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Motorcycle helmet laws by state

47 states require motorcycle helmets at least for young riders — and wearing one may save your life.

Nearly every state has laws for riders on wearing motorcycle helmets, though states often limit the law to riders under age 17 or 20. If you violate state helmet laws, you could be faced with a fine, or worse in some states, along with higher motorcycle insurance rates for the conviction. And without protection, statistics show that riders are more likely to sustain a severe injury than when riding with a helmet.

Motorcycle helmet laws by state

In 1975, all but three states had universal helmet laws stating all motorcycle riders were required to wear helmets. But through the years, that number has dwindled. Currently, only 19 states have universal laws, three states have no helmet requirements and 28 states have partial laws for specific riders that are required to wear a helmet, usually those under ages 18 or 21. Motorcycle helmets reduce the risk of death by up to 42%, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

StateUniversal lawPartial law
Alabama
AlaskaRequired to age 17
Required for passengers of all ages
Required for drivers with learning permits
ArizonaRequired to age 17
ArkansasRequired to age 20
California
ColoradoRequired to age 17, drivers and passengers
ConnecticutRequired to age 17
Delaware
FloridaRequired to age 20
Age 21+ must carry proof of medical insurance to ride without a helmet
Georgia
HawaiiRequired to age 17
IdahoRequired to age 17
IllinoisNo law
IndianaRequired to age 17
IowaNo law
KansasRequired to age 20
KentuckyRequired to age 20
Required for drivers with learning permits
Louisiana
MaineRequired to age 17, both drivers and passengers
Required for drivers with learning permits
Passengers of all ages must wear a helmet if the driver is wearing one
Maryland
Massachusetts
MichiganRequired to age 20
To ride without a helmet, those age 21+ must carry additional insurance and pass a motorcycle safety course or have had their motorcycle endorsement for at least two years
MinnesotaRequired to age 17
Required for drivers with learning permits
Mississippi
Missouri
MontanaRequired to age 17
Nebraska
Nevada
New HampshireNo law
New Jersey
New MexicoRequired to age 17
New York
North Carolina
North DakotaRequired to age 17
Passengers of all ages must wear a helmet if the driver is wearing one
OhioRequired to age 17
Required for drivers in their first year of licensure
Passengers of all ages must wear a helmet if the driver is wearing one
OklahomaRequired to age 17
Oregon
PennsylvaniaRequired to age 20
Rhode IslandRequired to age 20
Required for all passengers
Required for drivers in their first year of licensure
South CarolinaRequired to age 20
South DakotaRequired to age 17
Tennessee
TexasRequired to age 20
Age 21+ must carry proof of medical insurance or complete a safety course to ride without a helmet
UtahRequired to age 20
Vermont
Virginia
Washington
West Virginia
WisconsinRequired to age 17
Required for drivers with learning permits
WyomingRequired to age 17

Penalties for riding without a helmet

Typically, the penalty for riding without a helmet includes a fine of $100 to $250 on a misdemeanor charge, though you can receive jail time or probation in some states. Since each state’s helmet laws vary, understand your state’s consequences before getting on the road.

For example, violation of the helmet law in California can lead to a $250 fine and one year of probation. In contrast, the fine in New York is $100, and the fine in Connecticut is $90.

How state helmet laws affect motorcycle insurance

Since riding a motorcycle risks more serious injuries than driving a car, motorcycle insurance rates can cost more in states with relaxed helmets laws versus states with universal helmet laws. Reasons for the higher premiums:

  • Severe motorcycle crash injuries. The medical bills after a motorcycle crash often are compounded by medical treatment, rehabilitation, property damage and lost wages. A 2012 Government Accounting Office report found that bike accidents cost $16 billion in 2010, probably hiking insurance rates.
  • State insurance requirements. A few states require riders to carry high insurance coverage before they can ride without a helmet. For example, riders in Michigan must carry $200,000 in medical coverage on their motorcycle insurance before riding without a helmet, and the high coverage increases rates.
  • Uninsured riders. NHTSA found that helmetless riders are less likely to carry insurance, which can raise insurance rates for everyone in the state, even those who choose to wear a helmet.
  • Mandatory helmet laws. In addition to being safer, a 2010 CDC report found that state helmet laws saved insurance companies more than $3 billion and an additional $1.4 billion could have been saved if everyone who had gotten in an accident that year had worn a helmet.
  • Helmet law violations. If you get into an accident and don’t wear a mandated helmet, your insurance can find that you were partially or completely at fault for your own injuries and refuse to pay the claim. And if a helmet violation comes up on your drivers record, your insurance premium can go up.

Is motorcycle insurance required in my state?

Yes. All 50 states require some form of insurance coverage for your motorcycle. And in states where helmets aren’t mandated, some require you to carry additional medical or motorcycle coverage to mitigate the risk of serious injury.

Which motorcycle helmets are the safest?

To find a motorcycle helmet that meets federal safety standards, look for a certification sticker stating the helmet meets the standards from the US Department of Transportation (DOT). You may also consider looking for a helmet that meets both the DOT requirements and Snell Foundation standards for the maximum possible safety rating.

How much do motorcycle helmets cost?

Helmets come in a range of prices, from as little as $50 to over $1,000. On average, a decent quality helmet may cost $100 to $150. But the highest safety-rated helmets are full-face helmets, which offer additional protection for your jaw and chin and may be more expensive.

If you decide to go with a top-of-the-line helmet, your motorcycle insurance may replace it after an accident with a new helmet up to a set amount.

When should I replace my helmet?

Like any equipment, motorcycle helmets have wear and tear over time. The Snell Foundation recommends replacing your helmet every five years or if your helmet endures a significant impact, such as involvement in an accident, or even falling off the back of a moving motorcycle.

Bottom line

Your safety is reason enough to wear a motorcycle helmet while you ride.
But if you need more incentive, knowing the laws in the states where you ride can keep you from having to pay a fine and raising your insurance premiums. And if you’re interested in finding a policy that may offer coverage for your helmet and gear, shop around for motorcycle insurance to find the best fit for you.

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