesota, and Wisconsin also cover drivers with instructional/learner's permits.Maine's motorcycle helmet use law covers passengers 14 years and younger, drivers with learner's permits, and passengers if their drivers are required to wear a helmet.Bicycle helmet use laws in Massachusetts and New York prohibit people from transporting passengers younger than age 1.North Dakota's motorcycle helmet use law covers all passengers traveling with drivers who are covered by the law.Ohio's motorcycle helmet use law covers all drivers during the first year of licensure and all passengers of drivers who are covered by the law Rhode Island's motorcycle helmet use law covers all drivers during the first year of licensure and all passengers.

Laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear a helmet are in place in 20 states and the District of Columbia.

Laws requiring only some motorcyclists to wear a helmet are in place in 27 states There is no motorcycle helmet use law in 3 states (Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire).

Some bicyclists are required by law to wear a helmet in 21 states and the District of Columbia. There is no bicycle helmet use law in 29 states

The history of motorcycle helmet laws in the United States is characterized by change. In 1967, to increase motorcycle helmet use, the federal government required the states to enact helmet use laws in order to qualify for certain federal safety programs and highway construction funds. The federal incentive worked. By the early 1970s, almost all the states had universal motorcycle helmet laws ("universal" in the sense that they covered all riders). Michigan was the first state to repeal its law in 1968, beginning a pattern of repeal, reenactment, and amendment of motorcycle helmet laws. In 1976, states successfully lobbied Congress to stop the Department of Transportation from assessing financial penalties on states without helmet laws. By 1980, most states had repealed or limited their motorcycle helmet laws to cover riders younger than 18, but not older riders. Later states that had repealed the law, reinstated it but only for young riders. All but 2 states (Illinois and Iowa) now require some or all motorcyclists to wear helmets. Since 1997, Arkansas, Florida, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Texas have changed their laws covering all riders to apply only to young riders. And most recently, Louisiana moved from a partial to a universal motorcycle helmet law. The changes in helmet laws have created a natural laboratory for researchers to study the effects of the laws on helmet use rates and on motorcycle deaths and head injuries. Helmet use rates approach 100 percent under universal laws (currently, in 20 states and the District of Columbia), but partial laws that cover only some motorcyclists (currently, in 27 states ) are widely disobeyed. Repeatedly, research has shown that universal helmet laws reduce deaths and serious injuries among motorcyclists. The sharp reductions in helmet use resulting from weakening or repealing motorcycle helmet laws are followed by significant increases in injuries and deaths. Research in Texas is illustrative. The universal helmet law in Texas is estimated to have saved 650 lives between 1968 when it went into effect and 1977 when it was first amended. The amended law covered only riders younger than 18 and its enactment was followed by a 35 percent increase in motorcyclist fatalities. Texas reinstated universal coverage in 1989. Helmet use which had dropped to 41 percent under the partial law, promptly rose to 98 percent and serious injury crashes per registered motorcycle decreased by 11 percent. The pattern repeated in 1997 when Texas again rolled back the law to apply only to riders younger than 21. In less than a year, helmet use was down to 66 percent, and operator fatalities increased 31 percent in the first full year of the new law. For references and further research, see Q&A: Motorcycle helmet use laws. Bicycle helmets also prevent injuries, but no state has a universal bicycle helmet law. Only 21 states and the District of Columbia and the District of Columbia have statewide bicycle helmet laws, and they apply only to young riders (often riders younger than 16). Local ordinances in a few other states require bicycle helmets for some or all riders

Information Provided by : Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute Last modified: 04-Dec-2001

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