Motorcycle and Bike Helmet Laws

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 What Are Some Examples Of The Most Common Causes Of Motorcycle Accidents?

The degree of injury in a motorcycle accident is generally more severe due to the fact that motorcycles reach higher speeds when compared to most other vehicles, such as two passenger vehicles involved in a similar accident. Another reason for this difference is that motorcycles do not provide the same level of accident protection as most other vehicles.

Some examples of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents include:

  • Head-On Collisions: Also known as a frontal crash, this type of auto collision can cause considerably serious injury and auto damage. This is due to the nature of the impact, in which both drivers are facing each other head-on and are close to the impact site. Especially when the head-on collision involves motorcycles, this can often result in fatalities. The family members of the victim may sue for wrongful death in such incidents;
  • Left Turn Accidents: Left turn accidents occur when one vehicle is attempting to make a left turn, and hits another vehicle that is going straight. Generally speaking, the person who is making the left turn is at fault; however, if the vehicle going straight was speeding or otherwise driving dangerously, the person who was turning may be less at fault because the person who was hit contributed to their accident by driving dangerously;
  • Lane Splitting: Lane splitting refers to a type of road maneuver mostly associated with motorcycles. This involves the motorcyclist riding in between lanes of vehicles, usually in order to cut through traffic by passing in between the slower vehicles. When an accident occurs because of lane splitting, fault is determined by whether lane splitting is permissible in that specific state, as the legality of the act varies from state to state;
  • Speeding and DUI: Similar to all other types of vehicles, motorcyclists are not allowed to speed, nor may they drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. When motorcyclists are in accidents involving speeding, fatalities are more likely to occur than when two other types of vehicles are involved in a similar accident; and/or
  • Road Hazards: Motorcycle accidents that are caused by potholes, uneven lanes, or objects on the road are more likely to occur than when another type of vehicle experiences the same road hazards. In such cases, the city may be held responsible for any resulting injuries. However, this would depend on whether the city is reasonably aware of the hazardous condition, and whether they took any actions to remedy and/or prevent the dangerous condition from recurring.

Do I Have To Wear A Helmet When I Ride A Motorcycle Or Bike?

Whether you must wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle or bicycle depends on state laws. Currently, 19 states have laws requiring all motorcyclists to wear motorcycle helmets when riding. These are known as universal laws. Other states require only some motorcyclists to wear helmets, which is generally based on the rider’s age.

These are known as partial helmet requirement laws, and generally apply to drivers who are under either 18 or 21 years of age. These laws may also apply to those who have only had a motorcycle driver’s license for a limited amount of time, generally less than two years. Only three states have no motorcycle helmet laws in place, which will be further discussed below.

Generally speaking, those who only have driver’s permits must wear helmets. Some states also have laws requiring passengers to wear helmets, as well as drivers who are underinsured. In many cases, helmets must be models that are approved by the state Department of Transportation, and as such have specific safety features that may be missing from non-approved helmets.

When shopping for a motorcycle helmet, look for a label put out by the Department of Transportation, which reads “DOT.” This means that the helmet meets federal standards for safety and will be acceptable for state law purposes. Additional safety ratings, such as “Snell,” may not be required; however, they do indicate further testing and approval on a product that could save your life.

If your state requires you to wear a helmet, you should follow the law at all costs. If you do not follow your state’s laws, it could considerably reduce your ability to recover damages in the event of a motorcycle accident. However, even if your state does not require the use of helmets, you should use one for your own safety.

Which States Have Universal Motorcycle Helmet Laws? Which States Do Not?

The following states have universal motorcycle helmet laws which apply to all drivers who are operating a motorcycle:

  • Alabama;
  • California;
  • Washington DC;
  • Georgia;
  • Louisiana;
  • Maryland;
  • Massachusetts;
  • Mississippi;
  • Missouri;
  • Nebraska;
  • Nevada;
  • New Jersey;
  • New York;
  • North Carolina;
  • Oregon;
  • Tennessee;
  • Vermont;
  • Virginia;
  • Washington; and
  • West Virginia.

States that do not have universal motorcycle helmet laws include:

  • Illinois;
  • Iowa; and
  • New Hampshire.

The remainder of states in the U.S. have partial motorcycle helmet laws, which may be based on age or licensure requirements, as was previously discussed. Ignorance of the law is never an excuse, and will not prevent a person from facing a violation of state vehicle laws.

Which States Require Bike Helmets For Minors?

Currently, there are no states requiring that adults wear helmets while riding a bicycle. However, many states require minors to wear helmets while riding a bicycle. These states include:

  • Alabama (under 16);
  • California (under 18);
  • Connecticut (under 16);
  • Delaware (under 16);
  • Washington D.C. (under 16);
  • Florida (under 16);
  • Georgia (under 16);
  • Hawaii (under 16);
  • Louisiana (under 12);
  • Maine (under 16);
  • Maryland (under 16);
  • Massachusetts (under 17);
  • New Hampshire (under 16);
  • New Jersey (under 17);
  • New Mexico (under 18);
  • New York (under 14);
  • North Carolina (under 16);
  • Oregon (under 16);
  • Pennsylvania (under 12);
  • Rhode Island (under 16);
  • Tennessee (under 16); and
  • West Virginia (under 15).

In addition to state motorcycle laws, many local ordinances may require bicycle helmets; meaning, laws created by counties, cities, and townships. As such laws may apply to both adults and minors, you should always check your local laws to determine whether they require wearing bicycle helmets when state law does not.

It is important to note that you can be pulled over by the police and ticketed for not wearing a bike helmet. While the law is not always enforced, the enforcement is up to the individual officer’s discretion.

Are There Any Legal Penalties For Not Wearing A Helmet?

Depending on state laws, motorcyclists as well as their passengers may face legal penalties and consequences for failing to wear a helmet while operating a motorcycle. They can also face penalties for failing to wear a helmet that is approved by the Department of Transportation. Additionally, law enforcement officers may have the right to charge a person with an equipment violation or other similar penalty. Consequences for such violations may range from a $10 fine to fines of up to $250.

In some areas, the penalty for not wearing a helmet may also include probation or other similar corrective measures. The exact citation and corresponding legal consequence or punishment may simply depend on the discretion of the officer who made the stop. In order to avoid a penalty, fine, or other legal consequence, you should ensure that you wear a state-approved helmet any time that you are operating a motorcycle. You should also ensure that your passengers are wearing a safety helmet.

Do I Need A Lawyer For Help With Motorcycle And Bike Helmet Laws?

If you are stopped while riding a motorcycle or bike without a helmet where it is required to do so, you could face legal penalties. You should contact a criminal attorney in order to ensure that you are in compliance with the law in your state.

If you are in an accident with a car while operating a motorcycle or bicycle, and are in violation of helmet laws, it may impact your ability to recover damages from the driver of the car. Your criminal lawyer can help with such issues, as well as help you understand your legal rights and options according to your state’s specific laws.

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