You’d better have your head on straight. Motorcycle helmet laws in the United States can be confusing. Even the universal helmet laws aren’t “universal” across the country. That’s because they vary by state.
In 1967, the federal government went full throttle on motorcycle helmet laws. It was a push for safer highways. Even then, motorcycle fatalities were disproportionately higher. The U.S. Department of Transportation forced states to enact motorcycle helmet laws. Non-compliance hurt. States missed out on government funding for safety and highway construction programs. Money talked. Most states adopted universal motorcycle helmet laws.
By 1976, the states said no more. They reclaimed their rights. Let’s look at the status of each state today.
3 States with No Motorcycle Helmet Laws
19 States with Universal Motorcycle Helmet Laws
(NOTE: The District of Columbia does, too). Universal helmet laws require all motorcyclists to wear a helmet. To be clear, this covers all motorcycle operators and passengers.
28 States have Partial Motorcycle Helmet Laws
These state laws require only some motorcycle operators to wear a helmet. There are 3 common subjects where these laws apply: Operators under age 18. Those with little riding experience, usually less than on year. Riders who do not have the state required medical insurance coverage. Partial helmet laws do not consistently apply to passengers.
Heads up. The differences in state motorcycle helmet laws can be significant. Knowledge is power. Riding across unfamiliar state lines? Making a cross country trip? Knowing the differences in the laws could prove the difference between a good and bad trip. Did you enjoy a fine day riding? Or were you nailed with a hefty fine because you didn’t know or obey the law?
Remember, laws can change often. Confirm before riding. Be safe. Be seen.