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Am I required to wear a helmet?

The substantial increase in bike accidents over the last twenty years might be related to the massive migration of people to urban areas.  Increased congestion might account for increased incidents.  What is certain though is that this have left many to wonder their rights and responsibilities are regarding transportation and especially bicycles.  One common question surrounds helmets.  Here is what you need to know about that.



WHAT IS THE GENERAL RULE WITH BIKE HELMETS?

Am I required to wear a helmet?At present, the federal government has not legislation mandating the use of helmets while riding a bicycle.  Beginning in the late 1980s, various states and local bodies of government began passing their own rules regarding helmet usage.  Typically, most laws govern children with different jurisdiction picking 16, 17, or 18 as the cutoff point for requiring the wearing of a helmet.  However, some states-22 in fact- have put in statewide laws mandating people of all ages to wear a helmet.  Further, hundreds of local governments have similar rules.  Here is a sample law from Connecticut regarding the usage of a helmet while riding a bicycle:

“Senate Bill No. 597
Public Act No. 97-46

An Act Requiring Children Fifteen Years of
Age and Under to Wear Bicycle Helmets

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Subsection (b) of section 14-286d of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(b)No child FIFTEEN years of age OR UNDER shall operate a bicycle on the traveled portion of any highway unless such child is wearing protective headgear which conforms to the minimum specifications established by the American National Standards Institute or the Snell Memorial Foundation’s Standard for Protective Headgear for Use in Bicycling. Failure to comply with this section shall not be a violation or an offense. Failure to wear protective headgear as required by this subsection shall not be considered to be contributory negligence on the part of the parent or the child nor shall such failure be admissible in any civil action.”

WHAT ARE DIFFERENT STATES RULES REGARDING HELMETS?

Jurisdiction Ages Effective
Alabama
State law Under 16 1995
Montevallo All ages 1993
Homewood All ages 1994
Alaska
Anchorage Under 16 2005
Bethel Under 18 2004
Juneau Under 18 2006
Kenai Under 16 2004
Sitka Under 18 2005
Arizona
Flagstaff Under 18 2010
Pima County Under 18 1995
Sierra Vista Under 18 1995
Tucson Under 18 1993
Yuma Under 18 1997
California
State Law Passengers
under 5
1987
State Law Riders
under 18
1994
State Law Under 18
* Scooters,
skateboards,
inline skates
2003
Bidwell Park, Chico
for off road in
middle&upper park
All ages 1991
Connecticut
State Law Under 16 1993/1997
City of Seymour
(Repealed 1998)
All ages 1998
Delaware
State Law Under 18 * 1996
District of Columbia
District Law Under 16 * 2000/04
Florida
State Law Under 16 ** 1997
Georgia
State Law Under 16 1993
Hawaii
State Law Under 16 2001
Illinois
Barrington Under 17 1997
Chicago (messengers) All ages
Cicero Under 16 1997
Inverness Under 16 1999
Libertyville
(Incentives only)
1997
Skokie Under 16 2002
Kansas
Lawrence Under 16 * 2004
Kentucky
Louisville (Parks) Under 18 * 2002
Louisville Extreme Park All ages 2002
Louisiana
State Law Under 12 2002
Maine
State Law Under 16 1999
Maryland
State Law Under 16 * 1995
Allegany County Under 16 1992
Howard County Under 16 1990
Montgomery County Under 18 1991
Sykesville All ages 1995
Massachusetts
State Law Passengers
under 5
1990
State Law Riders
under 17 *
1994/2004
Michigan
Adrian Under 15 1998
E. Grand Rapids Under 18 1995
Farmington Hills Under 16 * 1999
Kensington Metropark All ages 1998
Mississippi
Hernando Under 17 * 2010
Ridgeland ??? 2010
Starkville All ages * 2010
Missouri
St Louis County 1 to 16 * Unincorp.
areas 2002
Countywide
2008
St Louis County municipalities of: – – –
Ballwin Under 17 2006
Bel-Ridge All ages 2002
Bella Villa Under 17 2005
Bellefontaine Neighbors Under 17 2005
Berkeley All ages 2000
Black Jack All ages 2008
Calverton Park All ages 2001
Chesterfield Under 17 2008
Clayton Under 17 2005
Creve Coeur All ages 2000
Ellisville Under 17 2005
Florissant Under 17 2003
Glendale All ages 2008
Grantwood Village All ages 2003
Hanley Hills Under 17 2007
Hazelwood Under 17 2007
Hillsdale
Moline Acres Under 17 2008
Normandy Under 17 2004
Northwoods Under 17 2003
Norwood Court Under 17 2004
Olivette Under 17* 2005
Overland Under 17 2005
Pagedale All ages 2002
Riverview Under 17 2008
Rock Hill Under 17 2003
St. John Under 17 2001
Sycamore Hills All ages 2008
Town & Country All ages 2002
Velda City All ages 2006
Velda Village Hills All ages 2005
Vinita Terrace Under 21 2001
Webster Groves Under 17 2004
Wellston
Wilber Park Under 17 2005
Wildwood Under 17 2005
St Louis Co Parks Under 17 2001
– – – – – – – – –
Municipalities in
other counties
Columbia Under 16 * 2003
St Charles Under 16 2006
Montana
Billings Under 16 2001
Nevada
Duckwater
Indian Reservation
Under 17 2001
Reno/Sparks
Indian Colony
Under 17 2002
New Hampshire
State Law Under 16 2006
New Jersey
State Law Under 17 * 1992/05
New Mexico
State Law Under 18 * 2007
Los Alamos County Under 18 1995
New York
State Law Passengers
under 5
1989
State Law Riders
under 14*
1994/2004
Eastchester Under 19 * 2004
Erie County Parks All ages 1993
Greenburgh All ages 1994
Guilderland Under 14 1992
Onondaga County-Syracuse Under 18 2001
Rockland County All ages 1992
Suffolk County 14 to 17 2000
North Carolina
State Law Under 16 2001
Black Mountain All ages 1996
Boone All ages 1995
Carolina Beach Under 16 1994
Carrboro Under 16 1997
Cary Under 16 2001
Chapel Hill Under 16 1992
Charlotte Under 16 * 2002
Cornelius Under 16 * 2001
Greenville Under 16 1998
Matthews Under 16 2001
Ohio
Akron Under 16 2001
Beachwood Under 16 1990
Bexley Under 16 2010
Blue Ash Under 16 2003
Brecksville Under 18 * 1998
Brooklyn Under 14 2001
Centerville Under 18 1999
Cincinnati Under 16 * 2004
Columbus Ages 1-17 * 2009
Dayton Under 13 2004
East Cleveland Under 18 * 2004
Enon Under 16 * 2004
Euclid Under 14 2001
Glendale Under 19 * 2000
Kettering Under 16 * 2004
Lakewood Under 18 1997
Madeira Under 17 * 2002
Marietta Under 16 * 2004
Orange Village Ages 6 to 15 1992
Pepper Pike Under 18 2000
Shaker Heights All ages
over 5 inc.
passengers
1997
South Euclid Under 14 2000
Strongsville Under 12 1993
Waynesville Under 17 * 2000
Oklahoma
Norman Under 18 2003
Oklahoma City
(city property)
All ages 1999
Oregon
State Law Under 16 * 1994
Pennsylvania
State Law Riders under 12 1995
Rhode Island
State Law Under 16 * 1996/
1998/
2007
Tennessee
State Law Under 16 1994/2000
Clarksville Under 16 1993
Texas
Arlington Under 18 1997
Austin Under 18 1996/97
Bedford Under 16 1996
Benbrook Under 17 1996
Coppell Under 15 1997
Dallas Under 18 1996/2014
Fort Worth Under 18 1996
Houston Under 18 1995
Southlake Under 15 1999
Virginia ***
Albemarle County Under 15
Alexandria Under 15 1994
Amherst County Under 15 1993
Arlington County Under 15 1993
Blacksburg Under 15 1994
Clarke County Under 15
Fairfax County Under 15 1993
Fairfax City Under 15 2016
Falls Church Under 15 1993
Floyd County Under 15
Front Royal Under 15 1996
Hampton Under 15 1999
Harrisonburg Under 15
James City County Under 15 1999
Luray Under 15
Manassas Under 15 1995
Manassas Park Under 15 1997
Newport News Under 15 1997
Norfolk Under 15 2001
Orange County Under 15
Petersburg Under 15 2000
Prince William Co. Under 15 1995
Radford Under 15 2000
Roanoke Under 15 2000
Salem Under 15 2000
Stafford County Under 15
Vienna Under 15
Virginia Beach Under 15 1995
Williamsburg Under 15 2001
Wise Under 15
York County Under 15 1994
Washington State
Aberdeen All ages 2001
Auburn All ages 2005
Bainbridge Island All ages 2001
Bellevue All ages 2002
Bremerton All ages 2000
Des Moines All ages 1993
DuPont All ages
Duvall All ages 1993
Eatonville All ages 1996
Enumclaw All ages 1993
Fircrest All ages 1995
Gig Harbor All ages 1996
Hunts Point All ages 1993
Island County
(Recommendation
only.)
All ages 1997
Kent All ages 1999
King County All ages 1993
Lakewood All ages 1996
Milton All ages * 1997
Orting Under 17 1997
Pierce County All ages 1994
Port Angeles All ages 1994
Port Orchard All ages 2004
Poulsbo Under 18 1995
Puyallup All ages 1994
Renton All ages 1999
Seatac All ages over 1 yr 1999
Seattle All ages 2003
Snohomish
repealed
All ages 2002
Snohomish skate park only All ages 2002
Snoqualmie All ages 1996
Spokane All ages * 2004
Steilacoom All ages 1995
Tacoma All ages * 1994
University Place All ages 1996
Vancouver All ages 2008
West Virginia
State Law Under 15 1996
Clarksburg Under 18 1993
Morgantown All ages 1993
South Charleston Under 18 1994
St. Albans Under 18 1995
Wisconsin
Port Washington Under 17 1997

For more information, see http://www.helmets.org/mandator.htm

WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR BREAKING THE RULE?

What if I do not follow my state’s bicycle helmet law?  Typically, most jurisdictions will fine if you are caught riding a bike without a helmet.  The good news is that that fine is normally very low-in the range of below $100.  However, as will be discussed below, there are considerable advantages to wearing a helmet besides avoiding financial penalties.

WHAT IS ILLINOIS’ RULE WITH BICYCLE HELMETS?

Presently, there is no statewide law requiring children or adults to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle.  However, many people have moved to create and enact such a law.  In the meantime, some towns have passed rules requiring them and put penalties in place for violating them.  To see what cities have, see the above chart.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS TO WEARING A HELMET WHILE BIKING?

If you need a reason to believe in helmets besides looking out for your wallet, then remember that they protect you from serious injuries.  This is obvious but it should not be overlooked.  Every year, nearly 700 people die from bicycle accidents and approximately 75% of those deaths stemmed from head injuries.  Furthermore, about 95% of those who died from bike accidents were not wearing a helmet.  Even if you do not die, the brain damage that can be done because you did not wear a helmet could be catastrophic and leave you unable to take care of yourself.  So remember that next time you hop on a bike!

For more information on questions related to Bicycle Accidents please visit the following pages: