Nothing can beat the feeling of driving a motorcycle with the wind in your hair and face. The sense of freedom and the sensation of flying makes it even more appealing, and you certainly do not want this feeling to be ruined by a helmet, do you? So when you get to know that about government-imposed helmet laws, it surely isn’t something to look forward to! Naturally, the question you would like to ask is, what states have motorcycle helmet laws? Or in other words, whether you can drive your motorcycle without a helmet?
A comprehensive list of states and their applicable motorcycle helmet laws is available on almost all government websites and a number of non-government ones, including the ones for Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Here, we try to summarize not just the answer to the question (what states have motorcycle helmet laws), but also what is meant by some common terms used to describe the laws and the types of helmets covered.
History of Motorcycle Helmet Laws
Let us begin with a little history of the motorcycle helmet laws in the states. Going back a few years in history; motorcycle helmet laws were taken seriously as they were linked with ensuring the safety of the individuals riding the bike. By 1967, the universal helmet laws were in place in almost all the states, partly due to the pressure by the federal government. The federal government had linked the highway construction funds and the safety program benefits to the implementation of universal helmet laws.
You may be wondering, what is meant by universal helmet laws? It refers to laws mandating the wearing of compulsory motorcycle helmets by all riders (driver as well as passengers). There however started to be some opposition to these universal helmet laws. The opponents argued that it should be the prerogative of the individuals, whether to use helmets or not.
By 1976, the states were successful in lobbying against the Department of Transportation’s linking of federal funds to laws enforcing compulsory motorcycle helmet wearing for all riders. The states started repealing the original universal laws and coming up with their own variations. Some of the states continued with compulsory motorcycle helmets for all riders, while others came up with variations based on a number of factors like age of the riders, coverage provided by the helmets (leading to the inclusion of motorcycle half face helmets) and others.
As per the latest update, the current status of motorcycle helmet laws stands as below
Universal Helmet Law
Currently, 47 states have laws pertaining to compulsory motorcycle helmets out of which 19 states have a universal helmet law making it mandatory for all riders to wear helmets.
Here is a list of states that have a Universal Helmet Law –California, Northern Mariana Islands,District of Columbia, Maryland,Vermont, Mississippi, Missouri, Alabama, Nebraska, Virgin Islands Nevada, New Jersey, Virginia, New York, Massachusetts,Louisiana,North Carolina, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Georgia, Tennessee, Washington and West Virginia
Specific Helmet Laws
The remaining 28 states require a specific set of riders wearing compulsory motorcycle helmets (typically minors or those having recently obtained their motorcycle driving licenses)
No Helmet Laws
3 states (Illinois, Iowa, and New Hampshire)have no laws with respect to the motorcycle helmet wearing
It is advisable to check the state laws before embarking on a bike trip as you would not want to get on the wrong side of the law, just because you are in a different state. Apart from the age, there are a number of dos and don’ts mentioned in the law that can define the usage of compulsory motorcycle helmets.
Some of the most frequently asked questions with respect to the helmets in the context of the law are
Question –Do I need to wear a full face helmet or can I wear motorcycle half face helmets?
Answer – More often than not, the law does not specify whether or not you can wear motorcycle half face helmets. While you may love the feel of the wind on your face, and legally you are in your right to use one, it is advisable to go for a full face one to give you better protection against the weather, dust as well as an accident.
Question –Can I use a helmet fitted with a Bluetooth helmet kit so that I can listen to music while driving?
Answer – Generally, there are no guidelines for or against the use of hands-free devices like Bluetooth helmet kits. You may enjoy the music to your liking if you are careful enough to focus on the road, avoiding accidents.
We hope you get the desired information about what states have motorcycle helmet laws and are able to use this information to your advantage.